Medical Sales Representative

The Job and What's Involved

Medical sales representatives, also known as pharmaceutical or medical sales executives or 'reps', sell prescription drugs, medicines and medical equipment to health professionals including GP's, hospital doctors, pharmacists and practice nurses.

As a medical sales rep, you would sell products to clients in a set area of the UK (sometimes known as a sales territory or 'patch').

Your work would include:

  • Making appointments to see existing clients and potential new customers.
  • Presenting products to clients.
  • Persuading clients to buy your company's products.
  • Providing an after-sales service.
  • Meeting sales targets.
  • Organising or attending medical conferences.
  • Keeping records of sales and customers.
  • Reporting information back to head office about customer needs.
  • Keeping up to date with the latest clinical data and research, so that you could discuss medical matters with health professionals in a knowledgeable way.

You would often specialise in a particular type of product or therapy area, for example oncology, diabetes or respiratory health.

You could work from home or an office base, but you would spend most of your time out on the road meeting clients. Your sales territory may cover a large area and you might have to spend some nights away from home.

Your working day would often be long with a lot of travelling time involved. You may also be expected to socialise with clients in the evenings and attend conferences.

Typical starting salaries are £18,000 to £24,000 a year. With experience, salaries may range from £25,000 to £40,000 a year.

Senior level staff can earn up to £60,000 a year.

Many companies offer a basic salary plus bonuses or commission, with other benefits such as private health insurance.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

To start out you could work for companies that are involved in the manufacturing or research and development of medicines and products. Some of the main employers are large multinational companies, so you may even have opportunities to work overseas.

Jobs are usually advertised on employers' websites, by specialist recruitment agencies, and in the local and national press.

Education and Training

You would normally get into this type of work with one of the following backgrounds:

  • A degree in life sciences (such as biology, pharmacy or biomedical sciences).
  • Nursing or healthcare.
  • Sales or marketing, with an understanding of what medical sales involves.

Most employers prefer to train graduates, but a science degree is not essential for all jobs. If you don't have a science or healthcare background, you will need strong sales experience and the ability to learn about medicines and therapy areas in detail. An A level or equivalent in biology or general science may be an advantage for this.

If you want to get into medical sales, you should ideally spend some time 'shadowing' an existing rep before you look for your first job. You could get in touch with medical sales reps through doctor's surgeries, pharmacies, or by contacting pharmaceutical companies directly.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Your employer will provide detailed training in its products and therapy area when you start your job as a medical sales rep. They may also train you in general sales skills.

You must pass the ABPI Medical Representatives Examination within your first two years in the job. Your employer may include this as part of your in-house training, or you could study through the ABPI's distance learning programme. See the ABPI Careers website for more details.

You should keep up to date with new products and research developments throughout your career. The ABPI provides various seminars and short courses to help you do this.

You could also work towards general sales qualifications from professional organisations, such as:

  • Institute of Sales and Marketing Management (ISMM) Level 3 Advanced Certificate in Sales and Marketing.
  • Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Certificate in Professional Sales Practice.

See the ISMM or CIM websites for more information.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A medical sales representative needs:

  • Excellent sales and negotiation skills.
  • Excellent communication and networking skills.
  • Good planning and organisational skills.
  • Self-motivation, drive and initiative.
  • An outgoing and confident approach.
  • Commercial and business awareness.
  • The ability to understand and present clinical data.
  • Adaptability, for coping with frequent changes in products and healthcare systems.
  • A full driving licence.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience and a good track record in sales, you could progress into area or regional management, or into marketing, product or account management.

Head hunting is common for senior jobs.

Get Further Information

Institute of Sales and Marketing Management (ISMM),
Harrier Court, Lower Woodside LU1 4DQ
Tel: 01582 840001
Website: www.ismm.co.uk

Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM),
Moor Hall,Cookham,
Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 9QH
Tel: 01628 427500
Website: www.cim.co.uk

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