What do you do for a living?

I sell medical devices and drugs to hospitals in this area.

How would you describe what you do to someone?

I pick a product and find a need in the hospital to fill. Then I go through the process of educating physicians, pharmacy, operating room personnel, case management and then administration. So it’s pretty complex and you’ve got multiple decision-makers that have to be satisfied before the sale ever takes place.

What does your work entail?

Lots of time on the road. I figured the other day I probably have close to 1,000 different customers within the hospitals that are kind of touch points for me. So I can’t be there all the time with them. I try to dedicate at least one day a week to some of these hospitals and then spend a lot of time on the phone, lots of time emailing back and forth.

Network as much as possible….because you’re not going to see these jobs on Monster

What’s a typical work week look like for you?

I start at the crack of dawn. My typical day starts at 5:00 or 5:30 in the morning. The first hour or hour and a half is usually spent looking at reports, being on the computer, taking care some administrative stuff. I’m usually out of the house by seven o’clock or 7:30 and just continue to make my rounds. Depending on what account I’m working on, I’ll spend most of the day there, working with customers, making sure everything is going smoothly or selling a new product If I have a new product. And then I’m home by about 4:30 or 5:00 and continue to work out of my home office. So a lot of times it about six o’clock before I’m done. But because a hospital is open 24 hours a day, this job can be never ending. So you got to kind of be careful, I guess.

How did you get started in this?

I was in sales selling dictation equipment to medical offices and had a friend that I knew give me a call and said, “Hey, we’re expanding and we’re looking for a Rep in Longview, Texas are you interested in it?” And I had no idea what a pharmaceutical rep did, but it sounded good. And it sounded a little better than what I was doing as far as an income standpoint. So I interviewed for it and took it, and here we are 15 years later.

What do you like about what you do?

I like the autonomy to be able to go create my day, every day. I’ve got a product that I have to sell that nobody really tells me how to get from point A to point B. I have to go create that every day. And so I like the challenge of going out and doing the detective work and figuring out what the problem is and where my solution fits in. And then when it comes to fruition and the product gets used and sales start coming in, obviously, that’s very rewarding. Also, most of the products that our company carries really are kind of life-changing products. And knowing that those patients are getting the best product that’s making a difference in their life really is personally satisfying as well.

What do you dislike about this job?

Some of the red tape in regards to entertaining is tough. It used to be we had free range to do whatever. We could take customers to go play golf. We could go have dinner with somebody and all of that is gone. Anything we do now has to be within the laws of the hospital. It’s got to be documented. People have to sign in. It has gotten real red tapey, for a lack of a better word. We wait for products longer than we used to. It seems like seven or eight or nine years ago there was a product every year that comes out. I think the FDA has kind of slowed down its approval process. So you see a lag as to when new products may come to market. So kind of sitting around waiting on the new latest and greatest product to sell gets to be old.

How do you make money or how are you compensated in this career?

I’m compensated with a salary and, of course, car and gas etc.  And then I have a commission plan that goes along with the products that I sell. It’s paid quarterly.

And how much money do you make as a pharmaceutical sales rep?

Last year I made $163,000.

How much did you make starting out?

Starting out base salary was $32,000. I think I made about $50,000 my first year.

What education or skills would you say are needed to do this?

Four-year college degree is mandatory. What I see now on some of their postings is 1 to 2 years of either prior sales experience or Pharma experience before they are hired by us.
You need to be a great communicator too that can listen and figure out solutions. Also, like I said before, you kind of on your own out here, and if you can’t pull that off every day you’re not going to last very long.

What is most challenging about what you do?

Probably the most challenging is getting the product in the hospital and getting it moving for the first time because of all the different touch points and different personalities and opinions. Sometimes everyone doesn’t align. So when you have one person that is against it, it’s only one versus 10 but they have so much political capital in that hospital, they can stop the process from taking place. That’s very frustrating.

What is most rewarding?

The most rewarding is seeing it get put on hospital formulary, get used, and getting my competitor removed from that hospital.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

Network as much as possible. Get involved in many of the groups that are on LinkedIn. There are tons of different pharmaceutical professional organizations, medical device organizations that are listed on LinkedIn. Just get into some of those boards and start talking and networking and figure out what companies may be expanding in the future or hiring in the future. And then if you got two or three recruiters, continue to work with them because you’re not going to see these jobs on Monster. You’re not going to seek them in the classified ads. They are usually filled by word-of-mouth or recommendation from someone that’s already in the industry. And if you don’t know those people, you really don’t have a chance of getting in.

How much time off do you get to take?

Now I get four weeks vacation plus two holidays, two floating holidays. So I get 22 days off of just my own time and then, of course, they’re gracious with company holidays around Christmas and Fourth of July and Thanksgiving and that kind of stuff. So I don’t know what the total is, but it’s a good amount.

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

People seem to think that people in Pharmaceutical Sales, as a whole, work about 2 to 3 hours a day and make easy six-figure money for not a lot of work, and this is not true.

What are your goals and dreams for the future in this career?

If I spend another 16 years that will give me 31 years in the industry with a nice 401(k) and pension. I’ve done the projections. I will retire and be just fine. But as far as promoting or moving up to management or to the home office, I’m not interested. I’m a career hospital representative.

What else would you like people know about this career or what you do?

That it’s fun. And if you like sales and like people and enjoy the “windshield”, which you will see a lot of, it’s a great gig to have and the money is great. There is some flexibility but with that flexibility comes a lot of responsibility also. But it’s a very fun and rewarding career.