Trust Enablement

Improving Sales Performance with Enablement Recruiting, Consulting, Outsourcing, Coaching, and Insights on Strategies, Tactics, and Tools

Pharmaceutical Sales Reps – Your Keys to Success

Pharmaceutical sales reps work in a complex field and generally have a higher level of requirements than for other sales roles.

Some companies may prefer pharmaceutical sales prospects to have a master’s degree or higher. A degree in pharmacology can be precious.

In addition, some will require, or at least expect it as you move forward in your career:

  • Previous experience in the pharmaceutical industry (e.g., health care professionals, medical professionals, and similar roles).
  • Ongoing education at industry events and training sessions at an accredited institution.
  • Existing knowledge of, or the ability to rapidly learn medical terminology.

The rapidly advancing pharmaceutical industry will require these scientific skills, outstanding communication skills, and a hunger for ongoing learning.

Common Medical Sales Roles

What is an HCP?

HCP is the abbreviation for the healthcare practitioner.  The HCP may be a pharmacist, doctor, nurse, or any other role working directly with patients.

What is a KAM?

A KAM (Key Account Manager) develops and maintains customer relationships.

What is an MSL?

An MSL is a medical science liaison. They develop relationships with key opinion leaders (KOLs), advisors, and thought leaders in various therapeutic areas.

MSLs are non-commercial (i.e., not sellers) who focus on establishing relationships across the scientific and medical community.

They may run advisory boards, be responsible for educating others, and play a critical role throughout the entire lifecycle, from development through commercial efforts.

MSLs can be very influential because they often have access to physicians who decide which medications should be prescribed.

What is a PCP?

A PCP, or Primary care provider, is a health care professional who provides preventive and long-term care for their patients. PCPs often serve as patients’ first point of contact when seeking medical services, providing diagnostic services, laboratory tests, health education, and referring patients to specialists as needed.

What are KOLs?

KOLs are key opinion leaders (KOLs) – medical professionals respected for their knowledge and expertise in a particular therapeutic area.

Why are KOLs important for your pharmaceutical sales and marketing efforts?

KOLs can significantly influence the decision-making process of other medical professionals. By developing relationships with KOLs, pharmaceutical companies can better understand the needs of their target market and create more targeted sales and marketing initiatives.

Background Information Related to Pharmaceutical Sales

Before the global pandemic, the average pharmaceutical sales rep did most of their selling in person. However, as sales have shifted to remote approaches, remote detailing, and edetailing have become extremely popular.

What is eDetailing?

Edetailing involves making relevant sales content accessible to HCPs and other buyers digitally.  This grew in importance during the Covid-19 pandemic and has continued in importance for several reasons, including:

  • HCP Preferences.  While healthcare providers have always had limited time for sellers, the pandemic further reduced their availability, and many professionals found they preferred remote communications.
  • Content is always up-to-date.  
  • Tracking leads to personalized service.  Sellers know what doctors and pharmacists are reviewing and reacting to, allowing them to fine-tune their messages and share the most valuable information with these pros.

What is Remote Detailing?

Remote detailing is the process of selling pharmaceuticals to medical professionals remotely.

Remote detailing is a logical extension of edetailing where the entire interaction is virtually done.

How do Pharma Reps Spend Their Days?

Pharmaceutical sales representatives spend their days chasing down healthcare providers, visiting medical practices, physicians’ offices, and labs.

These sales reps understand they are in a competitive industry and must invest time in building a deeper understanding of their company’s product lines, other drugs they are competing with, and potential interactions between various drugs.

Pharma reps also manage and distribute free product samples, product literature, patient starter kits, and other marketing materials as they make their daily physician visits.

Pros and Cons of Remote Pharmaceutical Sales

Whether discussing remote detailing or edetailing, there are many pros and cons. Let’s start with the benefits.

  • Remote detailing is far more effective. Instead of traveling from lab to lab or between doctor’s offices, the pharmaceutical sales rep can go from one remote meeting to another without delay.
  • eDetailing is cheaper with no travel costs involved.
  • Remote detailing is more flexible for buyers. Medical professionals are often tricky to catch between patients, lab work, surgeries, etc.
  • Reps can deliver richer experiences via remote technology (most of the time). Visiting labs in the basement of a building often means low-to-no internet access, having pharma sellers use paper printouts and brochures vs. more advanced technology solutions.

The cons of this approach include the following:

  • For some buyers, technology-based, remote sales are new and uncomfortable.
  • Relationships are more challenging to build remotely, and pharma sales depend on solid relationships between sellers and buyers.

Best Practices for Pharmaceutical Sales

Pharmaceutical sales reps must avoid falling into the transactional sales trap — believing they show up and HCPs will buy from them.  TO succeed in pharma sales, remember:

  • It would be best if you remember the patients are the ultimate clients.
  • Always lead with empathy.  HCPs have a hard job supporting the humans we call patients.  It is often challenging and emotional in their shoes.
  • You need to understand the science well enough to present data effectively.  Study this, and go deep.
    • Understand the safety and efficacy of the products you sell.  When to use them, and when not to use them.
  • With the above in mind, you will never know more about medicine than those you help.  However, you need to know your products and the patient profiles of those your solutions help.
  • Help the HCP understand the patient profile right for your product, why it is a better alternative than your competitors, and how to prescribe it.

Best Practices for Remote Pharmaceutical Sales

To be successful with remote detailing and edetailing, remember that:

  • Practice makes perfect. Practice remote selling with peers and coaches. Body language and facial expressions can be interpreted differently when delivered through a Zoom meeting. Practice.
  • You must pull in support staff easily (e.g., MSLs, CSLs), ensure access to teammates, and quickly pull them into your remote meetings.
  • Don’t go cheap on the technology. Computer and networking horsepower are your friends.
  • Regarding the last point, don’t deliver a remote detailing session from your local coffee shop. Be in the office on reliable, high-quality networks.
  • Use seller effectiveness platforms (like Pitcher) that allow you to share your screen quickly, show PowerPoint presentations, and provide a great user experience for buyers.
  • Be sure to have remote printouts and leave-behinds for buyers – in case of technical difficulties.
  • Ensure that you can easily show the latest clinical data ready to present.
  • Have a plan for what happens if you get disconnected during a call.

Vital Pharmaceutical Sales Representative Skills

While you can read our overview of all sales skills, we want to call out a couple of skills that are not necessarily unique to, but are especially important for, any good pharmaceutical sales representative.

Field Research

Field research in pharmaceutical sales is essential for any successful representative. It involves gathering detailed information on the field and taking direct action to influence patient outcomes and improve product sales. This includes researching competitor products, identifying physicians likely to prescribe the product, studying market trends, staying up-to-date on industry regulations, and understanding patient needs and preferences.

Field research also requires an in-depth knowledge of the specific therapeutic areas related to a particular drug or product. It’s essential to understand how different treatments work, how they may interact, and what associated risks may be. Additionally, reps must stay abreast of the latest clinical trial results that can affect prescribing decisions.

Territory Planning

Territory planning in pharmaceutical sales is mapping out a representative’s assigned area to help them focus their efforts, be more knowledgeable about what they are selling, and become more productive in their sales activities. It includes researching target customers and area demographics, gathering competitor information, studying market trends, understanding customer needs, and identifying high-value areas or target customers that will generate a greater return on investment. A clear territory plan can make all the difference in successful sales strategies.

An effective territory planning strategy is critical because it allows you to maximize your time and resources by focusing on the areas within your territory most likely to result in sales growth. It also helps you better understand your target customers, their location, and what products or services might satisfy their needs.

Struggling To Get Into Pharma Sales?

This can be a challenging field to break into — consider these tips.

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacists for an introduction to the best pharma reps they work with.  
  • Sit down with those reps and pick their brains.
  • Be patient as you apply, and be respectful.  You will receive a lot of rejection as a seller, be prepared to receive and manage the rejection in the interview process.

Are you Interviewing For Pharmaceutical Sales Jobs?

If you are a hiring manager, check out the great list of interview questions we put together in this article.

However, here are a few things you should know if you are interviewing for a sales job.

Preparing for the Pharma Sales Rep Interview

Pharma sales reps should prepare similarly to their peers in other industries (of course).  Here are the steps we recommend you follow to nail the interview.

  • Review the job posting carefully.  While some postings may be templated, assume that every requirement is necessary.  Prepare to answer questions clarifying why you meet the stated needs, have stories to share, and be able to demonstrate outcomes/results.
  • Review the company website, paying particular attention to recent news, the products they sell, and the customers they reference (especially customer testimonials).
  • Related to the above, review videos from the company’s YouTube channel, focusing on content released in the last 3-6 months.
  • If the company is public, review its recent annual report.  Where are they focused?
  • Does the company deliver products that tie back to you personally?  For example, if they create drugs to treat Alzheimer’s, can you share why you are passionate about beating it?

What is the average salary of a pharmaceutical sales representative?

Reviewing the latest information on Glassdoor for pharmaceutical sales reps shows that the average total compensation in the united states is currently $102,169.

What is a Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative (CNPR)?

And how do you become one?

A Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative (CNPR) is a professional certification granted by the National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives (NAPR) to individuals who have demonstrated knowledge in pharmaceuticals and related areas of sales and marketing. To become a CNPR, applicants must pass a comprehensive exam covering product knowledge, customer service, regulatory compliance, and sales techniques.

Applicants must possess at least one year’s experience in the pharmaceutical industry or complete an approved NAPR program before taking the exam. Those who pass will receive their certification from NAPR for three years, after which they must apply for re-certification.

Best Tools for Pharma Sales

The two main alternatives to consider are:

Veeva is the best-recognized brand and has been built on top of’s CRM.  However, Veeva has announced it is moving from the Salesforce platform to its homegrown CRM solution.  With this in mind and Pitcher’s profound life sciences capabilities, we recommend Pitcher combined with at the top of our list of best tools for pharma sales.

Any others?

While some pharma sales reps won’t need these capabilities, here are a handful of other tools we recommend for various needs.

What else should we have included in our list of the best tools for pharma sales reps?

Omnichannel Marketing and Sales in Pharma

We’ve spoken a lot about edetailing already.  This is a critical channel of an overall approach to educating pharma clients, but not the only one.

In addition to remote meetings leveraging edetailing, other channels are often crucial for HCPs, including:

  • SMS messages
  • Chat messages using services like Viber, WeChat, and WebApp.
  • Emails
  • Social media
  • The company’s website
  • Webinars and other events (both in person and virtual)
  • In-person conversations, including brief meetings in between patient visits.

Consent management enables each HCP to define how and when a given channel can/should be used, but companies struggle over regulatory, legal, and brand-level compliance with these guidelines.

For example, if a pharmaceutical sales rep shares information and content with an HCP via WeChat, the vendor loses all control over the message, and any ability to audit messages is nonexistent.

This is where many businesses turn to solutions like Pitcher and Salesforce CRM (as a combined solution).  Why?

  • Pitcher supports consent management, honoring the rules for what content can be shared and under what circumstances.
  • When messages are sent through chat platforms and others, it is auditable.  For example, if you send a message through Viper, it is first tracked in Pitcher, and the content can be viewed for compliance and to drive more profound insights into what matters for the HCP and their patients.

Learn More – How To Deliver Exceptional Pharmaceutical Omnichannel Customer Engagement.

Pharmaceutical Sales vs. Medical Device Sales (video)

Pharmaceutical Sales Role Playing

It is critical to practice your HCP conversations, so we have developed a free role-playing tool for you to do so.  Try our Free Pharmaceutical Sales Role Play tool now.

Final thoughts

Pharmaceutical sales reps have a challenging job. Not only do they need to be great salespeople, but they also need to be subject matter experts for complex pharmaceutical products.

Remote sales add another level of challenges, and we hope this article provides advice that helps you be more successful.

One thought on “Pharmaceutical Sales Reps – Your Keys to Success

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Why Become A Subscriber?

The majority of our work is performed free of charge to support the enablement community. The work is time-consuming, and we are actively looking for subscribers to fund these activities.

Please consider a $10/month subscription as it supports our enablement-only job board, our free job seekers program, and all the content and reviews we create on Trust Enablement.

Individual Subscribers, in addition to other free services, receive (email [email protected], using the email address you support us with, requesting the following):

  • Quarterly Career Coaching. Each year begins wih a one-hour planning session followed by three 30 minute quarterly check-ups, and year-long annual support. Additional career coaching services are available for an extra fee.
  • Access to email addresses of contacts listed below (we know many of them and will share them with you).
  • Further analysis and insights for specific roles for which you request information.
  • A review of your outreach messages with suggestions on how to improve your outreach.


Corporate Subscribers who donate more than $200/month gain access to:

  • Quarterly Career Coaching. Each year begins wih a one-hour planning session followed by three 30 minute quarterly check-ups, and year-long annual support. This is available for up to 5 team members each year. Additional career coaching services are available for an extra fee.
  • Our recruiting support services for FREE. We can help you refine your job description, review candidates, and coordinate interviews for enablement roles.
  • An annual enablement program check-up. We'll provide a free one-hour consultation to ensure your team is optimized for success.


Venture Capital Subscribers who donate more than $1000/month gain access to the corporate benefits for every company in their portfolio. This includes:

  • Quarterly Career Coaching. Each year begins wih a one-hour planning session followed by three 30 minute quarterly check-ups, and year-long annual support. This is available for up to 5 team members across 5 of your companies each year. Additional career coaching services are available for an extra fee.
  • Our recruiting support services for FREE. We can help you refine your job description, review candidates, and coordinate interviews for enablement roles.
  • An annual enablement program check-up. We'll provide a free one-hour consultation to ensure your team is optimized for success.


When you subscribe, we'll send you a welcome email with more information (may take up to 24 hours). If you don't hear from us promptly, please email us at [email protected].