Transition from Sales to Marketing: Looking for Guidance

Some key points that marketing candidates with many years of experience in other areas — in this case, sales — will need to address to appeal to hiring managers. See also “Making the Jump from Research to Marketing.”

PM-THREAD 1003-1

AUTH: Christine Gaul
DATE: Thursday, October 23, 2003

I am an experienced Pharmaceutical Sales professional with a backgound in Print. The level of education that I have completed is BS in Business and Marketing. I am currently trying to transition from Sales to Marketing, and am investigating many avenues.

The two most attractive to me are: working for an Advertising Agency that specializes in Pharmaceutical Marketing, or working for a Pharmaceutical Company as an Assistant Product Manager.

I will be pursuing an MBA, but would like some guidance from experienced professionals who have already made the transition.

Can you offer me any “pearls of wisdom”?


AUTH: Alain Rinaldi
DATE: Friday, October 24, 2003
Dear Christine, Your shift decision is courageous and deserves admiration, good luck !

I made a similar shift 14 years ago in France, with an experience both in industry and ad agencies, such is the frame of some personal reflexions I can give to your judgement :

  1. due to a great many applicants from those trainings, marketing jobs appear to be mostly preempted by people with a background of pharmacist and, to a lesser extent, doctor (sometime dentist, …)
  2. the internal promotion policy of laboratories, that formerly welcomed and favoured the shift seem to have integrated this fact and now give the narrow-minded preference to those people (not to speak of further potential ladder-up discriminations …)
  3. assistant product manager is a low-responsability position for quite inexperienced young people and your are experienced and autonomous, so, disappointment may arise,
  4. we must always be very cautious about promises of potential internal promotion during recrutment, they often remain vain and forgotten …
  5. on the contrary Ad agencies are much more open-minded, eagerly in search of people with extensive experience with laboratories : who better than a former highly professional customer can properly understand the marketing needs of a lab customer? And if promotional perospects are theoretically less important in small stuctures such as ad agencies, people are given many more opportunities.

I hope these personal considerations might be of some assistance to you.

Warmest regards

AUTH: Mark Schmukler
DATE: Friday, October 24, 2003

You appear well positioned for the agency and product manager career path. Of course you could pursue both. I have been a product manager, and I now a managing partner at an agency.

Though my preference at this point in my career is to manage an agency, I draw on my in-house marketing skills and experience everyday. A longer-term plan for you might be to attempt to secure a product management position at a pharma (a challenge these days) with the option to ultimately transition to an agency.

I also think the MBA is a good idea. I would consider a concentration in Pharmaceutical Marketing. St. Joseph’s University has an excellent Pharma Marketing MBA program.

I hope this helps,

AUTH: Gregg Ruppersberger
DATE: Friday, October 24, 2003
Since you are talking about Pharmaceutical MBA Programs, I must point out Rutgers Business School’s MBA in Pharmaceutical Management. The program is sponsored by Pfizer, Merck, J&J, Eisai, BMS, Novartis, Roche, and Organon. They also offer full scholarships (paid for by the sponsoring companies) for outstanding candidates with industry experience. Courses are taught both by academics and industry executives. In addition, the sponsoring companies each offer on-site seminars on pharmaceutical topics (one per month). The program is in its fourth year and continues to grow.

Make sure to check it out.

Return to archive of selected discussion threads…