The Med Rep Job Description

Female Med Rep Presenter


Female Med Rep Presenter

Presenting to audiences of HCPs is a regular activity for med reps

In our last post, So you Want to be a Med Rep?‘ we explored ‘The appeal of Medical Sales Representative (Med Rep) jobs particularly among science graduates’. We concluded that the job does in fact possess a number of desirable characteristics and benefits that appeal to a variety of job-seekers, even those with non-science backgrounds. The question that arose as we closed that article however, was ‘Whether these job-seekers pursuing med rep jobs, actually avail themselves of a balanced and realistic picture of the role? Do they know the day-to-day duties of med reps? Do they know the expectations placed upon med reps? My own anecdotal experiences suggest that there are often important gaps in this knowledge. In light of this, the current post will attempt to present a more balanced and complete view of the job for those wishing to enter the field.

Like every job, the post of Medical Sales Representative includes less prominent features which the average person may have never considered. Paradoxically, some of these less frequently considered realities are natural extensions of the same features responsible for the job’s appeal. These less prominent features can therefore present themselves like the ‘flip-side‘ of a single coin. Consistent with the goal of providing a more balanced picture of the job, some of these realities are presented below in the interest of those considering pursuit of a med rep career.

Not Achieving Targets

A notable example of this ‘flip-side phenomenon‘ relates to the ‘greater degree of control over earnings‘ available to sales persons as mentioned in the previous post. Specifically, where targets and objectives are met, performance-based pay schemes offer possibilities for enhanced earnings. This of course can be very desirable. On the ‘flip-side‘ however, when targets are not met, the same performance-based scheme can mean dealing with the disappointment of bypassed income. Add to that the pressure of letting down your team and  possibly compromising their overall effort and such experiences can be quite unpleasant.

Long Hours

The specifics of the role may vary from company-to-company and even region-to-region but certain fundamental tasks and functions are likely to be universal to med reps anywhere in the world. The following functions are likely to be included on that Fundamental List:

  1. Identifying new customers and opportunities.
  2. Planning and executing sales calls with healthcare professionals (HCPs).
  3. Organizing and executing educational activities with HCPs.
  4. Managing budgets for meetings and educational events.
  5. Recording pertinent details of HCP calls.
  6. Achieving company goals and targets.
  7. Attaining the required technical proficiency and knowledge stipulated by training departments while also maintaining performance levels in certifications.
  8. Assessing, understanding and communicating market developments to the relevant departments.
  9. Developing plans to increase opportunities for your products and services.

Another example is that the job is heavily goal-oriented, so reps are expected to achieve goals and complete projects within fixed deadlines as opposed to working strict hours from day-to-day. Many job-seekers take this to mean flexible hours with much free time. In reality, goal-orientation can impose a great deal of pressure to perform but even more than that, often means that working outside a 9-to-5 schedule inclusive of weekends, is more the norm than an exception. Significantly, because the job is structured around goal-achievement and not time-invested, additional work hours may not be associated with overtime pay.

Business Travel

While many new-comers consider the associated business travel as a perk of the job, regular and sometimes frequent travel can take a toll and if very frequent, can actually be quite exhausting for the individual and counter productive for the business. What’s more, a less mentioned aspect of business travel is that often a job may take reps to a seemingly exotic destination, but the work schedule does not allow them to experience the country. Instead it’s not infrequent to find yourself surrounded by the four walls of a meeting room all day and despite the new location the appearance of these walls is likely no different from those back home. There went the exciting trip to the new and exotic locale!

Comfortable with Public Speaking? I hope so!

Our previous post So you Want to be a Med Rep?‘, alluded to the fact that pharmaceuticals is a knowledge-driven industry. The fundamental role of a med rep arises out of this reality and is centered on dissemination of information. This implies not only the need for excellent communication skills but frequently requires public-speaking as well. If you are shy or uncomfortable presenting before what can be large audiences while also ‘fielding’ questions, this job is likely to pose a challenge for you.

Dust-off Your Event Management Skills

Also emanating from this need to disseminate information to wider audiences, is the need to plan, organize and execute group meetings with HCPs. This too is a key part of the job and requires time-management, planning, organizational and budgeting skills.

Patience is a Virtue (A Big One!)

By default, sharing information with HCPs implies gaining access to them and unfortunately this is often easier said than done. Gaining access to busy doctors and other HCPs can be a very time-consuming exercise and often requires a great deal of patience. One common thing that every med rep is familiar with, is sitting for long periods in waiting rooms before actually seeing the doctor, nurse or pharmacist they need to meet with. If patience is not one of your strengths, this could be a tough career choice or depending on your perspective, an opportunity to hone that quality.

Communication, Communication, Communication

While all the activities mentioned so far are indeed part-and-parcel of being a med rep, by far the most frequent and regular activity encountered on a daily basis is one-on-one meetings with HCPs. Effective communication as noted already is therefore fundamental. Additionally though, the ability to maintain one’s composure under pressure is key since it is not uncommon in this setting, to be challenged on a point during an HCP discussion. In  fact, those situations often present some of the greatest opportunities for appreciating and putting to use, the time invested in training.

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As noted earlier, this second article in our series sought to paint a more representative (no pun intended) picture of ‘The Post of Medical Sales Representative‘. While not an exhaustive list of tasks, responsibilities or day-to-day duties, it is hoped that greater insight was achieved and that the reader now has a more fulsome appreciation of the role. All-in-all, the job can be very rewarding but is equally demanding and is as competitive as it is desirable. It is therefore important for job-seekers to appreciate this when attempting to enter the field, more so because securing a med rep job is also likely to stretch their abilities sometimes outside of their comfort zone. Importantly, although temporarily disconcerting, such experiences often present some of the greatest opportunities for growth and personal development. As the saying goes:

‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone!!!’

About the Author
Stewart Dougan

Stewart Dougan

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Stewart has worked in the pharmaceutical industry since 1996 in a number of capacities. With a passion for biopharmaceuticals, he has completed research into how they are perceived by Health Care Professionals as well as the obstacles hindering development of a biopharmaceutical sector in Jamaica. He holds a B.Sc. in Biochemistry, an M.Sc. in Applied Pharmacology from the University of the West Indies and an MBA from the University of Liverpool.


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