What Does a Veterinary Pharmaceutical Sales Representative Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows a woman on the phone wearing a labcoat. She has a parrot on her shoulder, a can on the desk, and a dog hopping up to the desk. On the wall behind her is a line graph, a picture of a pill bottle, and two portraits of a cat and a dog. Text reads:

Image by Chloe Giroux © The Balance 2019

A career in veterinary pharmaceutical sales is an excellent option for those with strong communication and sales skills. The two types of veterinary pharmaceutical sales representatives are inside sales representatives and field sales representatives. Inside sales positions do little, if any, traveling. These representatives conduct business on the telephone and through online order processing.

Field sales positions require frequent travel throughout a designated territory, which could be a city, state, or larger regional area. These representatives call on veterinarians in person at their place of business to sell products or provide training related to such products.

All sales representatives work under the supervision of a sales manager who ensures that representatives meet their assigned quotas for each month.

Veterinary Pharmaceutical Sales Representative Duties & Responsibilities

On any given day in the work-life of a veterinary pharmaceutical sales representative, they might engage in duties and tasks such as the following:

  • Identify new customer prospects by following up on leads.
  • Contact new and current customers to discuss their needs and recommend products to meet those needs.
  • Explain the features of various pharmaceutical products to customers.
  • Answer questions regarding pricing, availability, and delivery time.
  • Prepare sales contracts.
  • Collaborate with work colleagues to discuss selling techniques or issues.
  • Follow up with customers after the sale to ensure they're satisfied and answer questions or concerns.

Veterinary pharmaceutical sales representatives develop a valuable, niche expertise regarding pharmaceuticals for animals, and this can help them move up the ladder to become sales managers or sales directors. They can also transfer their skill set to other sales careers including those in the animal health industry, such as veterinary device sales rep, as well as positions outside of the animal health industry.

Veterinary Pharmaceutical Sales Representative Salary

The salary for sales representatives may include a combination of incentives including the standard base salary, commission on sales revenues, use of a company car, performance-based bonus pay, and a benefits package that often includes health insurance and vacation time.

Total compensation varies widely based on sales volume, years of experience, and assigned territory. Logically, big cities such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles pay more because of the high cost of living. According to sites such as Payscale.com, pharmaceutical sales representatives can expect to earn a salary ranging from $59,122 to $119,826 a year. New sales reps tend to earn salaries in the $30,000 to $40,000 range.

The following range is for sales representatives in scientific industries, which includes veterinary pharmaceutical sales, and tends to pay slightly more than the same position in other manufacturing and wholesale sales jobs:

  • Median Annual Salary: $79,680 ($38.31/hour) 
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $156,630 ($75.3/hour) 
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $39,960 ($19.21/hour) 

Education, Training, & Certification

The position involves fulfilling education and training requirements as follows:

  • Education: Pharmaceutical sales representatives have a variety of educational backgrounds. A bachelor's degree in an area such as marketing, business, animal science, chemistry, or biology is considered extremely desirable for candidates pursuing entry-level positions. A master's degree makes a candidate more marketable and improves the chances of advancing to a managerial position.
  • Experience: Working knowledge of sales, marketing, anatomy, physiology, biology, pharmacology, chemistry, and public speaking is beneficial for candidates seeking a position in the field of veterinary pharmaceutical sales. Veterinary office experience is also a big plus that can carry a lot of weight with hiring managers because of the hands-on exposure to a certified veterinarian and the direct handling of different animals.
  • Training: Computer skills are also key because a great deal of the recordkeeping and order tracking is done through web-based database systems. Once hired, most new recruits go through a company-sponsored training program and are partnered with an experienced sales rep for a period of time before going out on their own. 

Veterinary Pharmaceutical Sales Representative Skills & Competencies

In addition to education and other requirements, candidates that possess the following skills may be able to perform more successfully in the job:

  • Organizational skills: Reps develop their organizational skills so that any question they are asked when in the field can be answered without having to reply at a later time.
  • Competitive research: Reps stay current on how the veterinary pharmaceutical industry works, industry changes, and the major players.
  • Knowledge: Reps possess an understanding of the relationship between drugs and common animal diseases.
  • Customer service skills: It's important to serve the customer before, during, and after the sale.
  • Self-confidence: Selling requires a persuasive and confident demeanor.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth outlook for all manufacturer's sales representatives, of which vet pharmaceutical sales reps are a component, is 5% for 2016 to 2026, which compares to the projected 7% growth for all occupations.

According to a 2017–2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, 68% of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet. This represents a 17.2% increase between 2014 and 2015.

Given the increase and volume of pet ownership, the job outlook for veterinary pharmaceutical sales reps may be much bright than the outlook for manufacturer's sales reps as a whole.

Work Environment

A veterinary pharmaceutical sales rep typically works in an office environment and may have a large sales territory that requires a good amount of travel. Reps may spend a lot of time on the phone with customers and may feel stressed because the job involves sales performance goals that they must reach.

Work Schedule

Most veterinary pharmaceutical sales reps have a 40-hour work week, and overtime is common.

How to Get the Job

PREPARE

Before you begin your job search, freshen your resume. Even if you have never had a job in the pharmaceutical industry, you can still sell yourself on your resume. People skills, sales skills, and any work with animals and animal organizations are all factors pharmaceutical companies are looking for.

Attend seminars, meetings, and conferences that relate to the animal pharmaceutical field and list these on your resume. Additionally, prepare a cover letter that you can customize for prospective employers.

IMPROVE YOUR SKILLS

The National Association of Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives (NAPSR) has a website and offers training programs to help entry-level pharmaceutical sales reps advance in their careers. The association is widely known for its Pharmaceutical Sales Training Program (CNPR) available to candidates who want to enter a pharmaceutical sales career. The NAPSR website lists the colleges and universities nationwide that offer training programs.

NETWORK

Networking is also key. People who attend industry events may know about openings in the field before the jobs are advertised online at job boards such as SimplyHired.com. Search the web and join all relevant online social groups related to veterinary pharmaceutical sales. The more avenues you explore, the better your chances of landing a job.

APPLY

Look at job search resources such as Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Glassdoor.com for available positions. Visit your college career center to locate job openings, or visit the websites of pharmaceutical companies that produce pet medications to apply to open job positions. Play up any experience that can set you apart, such as relevant internships.

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