Women are outnumbered in medical sales. In fact, in the 2017 Medical Sales Salary Report, 70 percent of the respondents were men. In addition, the report found that women earn just 83 percent of what men do and make up only 30 percent of the respondents.
While this picture seems bleak, if you look for them, you will find highly successful women in medical sales. We’re talking to these professionals to find out what it means to be a woman in the field and what it takes to be successful.
Rachel Donohue’s entrance into pharmaceutical sales was happenstance but her continued success is not. That is a direct result of her positive attitude, drive, and mission to spread kindness to everyone she meets.
Currently a sales manager at Kings Specialty Pharmacy, Donohue began her journey working double-time at both an advertising agency and hostessing in a Manhattan restaurant. It was in her hostessing position where her personable and outgoing nature was recognized as glaring sales potential.
Now, Donohue uses her enthusiasm to push her career goals in health and wellness forward, leaving a powerful force of positive energy in her path.
Think outside of the everyday, ordinary hustle
Donohue didn’t expect to become a specialty pharmaceutical sales rep. She majored in advertising marketing in college and proceeded to start a career in that field. However, her natural desire to network and connect with people on a personal level opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
I always wanted to make sure any job I chose allowed me to network and make new professional connections. Hostessing in Manhattan allowed me to do just that — it’s where I met the owner of Kings Speciality Pharmacy. While I was in college he said, “You’ll work for me one day.”
Years later, I stayed in touch with quite a few professional contacts I made at my hostess job. I continued to juggle between advertising by day and hostessing by night, the owner of Kings Pharmacy told me to stop the balancing act and come work for him — and that’s exactly what I did. He didn’t see direct medical sales experience. Instead, he saw someone who was able to openly communicate and comfortably interact with during meetings, dinners, and other tasks involving King’s essential client relations.
Learn from everything and everyone around you
As a hostess, Donohue dealt with various personality types and situations. She uses this experience and transfers it directly into busy hospital settings. By altering her tone to fit the energy or, at times, just sitting silently and listening, she learns tiny, critical details about her clients.
I’ve learned a lot over time by watching other reps. Often times, in clinics, you’re waiting for your appointment while a competitor wraps up their pitch right in front of you. I take the opportunity to do a bit of harmless eavesdropping. I watch what they do or say, what the doctor seems to like about their approach, and what they clearly dislike. With this tactic, I’m learning on the spot and am able to modify my pitch as necessary.
I also team up with other reps who are working in the same field. By going into meetings with them, I’m able to see their personal style and adapt mine in a way that is fitting for specific clients. And when I face a challenge with a client, I’m not afraid to ask leaders to join me in a client meeting to watch how they sell to different clients.
Focus on mental and physical wellness
The pharmaceutical sales field isn’t for the weak of mind, body, or spirit. Donohue believes to be successful you must first learn to take care of yourself. But she doesn’t keep this healthy lifestyle locked up in her personal life. It’s also an avenue she uses to connect with clients.
In general, I really do believe that if you work in pharmaceutical sales, you have to keep yourself healthy. It involves running around in and out of the subway and cars and rushing to get to seven appointments in one day. When you’re doing all of this and lugging around heavy bags and equipment, you need large bursts of energy.
I consider my passion for health and wellness a hobby, and I believe bringing hobbies into the workplace help you build better relationships. It makes me a little bit more interesting and is a great conversation starter when clients are not interested in discussing drugs right off the bat.
It’s also a great team bonding activity. Some nurses I communicate with don’t want to go out, get a bunch of drinks, and chat about my products. So, I will coordinate to meet them at their favorite workout class. Beforehand, we review the drug information and I educate them on the product. Then, we go into class and after resume the educational conversation over a smoothie.
Focus on what’s important — the people
It isn’t always about the products for Donohue. Her goal is to first build relationships, then focus on what her products can do for her clients’ patients.
I’m friendly to every single person in the office from the second I walk in the door, including the person in the elevator with me. I have often seen the front desk associates become the decision makers. You just never know who will advance to a new position.
Always engage with the front desk associates to gain information on the approach you should take when you are ready to deliver your pitch.
Ask important questions such as, “Is it busy here?” or “ Have there been a lot of patient emergencies?” This gives you insight into the office that nurses in the back may not offer-up.
When talking to anyone in the office, treat everyone the same. Just ask them how they are, how their weekend was, share your weekend, share your horrid, funny commute story or even talk about the weather, but add personality of being funny, everyone loves to laugh. Put down your guard, become more vulnerable, and be on a personal level with everyone.
Above all, Donohue believes in sharing her amazing energy with everyone, including recruiters and recommends engaging with contacts on Linkedin. She says medical sales isn’t as bad as the stereotypical, tough exterior people believe. She insists you can open any door with a smile and determination.
What advice do you have for women breaking into the industry, whether planned or by happenstance? Let us know!