I'm frequently asked, "How do I get a job in medical sales?" so I've put together these top 10 tips. Hope you find them useful!

1. Go and shadow at least 2 current medical representatives.  To track them down ask at your local doctor’s surgery or hospital – who do they recommend you shadow? And why? Ask them how do good medical representatives add value? … watch out for the odd flippant remark! If you draw a blank there research online: Google will provide lists of medical/pharma’ companies in your country. Call up the head office, explain your situation and ask to contact your local sales rep’.

On your field days:

  • Ask about their goals. Their business plan for the year/quarter and how today fits in.
  • Ask how they draw up their plans
  • Ask them about their perceived strengths and weaknesses and what qualities they feel make them successful
  • Ask them about their personal development goals
  • Notice what they do – both in calls and between calls -  and be interested
  • How do they spend their time between calls? (admin? Prospecting phone calls? Learning? Or wasted?!)
  • Ask yourself what you’d do differently
  • Ask yourself how you would add more value to the customer and employer
  • Did they miss any opportunities?
  • Did they waste any time?
  • How could you have been more efficient?

 2. Explore and become clear on WHY you want the job and feel you’d be good at it.  If your reason why is strong enough it will happen for you!  Everyone is different but typical reasons and strengths include:

  • Interest in healthcare and medicine …why?
  • Family experience
  • Industry knowledge … examples?
  • Sales experience …examples?
  • Business skills
  • Communication skills
  • Focus, drive, self confidence, self reliance, responsibility, accountability etc

3. Read a selection of books on sales. It astounds me how few selling skills books are read by “professional” sales people. Some tragically read barely one a year.  As a rookie you won’t be expected to be an expert but buy half a dozen good selling skills books (and read them) and you’ll be ahead of the pack

4. Decide which area of medical sales best suits you and why. In a nutshell the industry can be categorized like this:

  • Generics – commercial selling, more “salesy”, sharper, businesslike, deal making, less “biology/pharmacology”
  • Big Pharma – global mega-corporations, “safe” careers (though current downsizing has ended this reputation), good training, lots of career opportunities (many different representative jobs: GP rep, Hospital rep, Dispensing Dr Specialist, PCT specialist, National Accounts etc), many new starters like you, bureaucracy, process driven, many tiers of management
  • Medium Pharma – smaller version of above, more family feel, less financial clout, easier to make your mark, nichier products often chipping away at Big Pharma market share – good times are very good, bad times see budgets (training, opportunities) cut severely.
  • Niche Pharma – suited to those with a specific area of expertise. As a new starter you’ll need an edge to join a niche company
  • Hi-Tech Pharma – hospital based selling, hi-tech (biotech?) products, few patients, usually expensive drugs, technical sell on clinical evidence, increasing need for health-economic selling too. Hard to get entry level job into.
  • “Disposables” and “lower value” devices – FMCG type selling, often target nurses, about order taking, account management, juggling priorities
  • Hi-Tech Equipment – best paid jobs in the industry, cutting edge device sales to hospital specialists, very interesting products, hard to get entry level job
  • Capital Equipment – big deals, big territories (e.g. western Europe), long sales cycles

5. Draw up a list of target companies, say 10, that suit you based on your research

6. Find out the names and phone numbers of your local sales managers from these target companies – set up a series of meetings with these people. Be polite, reasonably persistent, confident, interested and interesting. Explain why you have specifically chosen them and their company (do your homework).  It doesn’t matter if they don’t currently have a vacancy – meet them and add them to your network.  If someone is rude and refuses to meet you, write them off as not being able to spot talent when it hits them!

7. At the meeting prepare well – have plenty of questions ready and know your audience. Have an air of ambition … but not for climbing the career ladder just yet – ambitious to be the best salesperson you can be. Continue to listen and be interested in them. Study rapport building techniques and use them. When talking about yourself be sure to focus on your commercial drive. Getting the work done (selling, persuading, achieving, resilience etc) is more important than such things as your biology experience, teamworking skills, ability to train others etc. (Though they are all useful qualities)  As an aide-memoire when describing your qualities focus on the 4 E’s:

  • Your Energy – your zip, drive, fizz, unstoppability
  • Your Energize – your ability to infect others with your energy: brighten a group, motivate someone else, bring out the best in others
  • Your Edge – the “thing” that makes you different, better, stand out
  • Your Execution – your ability to bring home results, get stuff done (knowing is not the same as doing)

8. Follow up your meeting with a letter/email outlining your thanks and reasons why you’ll be a great hire once they have a vacancy – ask for people in their network who could help you

9. Agencies: Although your main focus will be finding a job lead yourself (see above) you can also put yourself forward with the same application and enthusiasm to specialist agencies (Google them to find out about them) But be aware that they are out to place you somewhere…ANYWHERE. They do not work FOR you but are out for themselves. Don’t be steamrollered into something not right for you.

10. Consider hiring a career coach. Go for one recommended by someone you know. A couple of hundred pounds/euros/dollars spent now could mean many thousands extra on your salary and bonus with the right advice.

Best of luck!