pharmaceutical sales rep walking down road on the phone
Entry Level On The Job

A Day in the Life of a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative

The job of a pharmaceutical sales representative is a highly desired one. With a high salary, excellent benefits and perks, and the potential for growth, it’s easy to see why. In fact, on average, pharmaceutical sales reps earn $103,300  each year, not including commissions. That amount can vary, based on the years of experience the sales rep has, as well as the type of business that they work for. In most cases, the larger the company, the bigger the base salary.

What do these high-earners do each day? What does the field require?

What does a pharmaceutical sales rep do?

In short, pharmaceutical sales reps are employed by either manufacturers or distributors to inform physicians about their products. With key information and insights, they influence providers to prescribe medication to patients who would benefit from them. 

They don’t make direct sales and must rely on their interpersonal skills and knowledge of the products to sell their value to providers. But there’s much more to a sales job in the pharmaceutical industry. 

Here are some of the responsibilities pharmaceutical sales reps perform day in and day out:

Serve as experts

Pharmaceutical sales representatives must be experts on their company’s product lines and need to be knowledgeable about the conditions their products treat. They often share the details of the products in one-on-one meetings with physicians. 

As a result, they need a high level of understanding of the medications, similar products on the market, and providers’ concerns. During physician meetings, reps answer any questions doctors may have about the product, its use, and its benefit to patients. While they can’t predict the exact questions providers will ask, they come prepared by fully understanding the physician’s average patient, their interests, and their main health concerns. 

Pharmaceutical sales reps also stay up-to-date on the news and issues affecting the health care industry to understand the needs of doctors better and communicate with them. Many pharma reps have a background in science or medicine. Those who don’t may have an interest in the field or have taken relevant courses to be a more reputable source of information.

Beat out competitors

Successful pharmaceutical sales reps spend much of their time learning about their employer’s product lines and educating themselves about competing products. It’s their responsibility to explain the differences between the products to providers and highlight the patient benefits of the pharmaceuticals they represent.

Build relationships

In addition to educating physicians on their products, these reps also build meaningful relationships with them. Because they don’t make direct sales, reps are less focused on aggressively pursuing clients. Instead, they focus on building their network and relationships.

Pharma reps visit the same providers multiple times to keep them up-to-date on new product information and remind them of the benefits of their products. Building these relationships requires careful strategy, strong communication, and confident interpersonal skills. Reps can’t come off as too intrusive or pushy; they need to be perceived as a trusted friend and information source.

Attain specialized knowledge

Drug companies also manufacture specialty drugs for complex diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other rare conditions. These drugs are usually more expensive and complex than traditional products and come in the form of oral, injectable, and biologic.

Specialty pharma reps are the experts on these types of unique treatments and meet with medical specialists instead of primary care providers. Due to the complexity of the products and conditions, they have a firmer grasp on medical concepts and conditions and a deeper understanding of the drugs they represent.

Represent the company

Pharmaceutical sales reps do more than meet with physicians in their offices. They also attend conferences and industry events to represent their products and network with pharmacists and other health care providers. Their goal is to increase the knowledge of their employer’s products and, in turn, the volume of sales.

When it comes to defining the life of a pharmaceutical sales rep, it’s easy to see how the answer gets complicated. Between managing relationships, developing in-depth product knowledge, and consistently having to stay ahead of the competition, pharmaceutical sales reps have some of the most demanding jobs in the industry. Think you’ve got what it takes?