Is there room for pharma reps in biotech?
Many pharmaceutical companies are setting their sights on biotechnology to help further their growth. Through mergers and acquisitions and refocusing their R&D, Big Pharma is hoping biotechnology can guide them into a more profitable future. But pharmaceutical companies aren’t the only ones hanging their hopes on biotech. Many of the drug reps laid off in recent years are also hoping biotech can save them. But is there room for pharma reps in biotech?
The desire to be a part of the biotech industry remains intense, making the biotech sales job market very competitive. The entrepreneurial nature of the industry is attractive to sales professionals – especially those who have grown tired of working in the more regimented confines of Big Pharma. This, coupled with the fact that expiring patents and changing policies continue to threaten job security at many pharma companies, means former pharma reps are among those lining up for biotech sales jobs.
Best places to work in biotech sales
And just where are these reps hoping to find work? Last year, a MedReps.com survey asked over 200 healthcare sales job seekers to name their employer of choice. The survey was segmented by industry and also by size of company. For those seeking jobs with large biotech companies, Allergan, a multi-specialty healthcare company, was the employer of choice, followed by Amgen, and Genzyme. The following were also named among the top employers:
- Avanir Pharmaceuticals
- Johnson & Johnson
- Response Genetics
From the very small to the very large, the companies nominated for the title of the Best Place to Work in Biotech were all over the map. This perhaps reflects the wide variety of reasons that candidates may seek out sales jobs in the biotech industry. Those candidates who value the entrepreneurial side of the industry seek out small, start-ups where they can play a role in shaping the product itself and forming the sales team. Candidates who value stability may seek out larger, more established biopharma companies that offer more in the way of security.
But what does it take to break in?
Does experience in pharma adequately prepare sales reps for jobs in biotech? For many biotech recruiters and hiring managers, the answer is no. Why? Because selling biotech products often requires a greater understanding of the science behind the product than is typically required when selling pharmaceuticals. For this reason, the best biotech sales reps have a science background and experience selling complex products to science-minded customers.
So what’s a pharma rep to do? Here are some tips for pharma reps hoping to break into biotech:
Shed the stereotype. Prove that you are indeed a strong sales professional by providing documentation of your individual success influencing doctors. Eliminate “we” from your interview vocabulary. Now is not the time to be humble. Take ownership of your success.
Pay your dues. Accept that you may have to take a step back and spend some time in a sales support role while you learn the complexities of your new product and get a feel for the environment.
Find the logical entry point. Look for companies whose market aligns with the audience you’ve been working with. Use your existing relationships as leverage and persuade the hiring manager to take a chance on you.
The future of pharma reps?
With websites and iPad apps threatening to replace pharma reps altogether, the biotech industry seems like the perfect asylum. But breaking in will not be easy. If pharma reps have any hope of landing biotech sales jobs, they must first overcome an undeniable (if unfair) bias. They’ll need to prove their past success influencing doctors, and without purchase orders, this can be difficult. However, if pharma reps can exhibit a solid understanding of the products they will be selling, and biotechnology in general, they will have a better chance of convincing biotech employers that they are worthy of representing them.