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No, Henny Penny, The Sky Isn't Really Falling
Author:  PharmaVet
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As I keep an eye on the MedZilla pharmaceutical sales forums, I've noticed a steady increase in the frequency of questions from concerned job-seekers asking whether this industry will be around in five or ten years and whether it's even worth it to try to break in.

The pharma industry isn't going anywhere. The business model has changed before (albeit slightly) in pharma and will again – and it must. While pharma is broadening its horizons and trying different, nontraditional ways to drive sales – DTC campaigns, internet initiatives and teledetailing to name a few – I don't foresee that the personal touch of outside sales reps will be going away any time soon.

Yes, there are challenges to that business model. We know that physician access and the cost of catering lunch to physicians and their staffs (and anyone even remotely affiliated with the office) are problems. There are additional challenges all the time in the form of medical centers and healthcare systems banning reps, managed care making it more difficult to drive business, and medical schools teaching courses on how medical students and residents can resist being lured to the dark side by pharma-tainted sandwiches. Periodically certain politicians renew their age-old complaints about the influence the pharma industry wields (which is considerable) and the high price of pharmaceuticals (which is undeniable) and get everyone all riled up. Having been a victim of a massive downsizing that occurred even before the final fitting for Bill Clinton's inauguration suit – when the industry panicked about the devastation Hurricane Hillary would wreak before realizing there was nothing there – I can tell you that, historically, things have always leveled out and returned to normal.

That said, the pharma industry is undeniably bloated with reps. For the past year or so we've seen the pharma arms race slowing, starting with Pfizer's significant downsizing in December 2006 and continuing with other companies following suit to some degree. Yet we also see mass hiring going on as usual, spurred as always by new product launches.

Everyone loves to talk about how volatile the pharma industry is. I disagree. The industry itself, really, is quite stable. It's the individual companies that make up the industry that are less stable. A pharma company will beef up its sales force when it has a new product to launch and then, once it has gained the position it sought in the marketplace, scale back. It will downsize when it loses patent protection on a key product because there is no longer any point in promoting it, and then add to its sales force again for another new product launch. But since these ebbs and flows occur at different times for each company, the industry as a whole remains fairly stable. One company sheds reps and another adds them, and the end result is that the industry itself is far less volatile than any one company within the industry.

So don't worry that there will be no more pharma sales jobs in the near future. If you get a job as a pharma rep, you aren't going to find that your job is being outsourced to Bangalore. You will, however, need to remain flexible and open to any changes your employer may make to its business model. A smart rep will continue to add to his or her skill set, become increasingly tech-savvy, develop greater business acumen, and work hard to stand out from the pack so that, when opportunities arise in other areas of the business (possibly resulting from gradual changes to the business model), that rep is seen as someone who is progressive and driven enough to help lead the company into the next generation of pharmaceutical marketing.

  Author: job seeker texas
    experienced reps do get the jobs   Log In to Report Post
   Everyone keeps saying that experienced pharma reps are not getting the open positions, but that is not true. I had an interview last week with Astrazeneca, perfect interview, I have 4 years B2B, and a BA. The interviewer told me I was exactly what they were looking for however they chose someone with more Pharma experience. How do I compete with all the experienced reps that have recently been laid off....or do I even try??
  Author: PharmaVet
    To 322, 3:34 pm   Log In to Report Post

Notice that I said that the industry itself, really, is quite stable. I did not say that the position of pharmaceutical sales representative is stable, or that there will not be changes to the business model. In fact, if you read carefully, I said exactly the opposite.

My post was, as I pointed out, a response to the many questions regarding whether the pharma industry is even going to be around in a few years. Of course the industry will be around. Anyone who thinks that all pharmaceutical manufacturers are going to close up shop and stop producing drugs probably also has a doomsday shelter out back with an impressive arsenal of weapons, gas masks, and canned goods. And probably has been indulging in too much of the industry's output, as well.

I don't foresee that in-person sales is a model that pharma will abandon any time soon. However, as I pointed out, pharma has changed its business model slightly over the years and MUST do it again.

To answer the points you raised:

1. No, they are not hiring ALL college grads with zero experience. Well, yes, they are all college grads, but that's nothing new. I'm just being picky here. Let's assume that you really meant RECENT college grads. While that may be true in many cases, it's not true across the board. Just ask all the recent college grads who are turned away because the employer wants either previous B2B sales experience or previous pharma sales experience.

2. The upcoming recession will not eliminate the majority of reps. Previous recessions didn't, either. I remember when people thought that all human jobs would disappear and all work would be performed by robots. This Henny Penny mentality is exactly what I was referring to in my title. That said, yes, reps are expendable. Even IF...big, huge if...half the sales reps currently in the field were eliminated, that would still leave more than enough reps to get the job done. As much as I love the industry, I have to say that the bloated excesses of its sales forces and its marketing practices are embarrassing. The industry is shooting itself in the foot, but that has never stopped it before from continuing its field sales arms race.

3. Yes, physicians would rather read an article in JAMA than listen to, as you put it, a freaking robot. Who wouldn't? However, many years ago I was working as a medical assistant before I decided to go back to college and become a drug rep. The family practitioner for whom I worked had a pile of journals next to his desk that he kept meaning to read. That pile was about 4 feet high and kept falling over, so I had to move the journals to a storage room and let him start a new pile. When I went back a few years later as a drug rep I jokingly asked him about his unread journals pile. He sheepishly showed me the storage room, which was by now filled with several piles of journals that he still had never found time to read. He told me that ideally he would prefer to read about new drugs and new indications in peer-reviewed medical journals but that he now had to admit that it just wasn't going to happen because he was too busy with his practice, his family, and his community activities. I promised him then, and kept this promise to him and to all the other physicians I ever called on, that I would never waste his time and would always keep it brief.

So do I still think the industry is stable? Yes. Is the position of pharmaceutical sales rep stable? It never has been. And NOT because all pharma reps are going to be eliminated, replaced by teledetailers from Bangalore or by robots, George Jetson-style. It's unstable because the business model is, and has been for many years, that companies beef up their sales forces for new product launches and then downsize when they no longer need additional firepower. One has to go into this job understanding and accepting that fact. And, as I pointed out in my post, a smart rep will always continue to develop his/her business acumen, technological abilities, and industry knowledge in order to be well-positioned to move into the next phase of pharmaceutical marketing.

  Author: curious
    lilly hiring process   Log In to Report Post
   Pharma Vet:
What can you tell me about Lilly's hiring process?
A recruiter contacted me by email and asked me to apply online. Four days later, they asked me to take the online assessment test, which I did - and passed. Approximately four business days later the same recruiter called me and asked me if she could have a phone interview with me at that very moment. Of course, I dropped what I was doing, and did the interview on the fly. She passed me and said she was putting me put for the panel interview. I was told I would need transcipts and driving records, along with any awards I had. She told me I would receive a phone call or email detailing when and where the interview would take place, but most likely it would be in the next 3 business days.
I have never had a face to face interview with a pharma company in my life. This is for a specialty position. I only have one year of b2b sales experience.
What can I do to prepare?
I've been studying the company like crazy and trying to figure out these STAR questions? What else?
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader
    Yes Henny Penny, The Sky Is Really Falling   Log In to Report Post
   "The industry itself, really, is quite stable."

Who are you and what rock have you been living under? The career of a pharmaceutical sales rep will soon be non-existent!!
1. They are hiring all college grads that have zero experience and the docs snicker when they walk in the door 2. The upcoming recession will eliminate the majority of reps because they are dispensible. and
3. Docs would rather read an article in JAMA than listen to a freaking robot.

For a vet you should know better than what you posted here. And yes I'm a pharma vet as well.

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