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, our 2019 Pharma Sales Salary Report found that, on average, pharmaceutical sales reps earn $111,476 each year.
What do these high-earners actually do each day? What does the field require?
What Does a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep Do?
In short, pharmaceutical sales reps are employed by pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors to inform physicians about their products. These reps help influence them to prescribe the drugs to their patients. 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 job as a pharmaceutical sales rep. Here are some of the responsibilities 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 the drugs treat. They promote the details of the products in meetings with physicians, so they need to have a high level of understanding about the drugs, similar drugs on the market, and the concerns of providers.
In their meetings with physicians, sales reps answer any questions doctors may have about the product, its use, and its benefits to patients. Sales reps anticipate these questions and prepare based on their knowledge of the physician, and their interests, concerns, and patients. Pharmaceutical sales reps also stay up-to-date on the news and issues affecting the healthcare industry to better understand the needs of doctors 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
To be successful, pharmaceutical sales representatives spend much of their time not only learning about their employer’s products, but also learning about competing drugs. Drug companies create and sell similar products, and pharma reps feel the pressure of the competitive market. They have the responsibility to explain the differences between the products to providers and highlight the benefits of the pharmaceuticals they represent.
In addition to educating physicians on their products, pharmaceutical sales reps also build relationships with them. Because they don’t make direct sales, reps are less focused on aggressively pursuing clients. Instead, they use their skills to build relationships with physicians.
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 and strong communication and interpersonal skills. Reps can’t come off as too intrusive or pushy; they instead aim to be perceived as a trusted friend and information source.
Attain specialized knowledge
Drug companies also manufacture specialty drugs for complex disease states such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and rare conditions. These drugs are usually more expensive and more complex than traditional products, and include forms such as oral, injectable, and biologic formulations.
Specialty pharma reps are the experts on these drugs and meet with specialists in a specific medical field instead of primary care providers. Specialty pharmaceutical reps need to have a stronger 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 healthcare 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 exactly what a pharmaceutical sales representative does, 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 competition, pharmaceutical sales reps have some of the most demanding jobs in the industry. Think you’ve got what it takes? Learn more about the pharmaceutical sales industry , update your resume, and search our job opportunities to get started.