Advice for career sales reps

July 1, 1998

Pharmaceutical Representative

Empower yourself! Develop leadership and accountability.

Sales representatives new to the pharmaceutical industry have access to a variety of materials and advice designed to help them improve their selling skills, technical knowledge and relationships with customers. However, for seasoned sales representatives, the challenge is to continue to develop and improve even after technical knowledge is sound, selling skills are sharp and credibility with customers is strong.

By sequentially developing over time, you can expand your role, obtain greater job satisfaction and become a more valuable employee.

Accountability

A good manager or supervisor will create and maintain an environment suitable for your development. Communication of the corporate mission and vision, feedback based on mutually understood expectations, encouragement and recognition for a job well done are all signs of an effective manager.

As a seasoned sales rep, you are ultimately accountable for attaining your professional goals, short and long term, including development beyond selling skills and technical knowledge.

To better accept this type of accountability, you must set your own goals and plan how to attain those goals. Your mentor or supervisor should only serve as a sounding board for confirmation of plans and ideas. Work toward your goals with conviction and commitment. With true conviction and commitment, you will naturally take ownership and responsibility for your actions, goals and their subsequent outcomes.

Sales representatives with a history of success will already possess initiative and self-starting behaviors. Take control of your professional destiny by utilizing initiative to uncover opportunities and set goals to challenge yourself to perform at a higher level. Experienced sales representatives, unable or unwilling to assert themselves in this way, may become trapped in a comfort zone that will produce extended periods of average performance. In an industry with many talented and motivated individuals, maintaining an average level of performance will not entitle even seasoned sales representatives to greater responsibility, opportunity for advancement, more power or higher salary and bonus.

Empower yourself

Appropriate goals may seem difficult to identify when you feel you have mastered many aspects of your current position. If you take a critical look at yourself, your performance and your behaviors, you will find there is still much room to grow. Continued growth adds value to you and to your company. An excellent goal for a seasoned sales representative is to become empowered. When you consistently excel in your role as a sales representative and display initiative, good judgement and accountability, you will earn the right to make your own decisions, develop your own territory and further shape your own career.

Leadership

Once you become empowered, you will have the chance to more freely utilize your creativity, take more risks and learn from your mistakes. And once you feel more comfortable with being empowered, don't stop! As an empowered representative, you can further increase your value to your company by developing and displaying leadership behaviors.

A good place to start with most sales representatives is with role model behavior. It is a bit clichéd to say actions speak louder than words, but role model behavior allows others to see the actions and behaviors of a leader. Only then will you be heard and trusted enough to inspire those whom you influence.

With a little creativity, a sales representative can find or introduce a "vehicle" through which he or she can exercise and display leadership skills and behaviors. Many very capable sales representatives make the mistake of waiting for an opportunity to be assigned to them. A character trait of an effective leader is the ability to see opportunity when presented with a challenge or change. When faced with a challenge, a leader will utilize his or her experience, initiative and positive attitude to find a way, and then show the way. Look for ways to make a difference, then creatively apply the resources you personally possess and those provided by the company to communicate your ideas to your colleagues or teammates.

Plan to succeed

With proper planning, sales representatives can experience and document positive outcomes in these developmental areas. In this way, your supervisor will see new and improved behaviors and performance at a higher level.

All companies need committed leaders. Do you want to expand your role and eventually develop into a leader? If so, attain excellence in your current position, take control of your destiny, accept accountability for your development, empower yourself and have the courage to lead.

As you reach for your leadership goals, remember to work with integrity. It will help you maintain trust and credibility with your followers. Also, be courageous in the face of negativity. You must believe in what you are doing to effectively show the way. PR