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How to Get Into Medical Sales
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Sales Motivation w/ Tom Hopkins
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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is getting into a medical/laboratory/pharmaceutical sales job difficult?
  2. I've never even been in sales. Can I still find a medical /laboratory/pharmaceutical sales job?
  3. I have pharmaceutical sales experience but would like to pursue a change to a medical device or medical capital equipment?
  4. Do companies hire new college graduates for medical/laboratory/pharmaceutical sales jobs?
  5. Which companies hire new graduates?
  6. What are some of the important things I should know when pursuing a medical/laboratory/pharmaceutical sales job?
  7. What is your recommended reading for sales professional and sales manager?
  8. I do not have a four year degree; can I still obtain a position as a medical/laboratory/pharmaceutical sales representative?
  9. Is a scientific degree required for entry into medical/laboratory/pharmaceutical sales? What about prior sales experience?
  10. I am 40-something years old. Am I too old to land a job as a medical /laboratory/pharmaceutical sales representative?
  11. How long should I expect my job search to last?
  12. I'm willing to relocate for the right medical /laboratory/pharmaceutical sales job. Will this help me in my job search?
  13. Will a DWI hurt my chances of being hired into medical?
  14. Will an MBA or other advanced degree improve my chances of being hired as a medical /laboratory/pharmaceutical sales rep?
  15. Why should I work with a recruiter?
  16. What are the essentials that should appear on my resume?
  17. What about a cover letter?
  18. I am in college. What can I do to enhance my odds of being hired as a medical /laboratory/pharmaceutical sales rep?
  19. If am lucky enough to have more than one job offer. How do I decide?
  20. If I am hired, and I have poor sales, will I be fired?
  21. What is a contingency recruiter?
  22. What is a retained recruiter?
  23. I am considering paying an agency to help place me. Is that a good decision?
  24. Is PHC Consulting a contingency or retained agency?
  25. What is the career path after a successful sales position?
  26. What are the careers in this medical/laboratory/pharmaceutical sales industry that PHC Consulting recruits for?
  27. I have never sold but have a strong science background, what are my options in my career path?
  28. My current position in the home office makes it difficult for me to conduct phone screens or in person interviews. Should I quit my job to look for a job?

Answers

  1. Is getting into a medical/laboratory/pharmaceutical sales job difficult?
    The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it isn’t difficult if you have the background that the employer is looking for. Back to the short answer. Most positions will require a science degree as well as sales experience. Lab supply/equipment distributors are the best bet for a point of entry in to the lab market as they will sometimes take people with sales experience, but no specific laboratory experience.

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  2. I've never even been in sales. Can I still find a medical /laboratory/pharmaceutical sales job?
    The answer is no in the medical laboratory and maybe if you are pursuing a Pharma job.

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  3. I have pharmaceutical sales experience but would like to pursue a change to a medical device or medical capital equipment?
    Transitioning from Pharma to medical device or capital equipment is not impossible, just difficult. Probably less than 20% of people with a Pharma background make the transition. Pharma roles are perceived as “detailing jobs” where the rep plays more of a marketing role than planning and executing a complex sale, like in the lab environment. Pharma reps don’t close for agreement and then procure a purchase order.

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  4. Do companies hire new college graduates for medical/laboratory/pharmaceutical sales jobs?
    Yes, but usually these lucky candidates are very well networked, have science degrees and communicate exceptionally well. Network, Network, Network! It is always better to approach a possible employer through a recruiter, current employee or referral.

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  5. Which companies hire new graduates?
    There is no simple answer that says which companies do or do not hire new graduates. There are many companies that do hire new graduates and an equal number that do not.

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  6. What are some of the important things I should know when pursuing a medical/laboratory/pharmaceutical sales job?
    There are many aspects to finding the right entry-level job opportunity in pharmaceutical sales. They include:
    • Network with sales professionals in your area ("it's not who you know, but who you get to know")
    • Research the top manufacturers with diligence
    • Uncover hidden job opportunities in your geographic area
    • Write an industry-specific resume. More importantly, know what to do with it.
    • Answer every industry-specific interview question correctly, no exceptions

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  7. What is your recommended reading for sales professional and sales manager?
    Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching and Keeping the Best People by Bradford D. Smart

    SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham

    Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by Jim Collins

    Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch, John A. Byrne

    Rites of Passage at $100,000 to $1 Million+: Your Insider's Lifetime Guide to Executive Job-Changing and Faster Career Progress in the 21st by John Lucht

    The New Strategic Selling : The Unique Sales System Proven Successful by the World's Best Companies, Revised and Updated for the 21st by Stephen E. Heiman, Diane Sanchez

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  9. I do not have a four year degree; can I still obtain a position as a medical/laboratory/pharmaceutical sales representative?
    There have been exceptions, but it is very rare. A candidate needs a four-year degree. Common degrees include the Sciences, Marketing, Business, Management and Communications. Any four-year degree will suffice, but having that degree is almost mandatory today (like a high school diploma used to be). It will pay you dividends for the rest of your and your family's life. Make it your priority. Visit some local colleges and universities, who will offer you numerous options (both financial and time) to try to meet your needs.

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  10. Is a scientific degree required for entry into medical/laboratory/pharmaceutical sales? What about prior sales experience?
    A Life Sciences degree is always a plus and a huge differentiate between you and another candidate that may not have a LS degree. Some managers may look at you for an opportunity without a LS degree, but in that scenario, you need to have a proven track record of success selling a complex product in a complex selling environment and the ability to adapt and learn new technology quickly.

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  11. I am 40-something years old. Am I too old to land a job as a medical /laboratory/pharmaceutical sales representative?
    No way, baby. It is true that most of the new hires are in their twenties. However a good candidate is a good candidate regardless of their age. However, keep in mind that all hires are done on the local level. Each hiring manager brings his or her own set of preferences and biases to the interview table.

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  12. How long should I expect my job search to last?
    If you don't have any experience in the field, it's reasonable to expect your search to last 6 to 12 months, start to finish. It will probably take a minimum of 3 months to land your first interview, and more like 6 months if you don't have any connections. The interview process - from the time you have your first interview until you are offered a job - takes a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks. Working with the right recruiter can accelerate this process.

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  13. I'm willing to relocate for the right medical /laboratory/pharmaceutical sales job. Will this help me in my job search?
    You don't necessarily have an advantage simply because you're willing to relocate. In fact, it could add a great deal of complication to your job hunt because your resume is probably filed by your current address, not where you might consider moving. That is relevant because a recruiter or employer is going to look where he/she has the opening. For example, if I am looking for someone in Boston, I probably am not prospecting/considering someone in California. A willingness to relocate can be a positive and sometimes comes in to play if Human Resources manages the hiring process for the whole country and is aware of openings and possible fits across the country that a local manager may not know.

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  14. Will a DWI hurt my chances of being hired into medical?
    It used to be if you have a DWI on your record you were toast. However sometimes (extremely rarely) exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis. There is no way of predicting if they will make an exception in your case. There are instances where people who got DWI's in their teens and have clean records for many years have got hired. Occasionally, one of the smaller companies will tolerate a DWI for an outstanding candidate because they do not provide cars for their field force and feel like their liability is limited.

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  15. Will an MBA or other advanced degree improve my chances of being hired as a medical /laboratory/pharmaceutical sales rep?
    I don’t believe an MBA will be the reason you to be hired over someone that doesn’t have an MBA. I do believe that an MBA helps you as you advance your career and could be the basis for picking one candidate over another when considering promotion and advancement. An MBA is especially useful (and valued by companies) when you move into the managing or marketing roles.

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  16. Why should I work with a recruiter?
    Usually a recruiter is looking for a very specific candidate. If you match the profile that the recruiter is looking for, your search can be expedited. Also, it's smart to work with a recruiter if you have experience in their field. Here are the biggest impacts a recruiter can have on your search:
    • Conduct a confidential search for you so you don't have to take time out of your workday to hunt for new opportunities
    • Gather the details of the position before you decide to apply
    • Present your resume directly to the hiring authorities rather than through a website
    • Prepare you for the interview
    • Explore different areas across the nation to prepare you for a relocation
    • Give you open and honest feedback to help you work through critical moments in your career

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  18. What are the essentials that should appear on my resume?
    I know there are many that advise you to have a creative resume. Think out of the box they say. Don’t have a chronological resume. Don’t put a graduation date from college.

    What a bunch of bad advice!
    • If you are touting 25 years experience, it isn’t that hard to surmise that you graduated a while ago and it is obvious that you are trying to focus away from age.
    • If your resume isn’t chronological, it is hard to read and harder for a hiring manager or recruiter to understand your career path.
    • If you are applying for a creative type job, sure be creative. If you are trying to get a job in the business world, be business like and present information how they are used to seeing it and how they want to see it.
    • There are very few cases where a resume needs to be longer than 2-3 pages at the most. We received an 8 page resume today (complete with a questionable picture and cutesy email address). In this case (as is often the case), this individual took 8 pages to tell you what she had done in a 7 year career. Do you think many potential employers hung on to read page 8?

    You should worry more about the content of the resume than what kind of paper or font you're using. Obviously, there shouldn't be any typos. And skip the cute e-mail addresses: the company you're trying to impress doesn't want to hire "Hotbabes29@aol.com".

    Your resume should be easy to read and you should always have it ready to pass around. Remember, your resume is your advertising. Over a 30-year career, you'll (hopefully) earn $5 million dollars.

    You're marketing a $5 million dollar product, and a good resume is an important part of your marketing plan. If you don't want to write your own resume, use someone you trust or someone that comes recommended with a good track record. This is not the time for amateur hour.

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  19. What about a cover letter?
    Because of email, the importance of the cover letter has diminished significantly. If you are applying to a posted job, a brief one liner in the Subject area-Please consider me for posted job X, Based on my qualifications outlined in the attached resume, I would like to be considered for job X., etc.

    If you applying directly to a hiring manager or trying to create a job, a cover letter can be a big help. Keep it brief and try to focus on what you could do for them, what pain you could eliminate, what big account you could crack etc.

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  20. I am in college. What can I do to enhance my odds of being hired as a medical /laboratory/pharmaceutical sales rep?
    Study hard and get good grades. There are many more applicants than open positions and the drug companies can afford to be picky. If you have an outstanding GPA, it tells the drug company that you are a hard worker and a disciplined student - two valuable traits.

    Many companies have active recruiting departments that conduct campus recruiting. If you are interested in pursuing a sales job, try and get on the interview list. The companies will often ask the business department chairman for who they think are “winners”. Many times your professor can put in a good word with the recruiters to get you on the campus interview list.

    Look into internship programs early in your college career. Many large organizations have them and it is a great way to get your foot in the door before you even graduate.
    Once again, Network, Network, Network!

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  21. If am lucky enough to have more than one job offer. How do I decide?
    Talented people are in short supply. If you're lucky enough to be born with God-given talent and you have this dilemma, you should think about a few things.

    The most important factor you should consider is the chemistry between you and your potential manager. You will live and die by your manager. If the manager acts like a schmuck during interview process, she will probably be a real headache when you're working for her as well.

    You should also ask yourself what your goals and aspirations are. For example, if you are in a hurry to get into management, you might want to go with a smaller company (larger, more established companies usually have longer timelines for promotions and advancement).

    Maybe you want to go to work for a company that offers stock options. If you're a risk-taker who is willing to sacrifice job security for stock options, you may want to work for a startup company.

    Maybe you want to go with a company that starts you off with four weeks vacation from day one (like Sanofi-Aventis). Keep in mind that if vacation is your major motivator, you may be looking at the wrong career. I can name many more high performing sales professionals that don’t even take the vacation they earned versus those that take every day earned. It isn’t because they will get in trouble or be thought of poorly, it is because they can’t stand to miss any opportunity that may present it self while they are out of their territory.

    I like to emphasize that you shouldn't just limit your wish list to one or two companies that are household names. Other companies that don't have the same level of name recognition are fine companies with excellent opportunities.

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  22. If I am hired, and I have poor sales, will I be fired?
    Reminds me of the old saying,.. “The good news about sales is that you get a lot of attention. The bad news about sales is you get a lot of attention”. What that means is that when you are crushing your number and exceeding expectations, everyone loves you and wants to chat. You get a lot of positive attention. When you aren’t hitting your objectives, people will want to talk to you and you’ll get a lot of attention, it just isn’t as positive.

    Translation-A sales job is a contract that pays for performance. I will pay you X amount and you need to produce Y results. If you don’t produce the results that are outlined as part of the contract (your sales goals), you aren’t doing what was agreed upon when hired. I understand that not hitting the numbers can be caused by many things and may not directly be your fault. But in the end, it doesn’t matter because that is why they hired you and you are responsible for the production of that territory. Does that mean that if you miss your goals you will fired immediately? No, it means that you are not doing what the company expects of you and you put yourself at risk. If your sales are weak, it's more likely that management will come to you and say "What's the problem here? How can we help you be better at what you do?" Maybe you need more training, or your heart is not in the job.

    If you are working hard, have the right values and are responsive to your manager’s coaching and suggestions, it is hard to get fired. You can be fired for dishonesty such as embezzling company funds, falsifying reports, or violating company policies like playing golf when you are supposed to be working. Most of the time people get fired for doing stupid things such as putting company gas into their boat or off-roader, taking competitor's pills out of the sample bins and throwing them in the trash, getting drunk at meetings, posting back stabbing comments on message boards, etc.

    Give your company an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, don't use your expense account as a way to supplement your income, treat your customers and associates with courtesy and respect and you should be in good shape.

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  23. What is a contingency recruiter?
    A Contingency Recruiting Agency does an employee search on a contingency basis for a company. The recruiter is paid by the hiring company upon a successful hire/placement. The recruiter is responsible to do the initial recruiting, screening and interviewing. The contingency recruiter will also arrange interviews with the candidates for the client/company. The company pays either a flat fee or a percentage of the first year’s salary. The jobseeker does not pay a fee.

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  24. What is a retained recruiter?
    A Retained Agency is similar to a contingency recruiting agency in that the client company pays the fees. The jobseeker/candidates do not pay a fee. The main difference of a retained recruiting agency is that the client company pays a retainer fee to have that company perform a search. A portion of the overall search fee is paid up front and the remainder is due upon a successful hire. The initial retainer fee is paid whether or not a placement/hire is made. Companies use retained search firms for higher level positions within an organization. For example a CEO, Vice President of Sales, etc.

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  25. I am considering paying an agency to help place me. Is that a good decision?
    No, Nine, Nyet! It is rare, and almost always the wrong choice to pay someone or an agency to help you find a job. All fees, whether for a retained search or a contingency search should be paid by the company that is hiring. A candidate should never pay an agency to place them. I guess there are exceptions, I have just never heard of a case that warranted a candidate paying an agency that wasn’t a scam.

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  26. Is PHC Consulting a contingency or retained agency?
    Contingency

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  27. What is the career path after a successful sales position?
    It really depends on what your interests are. Stellar sales performance usually results in positive attention and recognition from many in the organization. When you are killing the numbers, everyone knows your name and will take any opportunity they have to chat with you and size you up. The most successful managers recognize that the key to their success and the growth of the organization is to hire players and develop them in to their future leaders.

    Most organizations are always looking for people for their Marketing team in the home office. A top performer in sales will usually have options to go in house in a junior Marketing position (Product Manager, Assistant Product Manager, etc.) or will be groomed for sales management by being promoted in to a management role with limited responsibility (maybe 2 direct reports instead of the usual 7-10). Sometimes this role is called a District Manager, Supervisor, Team Lead etc..

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  28. What are the careers in this medical/laboratory/pharmaceutical sales industry that PHC Consulting recruits for?
    Too many to list - Pretty much anything to do with the laboratory, physician, patient care and anything that involves Sales, Marketing, Management or Service.

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  29. I have never sold but have a strong science background, what are my options in my career path?
    Your options will really be determined by the hiring manager and the mind set that he/she has about hiring. Some only want exact experience (like working for a competitor in the same territory). Some will look at candidates with sales experience in their market, but maybe a different segment. An example of that is you sold glassware to the hospital lab, but not reagents (his segment). The last and smallest group is those managers that will consider candidates with no sales experience. Managers and companies that hire without any sales experience usually have to have very strong training departments and managers that are great at “curbside coaching”.

    The net net is this: You will be eliminated from contention for more opportunities than you will be considered for with no sales experience. The key to your job search will be identifying companies/managers that like to “grow their own” by taking chances on people light on experience but heavy on potential. A recommendation from a salesperson that calls on you or their manager can be enough to get the hiring manager to at least talk to you and a recruiter that has worked with the company for a while will know if the manager falls in to that last category or not.

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  30. My current position in the home office makes it difficult for me to conduct phone screens or in person interviews. Should I quit my job to look for a job?
    The answer is unequivocally NO!!!!! Finding a job is hard enough without having to overcome the obvious question that most companies will wonder, “If you are so great, why are you unemployed?” Now you and I know both know that there are many reasons that you could be unemployed that have nothing to do with your competence or past performances. Consolidations, buy outs and mergers are just a few. Regardless, being unemployed is one more objection you will have to handle to move to the next step in the interview process. If you do find yourself unemployed, understand that it will be an obstacle that you need to identify and address very early in the hiring process.

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