How to get a job in pharmaceutical sales image

Pharmaceutical saes is a great field and can expose you to great brands and big earnings. But knowing how to get a job in pharmaceutical sales is the first step. 
At Michael Page we work hard to place candidates into the best pharmaceutical sales jobs and, equally, to ensure we find the best candidates to fill our clients' vacancies. Here are some ways you can move your name higher up that shortlist when applying for pharma sales jobs.

Getting into pharmaceutical sales jobs

As with many specialisms, the best way to approach pharmaceutical sales jobs is to get some general experience working in sales. This can be as a university graduate, by working your way up through junior sales roles, or by changing from a different career path in later life.
Fast-track graduate schemes can be a good way for university leavers not only to get a job in pharmaceutical sales, but also to benefit from specific training towards promotion and more senior-level pharma sales roles in a relatively short space of time.

Key skills for pharma sales jobs

Showing hiring managers that you have the hallmark capabilities to fulfil the duties of your role to a high standard is crucial in when asking how to get a job in pharmaceutical sales, key skills are the first thing that should come to mind. While your new employer may be willing to offer some training, you still need to show that you are worthy of that investment of time and money.
Employers will be looking for candidates who can demonstrate two key skills in combination:

  1. Proven sales ability (ideally through experience working in previous sales roles)
  2. Pharmaceutical industry knowledge (direct experience or willingness to learn)

You don't necessarily need to have worked in pharma sales before, but experience in a related role, such as fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) or a specialist retail sector can help to show your ability to learn about many different products in depth.

Soft skills for pharma sales jobs

In addition to technical skills and an ability to understand detailed scientific product descriptions, you'll need to display all of the usual soft skills associated with jobs in sales.
Some examples of these include:

  • Excellent communication skills with colleagues and especially with customers
  • Ability to build, nurture and maintain long-term professional relationships
  • Genuine enthusiasm to learn about new products and thirst for knowledge
  • Willingness to climb the ladder through proven performance and experience
  • Fluency in foreign languages (not essential but can be a huge benefit)

You don't need to speak a foreign language, but if you're fluent in a language that is commonly used in your target market, this can be a significant addition of value for your prospective employer.

Types of pharmaceutical sales jobs

Knowing how to get a pharmaceutical sales job is partly about understanding the job for which you are applying. There are many different types of sales jobs, and the pharmaceutical sector is no different.

Depending on the role, you may be asked to:

  • Cold-call potential new business leads and work from a sales script
  • Nurture existing leads and attempt to convert them to paying customers
  • Work as an account manager to encourage repeat sales and upsells
  • Contact prospects via multiple methods: email, telephone etc
  • Meet qualified prospects face-to-face for in-person sales meetings

Your customers can range in size from one-person independents to multinational corporations, and enterprise sales jobs may focus solely on the latter, requiring a candidate who can work professionally, without feeling daunted by very large potential transactions.

Working in NHS sales jobs

The unique nature of the UK's National Health Service offers additional ways to get a job in NHS sales. Your role might involve contacting local medical practices to sell direct, or liaising with large hospitals and NHS trusts to place your products across the area.

Applying for NHS sales jobs is likely to benefit from proven knowledge of the way the health service is structured, and of the different levels of medical professionals in your area. If you already have an established relationship with named individuals in the NHS, this can be a unique selling point for hiring managers.

It's not uncommon for medical professionals to move between the NHS and private practice, or vice versa. Any experience of private medical sales or of past NHS sales jobs should therefore be useful in strengthening your application.

Top tips for pharma sales job applications

If you still feel like your pharma sales job application could be stronger, here are some additional steps to consider that don’t involve going back to university for 4-5 years:

  • Research the hiring company and their products, including technical product data
  • Visit online forums and learn about the current and latest pharma sales trends
  • Shadow someone for a day who already works in pharmaceutical sales

If you don't know anyone you can shadow, consider asking the hiring manager if they could arrange for you to do this before you start the job - this shows willingness, a direct interest in their company and demonstrates that you want to hit the ground running from day one.

What’s next? 

Looking for a new pharmaceutical sales role? Get in touch with the team at Michael Page Sales who can help you find your next dream role. 

Get in touch

Are you earning what you're truly worth?

Compare your salary to industry standards with our expert guides.

Download our salary guide

Submit your CV

If you're looking for your next career move, we can help.

Submit your CV today

Take our quiz

Find out what your next career should be with our quick and easy quiz.

Take our quiz: Steer your career