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    Medical Sales Representative: A Job Or A Career?

    In the previous write up, you've discovered at least 6 reasons why you want to work as a sales rep for big Pharma companies. We've discussed previously that these companies provide better resources for you to carry out your task as reps.

    In this article, we're going to look deeper into one issue:

    We're going to explore the topic of career versus job as a medical sales rep. I know that I've ranted on this subject in the past, but it's worth mentioning again. I often find myself asking the real purpose for my involvement with the pharma industry in general and as a sales rep in particular.

    I concluded that everything was part planned and part fate:

    The part that I expected was wanting to do something not far from what I've studied: Biomedical Sciences. I want to make as much money as I can on the job before I do something on my own. I did not thoroughly plan that last part, and as a result I stayed on course even after my voluntary separation scheme in 2007.

    I did plan, however, that I want to make a million by my age of 35 ...

    ... A million in the asset, of course.

    An asset in my book does not mean something that puts money in my pocket. To me, the asset is anything I own regardless of whether it put money in my pocket or not. It was not an empowering philosophy. That's for sure.

    I had to extend my millionaire goal from 35 to 40 when I tied the knot. Never plan well enough for the marriage to cost as minimal as possible.

    From then on, I realized that my current job was not going to take me closer to my millionaire-hood.

    In fact, when I did a questionnaire in Yahoo! the other day, residents of Malaysia were highly unlikely to become a millionaire at my age. Some people can, but that's a topic for another post. On average, it's very, very highly unlikely.

    As time passes, I felt that I have no active drive to sell and work my way to a million. Not only it's getting more robust, but my conscience is telling me that it's not worth it.

    I felt a profound, inside change lately.

    I noticed that, when people asked me what car is the best car to drive, my answer is always my Hyundai Matric.


    It's definitely not for any specific feature but because I almost finished paying it before changing my current car:

    I feel I should've banned my credit cards way, way earlier (I cut them all in May 2013)
    I think I should've bought more houses as future insurance or income replacement
    I guess I should've settled for smaller, cozier homes and not taking the refinancing route
    I feel I should have got the stick and improved my online business plan despite all debilitating challenges.

    And a few more 'I feel I should've...'

    My whole point for writing this post is to invite you to pause and think:

    Is this what you want to do for the rest of your working life?
    Is having this job enough?
    Am I building a career right now?
    Am I clear with where I'm heading?
    Am I clear where I am now?
    Am I clear with the gap between where I am and where I want to be?

    Do ask these questions and listen carefully to the answers.

    Some folks talk about the pursuit of happiness and chase for meaning:

    Some say:

    "I'm glad that I leave my previous job and going for my current pursuit even though the previous job pays better."

    I can't remember who said this, but the guy said:

    "A business builds solely for money is a POOR business."

    Dig that my friend.

    Related reading: How do you find your next medical sales rep job?

    The Best Way To Gain Access Into Medical Sales Rep Job

    In my opinion, this is still the best way to gain ACCESS to pharma companies as a medical sales representative. It is always will and always will be.

    What is it?

    Being REFERRED to by someone already working with the company.


    I've known people who have been referred by peers, sales reps, managers, and at one time, the general manager of the pharma company.

    What do you think would be the CHANCE for these people to land a job when they were being shown the door by people on the inside?


    Chances are GOOD!

    Of course, most of the time, the pharma company compensate these people for their generosity, but the one being referred stand a high chance to get the job too.

    It's a WIN-WIN proposition.

    In fact, I recommended some times ago, for those of you who are interested in working for a pharma company, start working on your CONTACT and NETWORK with people from the industry.

    You can start here if you like ...

    ... Start by interacting - leaving a comment, asking questions, or giving feedback on a topic discussed - and we start the ball rolling.

    The more, the merrier!

    I can already see that some of you came from countries I've never been to, like Russia, for example.

    Share how you end up as a medical sales rep. I'd like to know how and I'm pretty sure many readers would too.

    Same goes to another country which is too many to list here.

    Do share with us your experience.

    Medical Sales Representative Entry Level Skills Requirement

    I'm going to list down possible skills requirement for medical sales representative entry level applicant. The list is not limited to these items only, but it's a start.

    Here they are:

    How to interact with people.

    Interaction skills are essential communication skills. What many applicants confuse are communicating when selling is aimed for a specific result, for example, progress in the sales cycle, getting a commitment, or getting a new lead. It's very different from communicating to pass the time or socializing (read what make an excellent medical sales rep)

    How to be confident.

    Self-confidence is essential, and it takes a different set of skills in itself. No amount of courses are sufficient if a person does not develop confidence in them. They need to decide to be confident and move from there.

    How to have patience and persistence.

    If we examine carefully, these two traits are tightly tied to the belief that a person has with his/her vocation. As far as I know, there's a tiny sales course that deal with cultivating the right mindset. Most sales reps develop their knowledge from input by senior reps, which mostly full of hate (read why many reps hate their medical sales jobs)

    How to be flexible.

    In an introductory note by a sales trainer, he outlines 3 things that are essential for pharma sales reps to always keep in mind:

    know what they need to achieve
    know where they are now
    be flexible to act until the objective is achieved.

    All these can be trained by the right sales trainer.

    How to work together as a team.

    Selling is a part of a big business unit. No one group can stand on its own and claim all the glory. It's like a team sport. A team is as strong as every player's strength combined (synergy). The opposite is also exact: the team will be as weak as its weakest team member. United they'll stand, divided they'll fall.

    As a final addition:

    Find out as much as possible about the realities of the job by arranging to spend a day with a medical sales representative, if possible. Make sure you spend the day with the right pharmaceutical sales rep.


    When I wrote down this suggestion at that point of time, which was in 2014, I didn't give any hint to how an applicant can choose the right medical rep to "shadow." It's not like we can just go to any Pharma Company and asked to be paired with its best sales rep.

    That is highly unlikely to happen ...

    ... But we can look for a hint which can be supplied by the HR department.

    This will take extra effort on your part, but if you can hustle, the fruit of your energy can be tasted for years to come. I personally didn't carry out this exercise when I first started with Pharma Industry and even when I "restarted" with it later, after my long vacation (after my VSS).

    Right now, in 2015, the idea of pairing with an experienced rep sounds to me like too much to ask for and many reps these days tend to change companies like they change underwear (of course, some of us didn't change underwear that frequent!).

    That's why I suggest we stick to the social path and path of less resistance:

    Communicating here, right on this blog

    How do you know you've made the right choice?

    Contact me. We'll talk some more.

    Why Business Degree Is Not Enough For Medical Sales Rep Job?

    A business degree is evidently not enough for an applicant to land a medical sales rep job.

    In some instances, it's counter-productive to have a business degree.


    Working as a medical rep means working for people.

    Business degree holders prepare themselves to work for their own business. Many senior leaders in pharma companies study business after they spend a considerable amount of time working as a rep. That should tell you something.

    Having a degree in marketing, on the other hand, does help ...

    ... and help a lot when one holds a position as marketing executive or brand management.

    But be prepared to argue and get into a battle with salespeople, new or seniors (used to be senior reps but now they're all the same). I believe marketing is part of a business syllabus, and business degree holders should have adequate exposure to them.

    It's totally a different matter when applying textbook knowledge to the real thing.

    Be prepared to adapt and adjust.

    Knowledge of politic might also help ...

    ... People tend to ignore what's going on, politically speaking, at the office, but everyone knows it's there.

    No need to be at the level of statesmen to play office politic. Just common sense.

    But the thing is, office politic and how to survive it is not taught in college.

    It has caught many people by surprise, but there's nothing personal there. Just business.

    Of course, having a degree in sales is a huge advantage.

    But I knew very few business schools that taught selling in their business program. Even when they do, the lessons were static and belongs to the museum's archive.

    Luckily, not everyone wants to become a medical sales representative, and formal education in sales do carry weight. during a pharmaceutical sales job interview.

    I didn't have a business degree nor a sales degree when I joined pharma sales a decade ago. I learned them during my tenure with the pharma company. Same goes to you if you joined pharma sales, and that's when business degree shows its inadequacy.

    During initial sales training as a medical rep, you have to learn basic science and how the medicines or medical devices work.

    The sales training all involved science.

    Many business degree holders do not like to meddle too much in science. They would have done so if they were interested while studying in college. Many back off because of this. It's a good thing too because not everyone can sell medicines or medical devices.

    In the end, just because you have a business degree, it does not guarantee success in an application for medical sales rep job. Even with a business degree, there's no guarantee that one can succeed in business too.

    It's entirely up to you.

    NAMSAR In Malaysia?

    If you didn't know, NAMSAR stands for:

    National Association of Medical Sales Representative.

    I believe it is famous in the US (just like many other things), and it is a very "alien" concept here.

    Well, maybe alien for now.

    I have brought up the motion of creating an association for medical sales rep from where I was based. At that time, the discussion was at a coffee table while a few friends and I were busy "killing time" (ahem!).

    I was inspired by the banking industry, where the staffs from many banks successfully unite to defend their working time and overtime allowance:

    "That was really cool," I told my friends.
    "Why don't we do the same thing with our medical reps all over the country?" I throw a question.
    "If doctors have MMA, pharmacists have a similar association, why don't medical reps have an association? We can throw in ideas for improvement or defend our career right," I added enthusiastically.
    One friend responded, "Ah, forget about it. The Pfizer guy won't be interested."
    "Astra reps only buddy with Astra people. No way they want to join the association. Just drop it, bro," added another.
    "How much you're gonna charge for the membership?" asked another.

    The idea for medical sales rep association started there and ended there in a blink of an eye.

    Will there be a time when medical sales representatives all over Malaysia unite to organize an association?

    Looks to me I'll qualify for the alumni ...

    Favorable First Impression Land Her The Job As Medical Representative

    Five candidates went to a job interview as a medical representative:

    4 of them are male
    Only one female candidate.

    Judging from the number of candidates, and the proportion, it looks like male has a higher probability of landing the job.

    But that doesn't happen!

    In fact, the only female candidate got it.


    Let me tell you the story because I was involved:

    First, the male candidates.

    I, honestly, was looking for a male sales rep to replace my female team member who transfers to another area. Due to 'bitter' experience managing a female rep previously, I decided to settle for a male rep. Two other members of my team were all male, and so far, I had good working experience with them.

    So, I called in the candidates and to cut the story short, I called 5 candidates for the final medical sales rep interview session.

    Four, as I mentioned before, were males.

    All of them were graduates ...

    ... All were from different background studies.

    Only one of the four male candidates was working as a sales rep, at that time. The others were doing engineering or odd jobs.

    The good thing about all the candidates was that they were transparent.

    I, somehow, can see right through them during the interview ...

    ... And none were impressive.

    Yes, on paper, they were qualified and able candidates, but none of them were impressive.

    The most unimpressive part was the first impression.

    Then, enter the female candidate:

    Her appearance is quite stunning. No, not stunning like an artist making the red carpet walk, but she's quite impressive with the choice of clothes and color.

    Simple yet professional!

    The way she greeted the interviewer, the manner she answered the given questions, her mannerism - all were simply impressive.

    And she was selected!

    Why did I reverse my decision?
    Why did I choose the female candidate?

    It's the favorable first impression:

    All candidates had what it takes to become a pharma sales rep.

    All were qualified.

    All candidates, to me, were on a level playing field.

    But the first impression makes the difference.

    Are you going for an interview as a medical representative any time soon?
    Do you want to increase your success rate from the first time the interviewer see you?
    Do you want valuable, added advantage from other candidates who are going for the same job?

    Sally Wants To Be A Medical Representative, But She's Not Sure

    I met Sally (not her real name) a few days ago. She's a friend to a friend of mine, and she's interested in becoming a medical representative.

    That's how we get to know each other.

    My friend set up an informal meeting, and we sat down to talk.

    Sally asked me a lot of questions. Well, that's understood because this is something new to her. She did not have any idea about the pharmaceutical industry, and selling drugs sounds too risky.

    Luckily for Sally, she got a friend who knows a thing or two about pharma sales. It's a good thing too that Sally was doing some sort of selling job, so, what I shared with her was easily relate to.

    What she asked is a lot like what I've discussed here:

    On becoming a medical rep.


    She asked me about her academic qualification. I assure her that this issue can be dealt with because the pharma company provides the new medical sales rep with relevant training.


    She asked about the job description, in general. I told her that selling medical product, device, or service is a lot like what she's doing now. The main difference is the market, and this particular market demands sophistication.

    I also told Sally that it's natural because they deal with critical human being issue - health.

    They don't gamble with health, and so does the drug company. That's the reason they need the representative to uphold high standards.

    It's not for show off ...

    ... It's giving the market what it wants.


    Sally asked about her income. Somehow, I got the feeling that it's the question she wanted to ask first and foremost. But she just keeps it up to this moment, and I was more than ready to give her the answer.

    "Salary," I told Sally, "is something subjective. It depends on your position. It depends on you, and your experience. It depends on the pharma industry as a whole. It's not static stuff. It's highly dynamic if you asked me."

    Sally nodded and asked me no further question.

    I was not sure whether she understood or trying to make sense with what she just heard.

    "How's that sound so far?" I throw in a question, just to kill the silence.
    "Mmm...OK," replied Sally.
    "Sure?," I asked back.
    "So far, everything sounds good. But I still have this unsettled feeling inside me. I don't know what it is, but it's there. Maybe, I'm still not sure whether I should become a medical representative or not," she said.

    I nod.

    A decision like this needs to be considered thoroughly.

    It's not about pharma sales job description and requirement only. It's more than that. I look away as if I'm giving her thinking space.

    Any of you find yourself in a situation like Sally?

    Have you got all your questions answered?

    Have you got any more 'unsettled' feeling inside?

    How Roy With Non-Science Background Land A Job As Medical Representative

    Roy (not his real name) just graduated from college and is happy to land a job as a medical representative. He studies business at school, but that does not stop him from joining the pharma industry.

    How did he do it?

    I've talked about the best degree to have to join a pharmaceutical company. I've concluded that there's no absolute best qualification to apply for pharma sales job. All it takes is just an initiative and perseverance.

    And most people have that...

    ... Same goes to Roy.

    He learned about the pharma industry, or instead get to know about it from a friend. During his study, he was, somehow, exposed to selling. He shows particular interest in the subject, but he got no chance to try it out.

    An opportunity presented itself when he graduated. From his friend, he gathered a few resources on the job as a medical representative.

    And why this particular field, I hear you ask?

    Because of my friend. His friend is a pharma sales rep. Obviously, the friend feeds him with info related to the pharmaceutical industry.

    Tips: Friends or people you know could become one of the best resources for the pharma rep job.

    Just make sure that they are from the same industry.

    Roy applied for a few jobs opening.

    Why his friend did not recommend him for a job?

    That's somewhat mystery for me too.

    Finally, he landed a job with a multinational pharmaceutical company (MNC) as a product specialist.

    Well, a medical sales representative is known as many names:

    product specialist
    pharma rep
    pharmaceutical rep
    drug rep
    pharmacy salesman.

    Basically, they're just the same.

    The pharma sales job description is:

    A salesperson who works for a pharma company, promoting medicines, devices, services or combination of those to healthcare professionals.

    Roy told me that during his interview, he discovered that whether he has a science or non-science background, the process of selection and training is the same. The new recruit will have to go through the same background study before he or she goes out to the field.

    Of course, it's evident that science students have the advantage of understanding the material presented, provided they were from biology or chemistry class.

    Others suffer the same, just like a non-science student.

    Tips: It's essential to learn about the job you're after, and what better opportunity to ask crucial questions other than during the interview.

    Use the opportunity wisely and learn all you can about the job.

    Roy did that.

    In fact, the lands the medical representative job after his third interview. Just like I said earlier, what it takes to get a job selling for a pharma company is just initiative and perseverance.

    Roy has it, and I believe you do too.

    There's no hidden secret to Roy's success in landing a job as a medical sales rep. You already know that.

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