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All things Pharma

Healthcare: the new pharma?



Pharma and healthcare both offer fantastic career opportunities. Dafydd Roberts of Reed Scientific examines the advantages of selling medical devices.

As a recruitment consultant, every day I speak to numerous people about their jobs, what they are doing, what it involves, what they like about it, and how their employers and managers make them feel. Some of them are from the pharmaceutical industry, the rest from healthcare. Both provide excellent career opportunities, but if I had a choice, I might well opt for the latter. Why? Hopefully the following will explain.

Keep it real

I recently went to a pharmaceutical sales forum. One of the topics on the table for discussion was “How does a pharmaceutical company keep its sales representatives happy and contented?” Many of the suggestions for changes put forward have already been realised by healthcare companies, which generally see a lower turnover of staff than their pharma counterparts.

It was widely agreed that one of the frustrations of pharma representatives was that they didn’t know what happened after they had sat in front of the GP and completed their sell. The only time they knew whether they had hit their target would be when they received the sales data, indicating how many scripts had been sold, several weeks later.

When I speak to candidates about selling medical products, one word I often use is tangible. We like to know and see what we are selling: this gives us confidence, and more so when we see it in use and benefiting someone. We like to leave our customer’s office knowing that the efforts we have put in have paid off. So it matters how many products they have ordered.

We are all target-orientated – we would not be in sales if we weren’t. We all like the bonus that comes from hitting those targets, and we also like to know that we have made a difference – no matter how small – to the patient’s life. Knowing that the hard work and dedication you have put in have made an impact on someone’s life makes the job that much more worthwhile.

So when you get a call from a surgeon at 2am because he needs you to help him with an orthopaedic implant, or a diabetes nurse who needs you to help show a patient how an insulin pump works, you get a buzz: you feel needed and appreciated.

Your own patch

Territories can vary in size within the healthcare sector – but those territories, unlike those covered by pharmaceutical representatives, are rarely shared. Whether you are working for one of the largest orthopaedic companies or for a small outfit selling beds, you are in a highly visible role. All the sales made on your patch are made by you, and any clients brought on board are done so from your hard work. It will be you who gets the recognition and the rewards that follow.

A common complaint I hear from candidates in the pharma industry looking to register their details is that they share a region, in some cases with up to seven other people. One manager recently told me that two people he had interviewed showed him the same sales figures: both claimed to be individually responsible for bringing on board the formulary that led to the sales. How do you know which one was the representative who did the hard work?

Crossing the sales line

Two ex-pharma representatives now selling medical devices with Stryker UK Ltd explain the reasons for their move.

“I wanted to be in a more hands on-role with the consultants I saw. To do this I needed to get into the theatre environment, as this is where surgeons do their work and are most interactive about their patients and methods of treatment. I am no longer just sitting in their office talking about patient illness groups and clinical papers.

“Another reason is the level of personal accountability that you get with device selling. When you’re in theatre with a customer you have to know your products, you have to stand up and be counted right there and then – this was the kind of challenge I wanted. Being wholly accountable keeps your motivation and hunger for success.”

Andrew Bell
Sales Representative, Endoscopy Division

“In the pharma industry, when you make a call on a GP the best you can hope for is that he/she will prescribe your product when a suitable patient comes into surgery, but with the devices industry you are fully involved in the quotation process and dealing with purchases and supplies – it all adds to the buzz. In addition, during the sales process with devices you do not feel bound to a four-page detail aid but have the freedom to discuss matters that will appeal directly to the customer’s needs.

“Another reason was the accountability, you work a territory where your target is all your own responsibility. Everybody is driven to achieve goals and is enthusiastic about what they do.”

Laura Stoker
Sales Representative, Surgical

There have been quite a few recent changes in the pharma industry, and many more will follow through mergers and strategic moves. Takeda, for instance, took a bold step when it restructured its sales force and chose to deploy Regional Account Developers instead of traditional GP and hospital representatives. This has brought it some success. While it has reduced the costs of salaries, training and benefits, initial figures show that the change hasn’t impacted on sales. It is thought likely that this strategy may be adopted or developed by other pharma companies.

State of the art

While some pharmaceutical companies are battling to gain product approval for their latest drug, with patents expiring or even products being withdrawn from the market, one thing that remains consistent is that technology is progressing and that there are always new and improved state-of-the-art medtech products being launched. Whether it is the latest ultrasound equipment, diabetes care equipment or wound care product, it all makes a difference to the patient.

When you get a call from a surgeon at 2am because he needs you to help him with an orthopaedic implant, or a diabetes nurse who needs you to help show a patient how an insulin pump works, you get a buzz: you feel needed and appreciated.

And as long as there are funds within the NHS to purchase these products, healthcare sales representatives will always have a major role to play in the welfare, care and safety of patients.

Dafydd Roberts is Team Leader at Reed Scientific, Cardiff. For more information, visit www.reed.co.uk.


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