“Listen to this, you get a nice car, expense account, physicians territory listing, and the opportunity to visit physicians by providing lunches and if you have a chance PRESENT (not sell) to them your product….dude it’s the BEST job in the world”!

In 1987 those were the exact words told to me by a seasoned pharmaceutical rep working in the field with a new hire (me) impressing to me how lucky I was to land such an opportunity. At 22 I fell in place hook line and sinker….yes I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Man, in the 80’s you were considered a special class of individual if you were in the pharmaceutical industry it was unbelievable and…….SECURE. I can remember working on sales teams that had what we use to call “Lifers” who would log in 25+ years experience in the industry filthy rich and just calling on physicians all-day, it was called the easiest job with a huge financial return. A pharmaceutical sales rep back then was called a “Well Dressed Caterer” by other industries and was considered not really a “Sales Rep” because we didn’t CLOSE….for those of you who remember this you’re probably smiling shaking your head “YES” at this perception. Well, as it always happens the “Good/Fat” times never last especially  when things are done in excess (I’ll leave it at that), the industry went through a major “Personality Change” I want to say by the mid 90’s. Pharma Regulations, Managed Care, HIPPA Guidelines etc, and YES bad press from unethical practices demonstrated by some companies within the industry dramatically impacted the previous SOP implemented within the industry….before you blinked the industry pretty much changed over night.

Today, I’m constantly asked about the environment within the pharmaceutical space and is it still the place to be and to that I say……ABSOLUTELY! You see, having enjoyed the good times and excess when I entered the industry in the 80’s  I can say with all honesty it didn’t help me personally. Sure, I was making good money in a job quite frankly a high school teenager could do, I wasn’t really developing personally or maturely career wise. Now, because of the strict healthcare regulations and processes you’re forced to use “OH HEAVENS”….competent SKILLS! The business is much more competitive, physicians have very little time to see reps (many avoid them) and the expectations to produce results are HIGH (which I LOVE!!). There’s no more “Good time Charlie”  in this business you either drive your business with less resources or these pharma companies today will find someone who can….it’s become more cut throat. You’re starting to see “Big Pharma” companies merge together or acquire companies which enrich their portfolios, I predict in the next 10 years you’ll have 3 to 4 major corporate players and “mini me” companies picking up the falling crumbs. Person’s interested in entering the pharma industry will have to come to the table with a whole bunch of “VALUE”, having a nice smile and personality will not get you a job in this industry and that’s real talk. Performance, Skill Set Competencies, Track Record, and of course a growing need “Relationships” will at the least possibly get you an interview. This post by no means is meant to scare those interested in entering the pharmaceutical space, I want to be totally honest and upfront regarding the present environment  and to say “Good Time Charlie” is no longer around.

As I said earlier the “Pharmaceutical Sales Industry” is still the place to be and I stand by that statement, if you enjoy competition, results oriented, favor personal development, and have a thirst for the “CHALLENGE” you’ll succeed in the business…….if you’re interested in dropping off donuts to the receptionist perhaps “Dunkin Donuts” is your lane.




Check out this podcast interview that I had last year with two of my favorite people….who by the way were 2 of the BEST pharma reps back in the day with some gigantic pharmaceutical companies. Click on the link below to get their take on the current pharma environment and how it’s changed over the years (Thanks!):

“Pharma Industry No Longer Safe Haven”


Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting


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