America's largest healthcare recruiting firm.


For over fifteen years, I have utilized Buckman Enochs Coss to hire over one hundred individuals for Sales and Sales Management positions for a variety of healthcare technology firms. Whether it’s been for Fortune 500 companies or early stage, VC backed start-ups, BEC has always done a terrific job in sourcing top-talent.

Scott Schlesner
Vice-President of Sales

The Evolving Role of the Pharmaceutical Sales Rep

Two decades ago, during the booming economy that characterized the end of the 1990s, the role of the pharmaceutical sales rep looked very different than it does today. 

At that stage in our history, people were living longer than ever before, sedentary lifestyles were uncommon and still relatively new, and the digital age was just beginning. Nobody carried tiny computers in their pockets just yet, but large segments of the population faced unprecedented concerns regarding heart disease and cholesterol. These patients relied on their primary care providers, who in turn relied on pharma reps to educate them on statin pathways and protocols. The drugs were still under patent, information was not yet universally accessible, prescriptions were soaring, and the route to pharmaceutical data ran through the pharma rep… and nobody else. 

But those days ended in the early 2000s as patents expired, generics flooded the marketplace, and both patients and providers started carrying smartphones. To further complicate existing patterns and relationships, the Sunshine Act and other regulations were put in place to create distance between reps and providers and moderate the pharmaceutical industry’s influence over prescribing decisions. 

As a result, the pharma industry found more reward in specialty than primary care, and the role of representatives began to evolve. At this point, pharma reps are experiencing a modest reduction in demand (from 101,000 across the U.S. to about 70,000 in 2015). And as their numbers decline, reps are relied on more for their account management skills than their ability to generate prescriptions. 

Implications for Sales Managers 
What does this mean for sales managers and hiring teams in the pharmaceutical sales sector? It means that as candidates and employees change, managers will need to change as well. Both the definition of success, as well as the list of necessary skills required by sales reps, are in a state of transition. Managers need to be ready to evolve in order to keep up. 

Old Skills vs. New
In an earlier era, top sales reps may have been easy to spot in a crowd. These extroverted, high-energy charmers could sell ice in the Arctic, and they found a genuine welcome in private practices across their territories. Now that the fundamental requirements of the role have shifted from direct sales to leadership, teamwork, and executive functioning, hiring managers need to adjust the way they source, interview, select, and train new reps. Successful reps need to communicate and work together with a team. They need to listen, not just talk. They need to exercise meaningful and appropriate leadership skills. Hiring managers need to both look for these skills in candidates, and cultivate them in existing employees. 

Time to Adapt Your Skill Set
Are you ready to adapt to this fundamental shift in the landscape of medical and pharmaceutical sales recruiting? As you navigate the changes that lie ahead, turn to our expert medical recruiters for guidance. Contact Buckman Enochs Coss and Associates and arrange a consultation today.