An Interview with a Territory Representative

Press conference microphones isolated on whiteWelcome to installment #2 of the series “An Interview with….”.  As said in previous posts, we have taken our contacts within the industry and asked them to answer a few general questions about the Pharmaceutical Industry and their experiences within the industry. We have done this to give you all some insight and perhaps something to read during your next sales call while you wait for a physician in the waiting room. The only thing we asked of our interviewees was our honesty so that we could bring that openness to you, our audience.

In this installment we get the thoughts of a Territory Representative who was gracious enough to answer a few questions.  Enjoy the interview… So you have been in pharma now for about two years….what are your general thoughts on the pharmaceutical industry?
Territory RepresentativeThe pharmaceutical industry is still a dynamic and lucrative industry.  Despite the access, managed care, and regulatory restrictions that were not in place 10 or so years ago, many physicians still depend on reps to provide product and clinical information, as well as samples. But doctors are not willing to just give out samples unless they know they will at some point be willing to do what it takes to prescribe it. The ultimate salesmanship in knowing your product inside out, finding out what is most important to that particular doctor in treating the disease state, and tying them in together to provide a valuable solution for their concern will ultimately get them to give the sample or write a prescription.

In my time in the industry, people have referred to the old pharma days of little to no managed care restrictions, unlimited budgets, extravagant dinners and trips, etc.. Many of these more “fun” aspects of the job are now against many company policies, or even FDA and other governing authority regulations. I wasn’t in the industry during those days, but for those that were I can see why they would be frustrated with some of the policies that are now in place. On the other hand, if you take a physician on a trip and he starts writing dozens of scripts of your medication every week, it is a bit concerning that theres a good chance that the way the physician is treating a patient is being influenced by a quid pro quo relationship.

The fact still remains that there is a need for new medications and for people to sell them. Working through the obstacles is part of the job now that every rep faces. Those who do it better than the average person can be very successful and make a lot of money. Did you do any preparation/research on the industry previous to gaining interviews and if so, how exactly did you prepare?
Territory Representative: I went online and searched for the type of experience usually required of pharma reps. Then I researched typical interview questions and helpful tips on how to answer them. Ultimately, I realized most pharma companies like to see at least a year of B2B sales experience. They also like to see that you’re a go getter who is all about getting results, has a positive attitude, and doesn’t get discouraged quickly. They like candidates to answer in STAR format (Situation Task Action Result) because it not only gives them specific examples of how you’ve succeeded and handled certain situations in your previous roles, but it also shows them you can carry on a clear and concise dialogue without babbling or adding fluff.

Without the formal B2B sales experience, I printed out a list of typical STAR format questions that interviewers like to ask, and I jotted down at least one real life example that I could think of to fit each question. Then I made sure to tie it back to how that could be applicable to the pharmaceutical sales rep job so that I showed the interviewer the way I successfully handled certain situations in the past would be a benefit in the pharma world as well. Your current position is a Territory Representative position in a traditional pharma company, has there been any surprises in terms of the day-to-day responsibilities?
Territory RepresentativeI was surprised to see how much influence other people in the office could have on a prescription. For example, a nurse that is seeing a patient could simply brief the doctor on what a patient has tried and failed on in the past so the doctor doesn’t just recommend another over the counter agent. Or if the pharmacy says a patient needs prior authorization for a medication, the difference between the staff actually doing it and getting it approved or just telling the doctor it is not covered can make a major difference in the doctors prescribing habits.

I was surprised to see how much I really needed to dedicate to coaching staff members through a script if the doctor writes it. What are the major challenges in your opinion, in the field?Territory Representative: Time is a major challenge. Most physicians are generally under the impression that they will need to jump through hoops to prescribe new medications. Not only that, but doctors are getting reimbursed less by insurance companies, and are therefore trying to see more patients every day so their income doesn’t drop. They have less time to talk to reps, and it will generally take multiple sales calls to get the information needed to really sell a doctor on the many benefits of the medication. Ultimately it becomes a two-part sell: is it worth trying a new medication instead of what the doctor is used to writing, and is it worth the time to see the prescription all the way through?

Managed care and pharmacies are also a major challenge. As reps we work so hard to convince the doctors to try a medication, and once they finally do either it is not covered, or a pharmacy will switch them to a generic. It is challenging coaching staff members or doctors through getting the medication approved, and coaching the pharmacy to want to work with the doctors to get the medication approved as well. Do you enjoy what you do?
Territory RepresentativeI do enjoy my job. It can be very satisfying and rewarding if you have your finger on the pulse of your territory and are constantly working to make progress and grow your business.

The worst feeling in this industry is the feeling of helplessness, or that you’re just going around getting signatures for samples and physicians aren’t listening to you. Part of the job is being able to position yourself in front of the physicians or decision makers and make them see the value in whatever medication or therapy you are selling.  If you are successful in that, the job is rewarding. If you’re not doing that on a daily basis, the job will get stale fast. Knowing what you know now, having been in the industry for a few years, if you could go back, would you embark on this journey again?Territory Representative: I absolutely would. Whether I stay in my current position, or decide to move to a more specialized or medical device role, this is great experience to have. I’ve learned a lot about science, pharmacokinetics, and basic everyday disease states that are very common. Personally, I find it very interesting and want to continue to learn and bring my knowledge and sales experience to bigger and better opportunities. That’s how I know I will be successful in this industry.

If you’re just beginning to look into the pharmaceutical industry, you may see people who put it down or read job postings that say “no pharma” to discourage the traditional signature driven pharmaceutical reps from applying. But if you go on LinkedIn and look at the profiles of hiring managers, recruiters, directors of sales and VPs for pharma and device companies, you’ll see that many of them have been a pharmaceutical rep at one point. It’s a great experience to have if you create your own success and avoid mediocrity.

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