2011 was a bad year for the pharmaceutical industry with layoff announcements coming from Novartis, Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca and many more. As a result, there are many more jobless pharma reps than there are jobs.
Here are some tips that can help laid off pharma reps make the switch into medical device sales:
Forget headhunters and recruiters
In the past, job seekers could connect with recruiters and develop meaningful relationships to land a job. That was because companies valued the advice of recruiters and were willing to hire someone with a good background in sales simply on their word.
Not any more. Nowadays companies are looking for specific skill sets and unless a candidate demonstrates those qualities, it’s on to the next person. Companies also employ multiple recruiters to fill positions and will only talk to candidates that match the job criteria most closely. So trying to connect with recruiters is a faulty strategy.
“For a job seeker trying to extend themselves and network with headhunters, the most common response is dead silence,” said Todd Staples, principalatTAS Sales and Marketing Associates, who made the switch from pharma to medical device sales a decade ago.
Demonstrate industry knowledge
Learn all the acronyms. Don’t think WTF if a hiring manager says HDE.
Read all the industry journals you can find and, if you can spare the change, buy industry reports, said Clifford Thornton, echocardiography technician at CapitalHealth. Good candidates always do their homework.
Know the therapy that you will be selling
This follows from the above. Take the extra step to learn a bit more about the therapy that is being marketed.
A great website that offers walk throughs on implant procedures is ORlive.com, said Whitney Giga, principal talent acquisition specialist at Medtronic.
Join an independent rep group in your local area
This would entail working for commission only, but hiring managers would require less convincing since job seekers can show that they get paid only when they are able to sell.
Working at an independent rep group is useful insofar as it may open doors to more stable employment with a manufacturer. So it’s important to note that sales training and career advancement opportunities are not the priorities of these organizations, Staples cautions.
Tweak your resume
Think about skills that were never highlighted in resumes for pharmaceutical sales positions, but would be valuable in the medical device industry.
Recently, Zack Zastrow, director of North American sales for Scanlan International, met a pharma rep and realized that he had worked as a nurse and had some surgical experience. But those skills were not mentioned in his resume.
“I told him those things would get recognized by either a recruiter or a device company,” Zastrow said.
Join LinkedIn, but stay off Career Builder, Monster and even MedReps
Zastrow also advised job hunters to join the Medical Devices Group within LinkedIn as well as startup groups within that professional networking site because it’s a quick, targeted way to submit resumes to people who can help. Further, recruiters and companies advertise jobs through these channels, so it makes sense to have a presence on LinkedIn.
Avoid general employment websites like Career Builder and Monster, but even those with narrower focus like MedReps.
“They won’t (bring) much luck from my experience,” Zastrow said of those three websites.
Swallow your pride and be ready for a pay cut
Pharma reps are used to large salaries and a base salary. The device world works in the opposite fashion with lower or even zero base salaries and larger incentive pay. Eric Steen, formerly chief marketing officer and vice president of sales at B. Braun Medical, tells it like it is.
“My advice to the laid off pharma rep would be to position yourself as a closer, completely happy to have zero base salary and eat what you kill,” Steen said.
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