What is a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep? Job Description, Qualifications, and More

Pharmaceutical sales representatives are a highly coveted position and are integral to drug manufacturers’ success. But what does it take to become a successful pharmaceutical sales representative, and how should hiring managers approach looking for top candidates?

Let’s explore the role of pharmaceutical sales and how to hire a pharmaceutical sales representative with the right combination of scientific knowledge and business acumen. Plus, get strategic interview questions to ask your next pharmaceutical sales candidates, understand their average salary requirements, and more.

What is a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative?

Pharmaceutical sales reps, also referred to as medical or drug representatives, are sales consultants for drug manufacturers and distributors. They visit hospitals, clinics, and physician offices with sales materials and samples to show medical specialists why their pharmaceutical drug/device should be used. Oftentimes, reps will specialize in a specific type of treatment, such as blood pressure monitoring, and are responsible for a regional sales territory.

RELATED: Entry-Level Healthcare: 5 Non-Nursing Roles to Explore

Role and responsibilities of a pharmaceutical sales representative

To hire a pharmaceutical sales representative, you need to understand their basic job duties. Some common duties include:

  • Building relationships with physicians and medical providers to not only sell products but also to understand their patients and practices
  • Using deep product knowledge to educate medical providers on the benefits of using their drug or device
  • Conducting training or informational sessions for prospects and existing customers on the products they represent
  • Researching competitors and staying up-to-date on how patients are responding to the drug or device
  • Supporting business development efforts by cold calling prospects and identifying new practices to grow the client base
  • Keeping up-to-date on industry trends and emerging treatments
  • Attending industry events, training, and networking opportunities

Top skills of a pharmaceutical sales representative

There are no universal pharmaceutical sales rep requirements, but certain skills lend themselves to more successful candidates. In addition to having a deep knowledge of their medical products, the needs of physicians, and the impact on patients, candidates should also have a combination of the following skills:

  • Sales acumen: Pharmaceutical sales reps should be, first and foremost, skilled salespeople who understand how to pitch a product, conduct cold calls, nurture a territory, and communicate professionally with clients.
  • Strong communicators: Pharmaceutical sales reps are often presenting directly to physicians or medical teams and need to be able to persuade and inform these individuals across virtual and in-person mediums.
  • Scientifically savvy: Reps need to gain the trust of medical staff and should be able to communicate using standard medical terminology.
  • Highly organized: Reps need to stay organized when putting together sales kits or leave-behind materials for various locations. Many times, reps will cater presentations or training sessions to a particular medical facility, so it helps to stay organized and meticulous.

Qualifications of a pharmaceutical sales representative

Selling pharmaceutical products is complex and highly regulated, meaning qualified sales reps must have the right credentials. Many pharmaceutical sales rep candidates choose to earn a bachelor’s degree in life sciences, healthcare, or a related field to have proficiency in drug manufacturing. Some candidates pursue additional education in healthcare or pharmaceutical lifecycle management to better understand the business side of the medical field.

Another way to learn about pharmaceutical sales, governance, terminology, and techniques is by pursuing pharmaceutical sales certification and getting certified as a national pharmaceutical representative (CNPR).

Pharmaceutical sales representative job description

When crafting a pharmaceutical sales rep job description, be mindful of the specific duties or working knowledge needed for the candidate to be successful.

  • Travel expectations: Pharmaceutical sales representatives rely on face-to-face meetings with medical staff and tend to travel throughout their territory. Clarify the amount of travel expected in the role and the desired region of travel.
  • Medical knowledge: Pharmaceutical sales reps must be knowledgeable about the product they’re selling. Be clear in the job description if the candidate should have prior experience selling to a unique medical audience.
  • Business development goals: Be clear about development goals if the candidate is expected to conduct cold calling, email nurturing, or grow their client base by a certain amount each year.

Pay and job outlook for pharmaceutical sales representatives

Pharmaceutical sales reps are highly sought-after positions. According to, the average salary for a pharmaceutical sales rep in the U.S. is $72,670.

Salaries for pharmaceutical sales reps can vary based on level of experience, education, and training. On top of this, sales reps are often offered a base salary with a commission-based bonus structure, so the overall salary can depend on an individual’s job performance.

Common pharmaceutical sales representative interview questions

Asking the right interview questions can help hiring managers ensure the candidate has the right skills and medical knowledge to be successful in the role. Some common pharmaceutical sales representative interview questions include:

  • How did your education or training prepare you for a pharmaceutical sales role?
  • How do you go about building rapport with a new medical client?
  • Have you ever made a mistake on a sales call or pitch? How did you recover?
  • Share a time you successfully switched a physician to your product.
  • Have you ever lost a facility’s business? How did you respond?
  • Have you changed or adapted your selling tactic over the course of your career?
  • How do you change your approach when communicating digitally vs in person?
  • What strategies do you use to juggle competing priorities?
  • How do you approach conducting a competitor analysis?
  • What cold-calling strategies do you find most successful?
  • What sales tools are you most familiar with utilizing?

RELATED: 12 Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Job Candidates

Find your next pharmaceutical sales representative today

Whether you are looking for your team’s first pharmaceutical sales representative or you are adding to a growing team, Insight Global has the candidate pool to help you fill any position. Reach out to a professional for help reaching the right-fit candidates for your pharmaceutical sales program today.

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