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The Art of Getting Ahead in Pharmaceutical Sales: Three Things That You Need to Know

Updated: Jun 2, 2022

When I graduated and passed my board exam in Pharmacy, my eyes were set on practising my profession. I could not wait to apply what I have learned in pharmacology, pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacognosy, pharmaceutics, manufacturing and other major subjects in Pharmacy to render the ultimate pharmaceutical care to patients. So when I had the opportunity to practice in the hospital setting, being a newbie, I made sure to bring at least three pharmacy books with me each time I was on duty. I was determined to integrate my learnings to ensure that patients' prescriptions were error-free. I would spend significant time counselling patients on how and when to take their medications to best exert their therapeutic effect. Anyone who works in a Hospital Pharmacy setting with over 2,000 prescriptions a day knows that this approach is NOT feasible.

I took pride in Dispensing that it's not merely receiving, reading, packing the medications and billing the patients. Despite my intense passion and dedication to my work and patients being appreciative, I was advised to shorten my contact time, especially during patient counselling, to be more "efficient". Now, this topic could be another article.

As a fresh pharmacy grad whose standard ideals didn't match the practice at that time, I had to switch gears and explore the enigmatic world of Pharmaceutical Sales. Please note that practices vary in every geography, but if there are two common denominators in Pharmaceutical Sales, those are competition and long, erratic hours of waiting. The former is given, and the latter is inevitable as patients always come first among the Healthcare Professionals (HCPs).

As a determined 20-year old surrounded by gregarious and competitive people in the Pharmaceutical world, first, I aced my three months of rigorous training with the "Best Detailer Award". I achieved my sales target with 122% growth within nine months. I constantly hit my target each quarter, attaining high performance for four consecutive semesters, which qualified me for a promotion. At 22, while I was dressing up for the "The Top Performer's Award" later that day, I was staring down from the 35th floor of my hotel room with utmost excitement about what was next - it was surreal.

These three things may help you achieve that feat as a neophyte.


Focus, and be genuinely nice

The company invests in the necessary training, e.g. communication and interpersonal skills, product knowledge, industry knowledge, etc., and tools such as marketing aids and reasonable budgets to achieve the business objectives.

The only expectation from you is to deliver. The sales goals and the dynamic, competitive environment can be overwhelming. The pressure is real. Despite all these, sanguine, phlegmatic and choleric personalities are everywhere. Sometimes it is easy to blend in, be one of the crowds and throw all your business commitments away. Focus will be your competitive advantage. Know your numbers, learn your products by heart, and know your territory well - establish a genuine rapport and interest with your work, colleagues, clients, allied healthcare providers, and gatekeepers. Being on time is average; the early bird doesn't just catch the fattest worm; you also earn the highest form of respect, which is self-respect. Focusing on things that matter and being genuinely nice to your peers while self-respecting propels you to achieve new heights.

Create value and always be learning

You have been familiarised with the lines when there are objections. You have memorised the detail guides and your competitor's strengths and weaknesses. You are now running out of words feeling limited with your approach. It can be intimidating.

I taught myself to be curious and ask questions to understand the problems and challenges of my clients. I made reading a habit and learned to do my research to get myself updated about the industry, such as the available therapies and upcoming publications that could interest my clients regardless of the drug class. I learned to share them for learning and not solely because it could gain me a fair share of the prescriptions through brand recall. I personalised my approach to ensure that I add value to my clients` professional practice and eventually help them in treatment management and strategies that could benefit the patients. I channelled my passion for patient care through my role in Pharmaceutical sales.

As the "in-charge" of your sales territory, you can't just rely entirely on the materials and directions from the Marketing team and the Medical Affairs department of your company. Everyone is doing that. You have to go beyond the "standard" norms and expectations. My bosses would always remind us, "go for that extra mile".

You have to consider yourself a "Provider", always giving, thinking and collaborating mindfully.

Get mentored; consistency matters.

I considered myself lucky to have a senior colleague in the territory that worked with and guided me during the early days. He shared some tips and tricks of the business; I took what worked for me and disregarded what didn't.

Whether it's a deliberate mentorship or just part of the business routine, be open to new approaches, strategies and ideas no matter how outrageous and impossible they may look.

Once you've acquired fresh insights, broadened your perspectives, and gained your clients' trust and respect of your peers - consistency will be your partner in keeping the spirit of excellence.

All the best!

Authored by:

Mariae Arendayen, RPh

Pharmacist by training, Entrepreneur at heart


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