3 Simple Steps to start your Career in Medical Sales
To quote Arianna Grande- “Happiness is the same price as red bottoms”
But is it really? Keep reading…
This is the story of how I got into Medical Sales, so if you’ve ever wanted to break into the industry, well I’m about to spill my insider tips so you’re welcome! People seem to have such a curiosity of the industry or at some point in their life consider trying to do this line of work and are always asking me how I got to where I am (having been number 1 in the dermatology division at a nationally recognized Pharmaceutical company, a top performing cardiovascular diagnostic rep, and presidents club winner, top 10 revenue producer, high income earner in the behavioral healthcare field most recently). Just so you know you are talking to a credible source here! :)
Anyways, It’s always important to know you’re why in anything you take on, this career included. That being said, I’m also going to share the pro’s and con’s tying into the reality of this field in 2019.
So when I graduated from UCF in Orlando, Florida, I knew I wanted to do medical sales. Actually let me back that up. When I was young I commonly got sinus infections and spent a lot of time at the ENT doctors with my mom. My mom is the kind of person who makes best friends in the grocery store line, can chat it up with the meat market manager, and everyone knows her name in Homegoods. She can pretty much talk to anyone and will talk to anyone, the doctors office waiting room is no exception.
I remember at times her talking to the pharmaceutical reps sitting in the waiting room and they always looked so pretty, put together and happy. My mom, like me (apple doesn’t fall far from the tree), is a type A, plan ahead kind of woman. I can remember her already gathering info from these reps, even though I was relatively young, as if to already be guiding me towards a career she thought I would excel at, and be financially secure in. Which I did and flash forward, still do end up excelling at. In here, arises the question, should you do something just because you’re really good at it?
As I got older, I remember thinking these women really do have it together and I think since I’m also good at connecting with people, and hate nothing more than not getting my way (as bratty as that sounds, it actually makes me driven), I’d probably be good at selling to doctors and making it happen. So I decided when I graduated from college that’s the path I was going to take. I thought, “I’m going to help patients get better, be friends with doctors, and make lots of money!”. Boy was I naive. While yes this is a part of it, its not as glamorous as its made out to be at times and the industry has definitely changed a bunch from what it once was in the 90s, being very regulated. Nevertheless, it’s still a great job.
Step 1. You do need a 4 year degree, but in anything really. For example my degree was in communications and marketing, not healthcare or science. That’s usually misconception number 1. The next thing I knew was that if any Medical company was going to take me seriously, because its a very competitive industry, I needed to do some type of business to business sales for about 2 years to make a name for myself, and prove that I could sell, be a team player, and get promoted quickly. So step 2, start at the bottom in any B2B sales job and excel quickly. If you’re not willing to do this, honestly you might as well forget it. The industry is too competitive with people literally willing to sell their sole just to get into this relatively lucrative industry. Companies know it too.
So through a mutual connection from doing beer promotions for extra money on the side in college, I found a company that is a distributor for big name beer brands like, Miller-Coors, Yuengling, Corona, Heineken, Sam Adams, and some craft beer-basically all the good stuff! They hired me as an entry level sales account manager, in which I would go to bars, restaurants and Orlando resorts and replenish their bottled and keg beer each week, plus up sell them into additional brands they did not carry or incentivize them to replace a competitor tap handle with one of our brands. Long story short I did well, got promoted in the first year to an expansion position to be a key accounts manager for the Heineken brand beers.
Step 3. Get creative, be persistent, don’t give up. As soon as I was coming up on my 2 years experience with this company, I started reaching out to old friends, sorority sisters, family, and linkedin Medical Sales recruiters looking to break into the medical field. I now had a strong resume and a drive that was untouchable. I literally would go home each evening after work and while everyone else was catching up on their favorite shows or headed to happy hour, I would connect with and message as many medical sales recruiters I could find with my resume and my story. It started working! I started interviewing and finally the right fit came along and I accepted a position in dermatology pharmaceutical sales. You guys, I truly felt like in that moment that I made it! I remember going to training in NYC and over the weekend going shopping with my new work besties from training, right off 5th ave and all of these places I only dreamed I would be able to afford one day. It was there that I rewarded my hard work and determination with my first pair of Christian Louboutin’s. I was never a woman who had a boyfriend buy me these things. I knew if I wanted them, I could easily get them myself with a little hard work and persistence. Finally, the time had arrived! I was beyond happy.
It may sound somewhat shallow, but the potential to earn, was deeper than just a pair of red bottom shoes. It was confidence. Finding myself. Belonging somewhere. Being good at what I did and recognized for it. Private school tuition for the family I would one day have. Money to build a beautiful home in a safe community. It was security. Putting myself in a place to live happily and securely with Mr. Right and our future household, always having the stability of whatever my true love brought financially to the table was an added bonus. I think for many, its freedom.
I think that’s (money which represents freedom) why a lot of people think about getting into this industry if they are brutally honest with themselves. Because trust me, no one likes to be rejected on a daily basis, treated like a nuisance and trash by the front desk lady who just doesn’t know what’s in it for her quite yet (not all of them), and suffocating under at times what feels like very stiff numbers to achieve, because after all, they’re all growing organizations guys. On top of all that its a highly regulated industry so gone are the days of wining and dining over sporting events, concerts, and vacations. Which is honestly actually a good thing to keep Doctors ethically doing what is best for their patients. That’s the perfect segway into letting you know It’s also an ever changing industry as regulations change. So you need to be able to remain adaptable in the face of change and adversity, furthermore embracing it to fully grow to your max potential versus becoming stagnant or complacent. With that change comes at times job security issues, as these organizations frequently get bought out by other larger ones and sometimes (like in my past cases), despite being a top performing rep, you can get laid off as they condense the sales force at times.
Another thing to consider is you’re definitely working for a big corporation, earning the higher ups tons of money while doing a lot of work for them. This could be seen as a good thing if you want to work your way up the corporate ladder. On the flip side, if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, this might not sit too well with your soul. All of that being said, These are pretty much the cons depending how you perceive things. You have to be thick skinned, able to take rejection, and be motivated under high pressure, with ever growing numbers to achieve. You definitely have to master the art of not taking anything personal, as well as having a unique sense of patience and belief in your ability, understanding that all good things happen in time after much hard work. Like any job there are good days and bad days. What’s important is that if you do attempt to break into this role that you always remember your why, remain self motivated and driven, believe in your ability to create change, and always make sure the pro’s outweigh the cons.
The Pros. For me, being able to impact and change many patients lives through persistence and hard work is a feeling like no other. Anytime I hear a success story, or a thank you (although it is rare they actually say it, but I know they are thinking it) from an office, I realize that I have changed their life through their patients lives in an irreplaceable way. I remember each day I’m having a bad day, if I can impact one person’s life in a positive way, helping them get their life back and essentially back on the road to mental wellness, then I am serving a greater good and that is a beautiful thing making it all worth it. On a personal note, the pro’s are amazing benefits, and finances, leading into most everyone’s end game - freedom. Freedom to travel and do whatever it is that you love. Like for me, my blog and getting to connect with you all! It’s being able to live the life I’ve imagined. So for me the pro’s still outweigh the cons.
I only tell you all of this, as non bias as possible, so that you really stop and think it through if you want to penetrate this competitive industry. It’s nice to have a sense of reality from someone who’s credibly been there, having experienced this all. I think at the end of the day were all just looking for someone we can relate to and feel appreciated. My best advice is to follow your heart, do what you love, and in the end everything will work out! Through your bumpy journey you may even end up exactly where you are supposed to be. I’m a big believer you can always achieve what the heart and mind believes. I’ll leave you with my favorite bible verse. Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.