Leading the Pack in Pharmaceutical Sales

"The pharmaceutical industry is among the largest, most stable, and fastest growing businesses in the entire world," Anne Clayton wrote in her book Insight into a Career in Pharmaceutical Sales. So it's understandable that everyone from new college graduates to experienced salespeople and healthcare professionals is attempting to break into this competitive industry. If you are lucky enough to land a plum role with one of the world's pharmaceutical firms, you'll need the following skills to succeed.

Cold-Calling Skills

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Cold-calling is a tricky skill to master, but it's essential for success as a pharmaceutical sales representative. These professionals are often required to call doctors and other healthcare experts who they have no existing relationship with. They must communicate clearly and persuasively to encourage the recipient of their call to consider their products.

Developing a good cold-calling technique can help pharmaceutical sales representatives increase their short-term and long-term sales. After all, a cold call doesn't just mean a new sale today. It can be the start of a relationship that can provide the representative with many new sales opportunities in the future.

Cold-calls aren't always met with a warm reception, so good pharmaceutical sales representatives must also know how to deal with hostility. As with all the best sales representatives, they'll listen to the objections of the person they're speaking with and try to present the right answers to calm the situation. If the cold-call can't be saved, they'll have a thick enough skin to pick themselves up and approach the next prospect rather than dwelling on the rejection they've just faced. 

Consultative Sales Abilities

Consultative sales is what should ideally follow successful cold-calling. This type of sales approach sees pharmaceutical sales representatives interacting with the healthcare connections they've made, fostering them for the mutual benefit of all parties.

Taking a consultative sales strategy requires a variety of skills. Studies show the average person remembers between 25 to 50 percent of what they hear. Pharmaceutical sales representatives must have much better listening skills than this as they'll need to hear their prospective clients' needs and recommend the right medications for them. Over time, they'll become so good at this that they can even anticipate what their long-term clients need before they're even asked.

The close relationship nurtured through consultative sales helps develop trust. When medical professionals know they can trust a pharmaceutical sales representative and his products, he'll feel confident giving the rep his repeat business and even recommending his services to other medical professionals. With 25 to 40 percent of the most stable business' total revenue coming from repeat customers, the importance of fostering long-term relationships through consultative sales practices can't be underestimated.

Advanced Product Knowledge

Unlike many other workplace skills, an advanced product knowledge is not a natural skill. A pharmaceutical sales representative may be born with a great memory or an aptitude for learning, but he'll need to apply himself to develop the product knowledge he needs to excel.

A comprehensive knowledge of his company's product range helps a pharmaceutical sales representative identify the pharmaceuticals that would benefit a prospective client and ensures they can discuss them with clarity and confidence. He understands each drug's chemistry, its method of action, the potential side effects, and how it might interact with other medication. Any questions posed by a medical professional are easily answered with the right terminology in a manner that helps to instill trust. Once this trust is established, a knowledgeable pharmaceutical sales representative won't just attain his sales goals; he'll exceed them. 

Presentation Skills

Studies show that it takes just seven seconds to make a first impression. Some might suggest that if you're a pharmaceutical sales representative attempting to win over a time-poor physician, it takes even less. No matter your belief, it's clear that pharmaceutical sales representatives must work on their presentation skills if they're going to get ahead.

The most successful pharmaceutical sales representatives don't wait to turn on the charm until they're around the people with the white coats. They understand that administration staff, nurses, and other health workers are the gatekeepers to the doctors, so they should all be treated with courtesy and respect. They know that a positive attitude is as contagious as the measles, but much more pleasant, so you'll never see them walking around without a smile. 

A pharmaceutical sales representative's presentation skills are really put to the test when they're liaising with medical personnel. They know that while product knowledge is important, a thorough understanding of pharmaceuticals won't seal the deal. They practice their presentations to ensure they're interesting, persuasive, tailored to their prospective client's practice, and polished. They understand that presentations focusing on marketing and selling will never seal the deal, so they focus on patient care instead.

A Good Work Ethic

One might argue that a good work ethic is imperative for success in any field, but it's critical to the success of a pharmaceutical sales representative. They stay focused on their tasks and don't quit until they meet their goals.

They know that while booking a meeting with a physician or another key decision maker is important, the job isn't done until they follow through. They show they take their commitments seriously by arriving at each meeting on time and avoiding cancellations at all costs. They keep their energy levels up, giving as much to the person they meet at 8 am as they do the one they see at 8 pm. It requires a mental tenacity to have such a strong work ethic, but the best pharmaceutical representatives know it's essential to their success.

It's also important to understand the job isn't done once someone signs on the dotted line. Unlike 55 to 65 percent of sales professionals who insist they're too busy to make follow-up calls, successful pharmaceutical sales representatives know this final step is critical. Studies show that even if a customer has been unimpressed with the product, the extra attention the rep shows can turn the situation around.

With time spent honing these skills, you can enjoy the spoils of a lucrative career in pharmaceutical sales.

Contributed to jobs.net by Kim Hale

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