Some key points that sales candidates with many years of experience in other areas — in this case, clinical research — and an MBA will need to address to appeal to hiring managers. (see also “Transition from Sales to Marketing: Looking for Guidance“).
AUTH: Andy Bordic
DATE: Wed, 27 Aug 2003
I am a recent MBA grad currently in the Clinical Research area of Pharma. I am starting to investigate making the switch to the marketing side, however most people I talk to are telling me I need to start out in sales. Is this the case? Does anyone have any advice for where to start (recruiting firms, networking opportunities)?
AUTH: Bruce W. Bunyan
I think that those who have told you that you need to start in sales are offering you good advice. Over 95% of execs in pharma marketing have “carried the bag” at some time in their careers. Networking appears to offer the best opportunities.
Bruce W. Bunyan
Aventis Behring L.L.C. website.
AUTH: Danny Alvarez
Often someone with an MBA can go right into Marketing if you concentrated in Marketing at b-school, and especially since you have a healthcare background. Another good area to go into is Market Analytics, it is generally an internal consulting group that helps the marketing team with analytical projects as well as with market research.
In regard to sales, if you ever want to rise very far, you generally have to have “carried the bag”.
AUTH: Mark Gleason
Don’t think of sales as “punching a ticket” on the way up, but rather as one of the best learning curves on how the pharmaceutical marketing world works. Nothing happens until a prescription is written – the practice is where the action is. You’ll learn detailing, medical education, physician practice needs, sales aids, sampling, etc., etc. Even if it is 6 months of training time, it will be a worthwhile investment of time.
HyGro Consulting Group
AUTH: Danny Alvarez
I whole-heartedly agree. I spent almost five years in the field, and it’s usually very evident when you’re working with people who have not. They sometimes come up with programs or solutions that someone who had been in the field would quickly recognize as being unrealistic.
Most companies will let (or even insist) that you spend at least 6 months in the field. To Andrew, I would ask any company I worked for to let me do that as part of my initial “training”.
AUTH: Dave Cobb
It’s really tough once you’re over qualified to get the sales positions. If you have an MBA and you’re an RPh you smell of a short term investment to the companies, and generally at a higher pay. Throw on top of that the potential age and experience issues and you have a difficult dynamic to overcome.
1) Join organizations or volunteer to develop the relationships to get you into the pharma companies. Every networking and employment book recommends this move.
2) Try for a more appropriate level- medical science liaison or managed care contracting. You have the skills and experience. Accepting a lower level never feels right to the employer.
3) The “no risk” approach. Write and submit to a head of marketing a positioning paper on their products or write a business plan on how to grow a product’s business. It is no risk to the employer, but they really get a good idea of some of your skills. Something to truely differentiate yourself.
The more the experience and degrees, the more the employer expects in the interview process. Over deliver.
Best of luck.
AUTH: Mark Gleason
Another channel to consider for those with good clinical backgrounds is consider Medical Education and Medical Advertising agencies. They always need experts who can take clinical data and digest it into effective marketing communications. This experience is another method of buidling expertise by working with brand managers and then transitioning to that side of the fence. Look in the pharmaceutical marketing trade magazines for MedEd and Medical Ad Agency directories. Antother potential direction.
AUTH: Leonie Meima
If a person accepts a sales position for 1-2 years with the goal of eventually moving into a marketing position with that same employer, wouldn’t that benefit the employer? I can understand how offering a sales position to an MBA with many years of experience in another area could appear to be a bad investment, but I think that that is only true if a company isn’t willing to provide employees with career development opportunities. Besides, some of these individuals may actually choose to stay in sales after they’ve done it for a while.
I think if a company is willing to develop its employees it doesn’t seem like a 1-2 year stint in sales should be an issue, especially since this experience is so valuable for pharma marketing positions. Companies that demonstrate a commitment to developing their employees don’t have to worry that their employees are going to jump ship after a short period of time in sales. However, they should worry that their employees will leave due lack of career development opportunities. Lack of opportunity is still one of the primary reasons individuals leave a company.
Is my perspective on this subject unique? Are there any hiring managers in sales that are willing to comment?
AUTH: Rajan Matthews
I understand your position. I myself, am an MBA with varied experiences. I got into the Healthcare industry without a Pharma qualification. However, being there I learned what is needed to sell a Pharmaceutical product. Now , 5 yrs into the industry Im good at my job. This came with lot of hardwork. FOr you, since you have clinical experience and Pharma qualification, nothing like it. It will be easier for you. My opinion would be, if you cant get into sales (which is a must for a marketing person – the best learning tool is sales) try getting into back office support or customer support. Once you are there, supporting the Sales& marketing team, you can slowly push your self into Marketing frontline – say something like and inter department transfer.
Good luck to you.
I agree with the above discussion, its very interesting too. Being a product manager with a marketing degree, its been more than two years in this position but always i get remarks from my seniors who had sales background, that you were never in sales so you don’t know much. Therefore its better to have some experience of sales which i am also getting by going in the field with my sales represetatives since last 6 months. It really makes lots of difference, although to be in the field is difficult than remaining in the office.
My advice, start from sales with a clear plan and objective to be in the marketing side by next 1 year. And even in marketing job remain in touch by occassionally going in field to find new sales trend.
AUTH: Dave Cobb
I have 17 years of pharmaceutical experience, started in sales and then did make the transition into marketing. I worked as a product manager, director of marketing, director of strategic marketing. Through out that time I worked closely with the hiring managers and directors in sales.
Based upon the situation that you described and my previous experience I can only tell you that hiring managers tend to have difficulty feeling comfortable in hiring a person for sales knowing that the eye is on marketing + the education and experience. I hope some sales managers jump in here, but many times you get burned, because a) the person in the position focuses more on getting into marketing than creating sales b) the person “does the time” and is more likely to leave the company c)often creates internal district conflict. Every case is different and every person evaluated based upon what they bring and d) sales requires a “sales mentality”. Sales is immediate and tactical, marketing and MBA tends to indicate more long term and interest in strategy. Conflicting skills.
A lot will depend on how you position yourself, the maturity of the hiring manager, and what the corporate culture is like.
I hope this is helping and not viewed to be negative. I’m providing a fact based perspective provided by the reality I saw within my company. You can break through, but you need to check your strategy, approach, and target a company that is open to hiring experience.
AUTH: Jeffrey Strassman
Great thoughts here. I have been in sales all my life selling to Pharma branding and product managers. Hiring someone without the tactical drive and attention, would not deliver the results I am looking for quickly enough. I need to see results in 3-6 months and a commitment to the customers needs. I owe them the contiguous relationship, and if sales person is as committed to marketing as he is sales, the customer will loose either way.
Sales may be a great way to learn a Pharma company’s intimate nature, but sales in itself can be the best career in the world. Supported with a clinical background, the sky is the limit.
I just wanted to thank you for your consideration and comments.
AUTH: Leonie Meima
Thanks Dave for your feedback. I think this information highlights some key points that sales candidates with many years of experience in other areas and an MBA will need to address to appeal to hiring managers.