Pharmaceutical Sales Interview Flashcards

Terms Definitions
What do you like about pharmaceutical sales?
Pharmaceutical sales gives me the feeling of owning a small business by managing a territory. I like to interact with educated people, and influence them by conveying how the positive aspects of my company's product satisfies the needs of their patients for effective, safe, convenient and affordable medication.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of pharmaceutical sales?
Getting sufficient quality time with the physician.
How would you overcome the challenge of limited quality time with a physician?
I would first book several lunch appointments well in advance. Next, I would do my homework and find out all I could about the physician's personality style and "hot buttons" ; then I would tailor an initial approach that fit with his personality, and what was important to him.  Assuming I gained agreement with an initial meeting, I would ask him to try the product and follow up on the results in my next lunch meeting.
How do you deal with a "no-see" physician?
I would learn as much about the physician as I could through other doctors, reps, and research.
I would then try to bring some information that the physician appreciates, for instance something relating to his specialty or his hobby and hand it to the doctor personally as they were getting to or leaving the office, or at the local hospital on rounds.
How would you get a doctor to switch to yours?
This is like the question "how do you eat an elephant?"..."one bite at a time". (laugh) I would tailor my approach to the doctor's style and "hot buttons" and try to get agreement that my company's drug is effective or advantageous on a particular patient type. I would then ask for a trial on that patient type, and after the doctor gains confidence through clinical use, use the same approach to expand use to patient types that were less specific, unless the indication was very narrow.
How would you handle a doctor who tried your drug, and had a bad experience with it?
I had an experience like that once. I arranged a lunch meeting, and brought the doctor's favorite meal, to soften the doctor's resistance. I then asked the doctor to tell me all the details of his experience before I said anything. I empathized with him and made sure he knew that I knew how he felt personally and professionally by prescribing a drug that had a side effect. Then I asked if he would like to hear what I knew about it. I went over the side effect profile in detail and made sure he understood that the side effect was very rare.  By the end of the lunch his guard was down and I asked him if had enough confidence in what I had presented to try the drug again. He did, and later went on to become a valued prescriber.
How do you get past the gatekeepers?
First, I greet everyone with a smile, and treat them with respect, no matter how they treat me.
Second, I try to engage them in conversation by asking about things we might have in common.
Third, I try to build rapport through a shared interest, and let them see my "non-sales" side. Over time, I've found that I can usually get into the office, even when other reps can't.
Why should we hire you, instead of someone else?
First, I think that my track record is evidence that
my success has not been a stroke of luck, but
the result of a consistent effort. I take pride in doing well, and do what it takes to succeed.
Second, I think my experience enables me to be more efficient, and effective. I manage my time well, and have learned how to sell to many different personality types as well as specialties.  I've worked through many of the more common problems reps face.
Third, I am teachable, and always striving for improvement in all areas of my career.
What is your approach with a thought leader?
Experience has shown me that it doesn't do any good to try to impress thought leaders with what I think (laugh)
For me, the best approach has been to use a clinical reprint or journal study as a basis to phrase a question about my drug which can only be answered positively. I try to engage them in conversation by asking them their opinion.
What important trends do you see in the pharmaceutical industry?
Increasing costs of R&D, as well as marketing, coupled with shareholder and public pressure to contain those costs is forcing the industry to streamline its procedures. New models rely more on collaborative agreements with biotechs for r&d, and agreements between companies to share sales forces. Personally, I think there will be more emphasis on specialty sales, with decreasing emphasis on primary care.
What career goals haven't you accomplished?
My personal goal is to be thought of as a true resource and consultant by all the medical professionals I call on. I started that process as a specialty rep, but it was interrupted when my company was re-structured and I was asked to go back into primary care sales. I want to eventually fulfill my goal with a specialty sales position at a company that has products which fill a real therapeutic void.
Tell me about a time when you postponed action on a goal? Why?
We had a minimum requirement of 8-10 calls a day, and I always wanted to have the best call avg. in the district, with 11-12 calls per day. A top prescribers office called saying that a customer had been told by a pharmacy that my product was unavailable. I responded by going to the pharmacy that reported the problem, as well as 2 others in the area to verify that it was on the shelf. It was at all three, and I reported that back to the office. They appreciated my quick response and communicated how quickly I responded to the doctor. The doctor was pleased, and continued to be one of my top prescribers.
Tell me about a time when you had trouble working with a did you handle it?
When I was a specialty rep, I had shared targets with the primary care sales team. I left a voicemail for one of the primary care reps, saying who the top targets were that she should be calling on regularly. She called me and said she didn't appreciate being told how to run her territory. I explained that I wasn't trying to tell her how to run her territory, but merely who I thought the important targets were based on my experience. I suggested that we meet early one morning to work out a call schedule between us that would work for both of us. We did and the face to face conversation eliminated any problems between us. The result was a more effective call routing for both of us, as well as increased cooperation.
What motivates you or acknowledgement?
I think it's a little of both, but I think I'm more motivated to be the best I can be, whether it's number one in the district, region, or nation, and knowing that the money will follow.
How do balance your competitive spirit with a team mentality?
I have found that as reps, we all face similar problems and obstacles, and by keeping a focus on solutions, and sharing successes in overcoming problems, the team wins, and my teamwork is usually recognized.
How do handle intimidating physicians?
I've found that physicians can be intimidating if they're having a bad day or if they want to establish their power over you.  I've handled these types with courtesy and empathy , or a combination of both. If you remind yourself that they're human, and are not intimidated yourself, it usually works out with time.
How do you create value when your product is the same or very similar to a competitor's?
By finding out what the doctor's needs are. Obviously, you have to really study and know your product and the differences it has with the competition. Then, by finding out what the doctor's needs are, you can match your product's distinct differences to the needs of the doctor.
You can also create value as a rep by being a better source of information, or by providing a level of service that is better than your competitor.
What is your most significant career accomplishment and why?
I think that winning President's Club in 2004, was most significant, even though it was my second President's Club. What made it the most significant is that when I was promoted to specialty, my territory was dead last, and in fifteen months, I elevated the territory rank to #3 nationally.
Tell me about a time when you took a risk?
Once my mgr. was on vacation and I had to arrange a dinner program by picking an appropriate venue within budget. I knew from prior conversations with my important doctors that once particular restaurant was a favorite, but over budget. I booked the restaurant, on the basis that the increased draw factor of the restaurant would result in increased attendance, and eventually increased return on investment. I sent my mgr. and email explaining the situation and asking if he would be able to approve the restaurant. When he returned from vacation he approved it, with the condition that I do all I could to maximize attendance. I did, and the program was a success,with the result being several doctors writing the product who had not done so before.
Tell me about a sales situation in which you were not successful. What happened and why?
One doctor I called on was a loyal prescriber of one of my products, but always used the competitor to my other product. Whenever I even mentioned that he should try my other product, he clammed up and said he wouldn't discuss it, and that he was perfectly happy with my competitor's product.  After a few months of trying different approaches, I started asking other reps that were calling on him what they knew about him. Eventually I learned that he was a contracted speaker for my competitor's product, so he had a vested interest in using it. 
Have you ever had a difficult manager? How did you handle it?
I've had managers that for one reason or another had to be micro managers , or that gave the reps a lot of assignments, but I've never had a manager that I couldn't get along with, and that didn't treat me with respect, once they got to know me and that I work hard to attain my goals.
I try to remember that my manager has a "manager" too, and sometimes has to do what they have to do to meet their manager's expectations.
Why do you want to work for ______
My goal is to work for a company in which I can use my knowledge of the local market, as well as leverage the relationships I've established in the area. This job would allow me to do that.
What would a typical day as a rep look like for you?
I get up at 6:30, have coffee while I check my email. At 7, I go for a short jog, then shower, dress and go to work by 8. I then go to my storage facility to load up on samples and materials, then off to whichever area I'm covering that day. Sometimes I'll make a pharmacy call when I first get to the area I'm covering before the pharmacy starts to get busy. Then I'll make callsuntil the offices are closed for lunch. It's typical that I have a lunch arranged for an office anyway. I then resume calls for the afternoon, and double back on any calls where I was unable to get in when I stopped there. I'll keep looking for offices to call on until 5 and then I drive home to do any paperwork, and plan for the next day.
Tell me about yourself
I'm a seasoned, successful pharmaceutical rep with 9 yrs. in primary care sales, and 4 yrs. in neuro/psych and pain specialty sales. I've always been able to deliver results in the top 25% and have received sales awards almost yearly, including two President's Club Awards.
What makes you so successful?
It comes from an inner drive to be the best that I can be, as well as incentives like sales contests and bonuses. I take pride in all my work, and do what it takes to succeed, even if it means sacrificing some personal time to do so.
Did you ever co-promote a drug? What did you do to make your team successful?
I co-promoted a skin cream which was a Glaxo product. I learned all I could about the product, as well as the competition, but there was little difference between our product and the competitor. I found that our product (a steroid based skin creme)dissolved quickly into the skin, and incorporated this feature into my presentations, asking the doctor "If you were the patient, wouldn't you prefer to use a cream that dissolved quickly, and didn't feel greasy?" The result was that I got more doctors to prescribe based on this simple difference, and I exceeded my goal for the product.
Have you been in a selling pod? What did you do to make your pod successuful?
I was not in a pod, per se, but did have overlapping targets with primary care reps. What I did was communicate with both reps and coordinate our call routing so that each shared target was called on every week by either myself or the primary care rep. The result was that all of us met our call requirements, and maximized our coverage with our shared targets.
Tell me how you have modified your behavior in order to accomplish a goal
I try to modify my approach to every doctor individually based on their personality, hot buttons, etc. My ability to adapt to , and adopt their conversational style, has given me an advantage in being able to develop rapport and communicate better with doctors.
Tell me about a time when you disagree with your manager. How did you handle it.
Once I had a manager who was new to the company, and he demanded a lot of paperwork, especially on targeting. I had been working the territory for 2 years and felt I knew who the most important doctors were, and that I didn't need to do the targeting exercises to know who to call on. I completed the exercise anyway, mainly because he asked everyone to do it, and secondly because I try to keep in mind that he has a boss too, and that perhaps the paperwork had to do with an assignment his boss had given him. I try to keep in mind that managers have a more difficult job than reps.
What would you do if a colleague could not pull their weight due to a serious illness?
I would have a talk with the manager to let the team know of the situation and to ask the whole team for extra effort, to pull up the slack.
Tell me about a time when you decided to leave the field early?
Although it's embarassing to recount, once I had diarrhea, and had an accident. I went into Walmart and bought some underwear and changed after cleaning up in the bathroom, hoping I could continue to make calls. Soon after I realized that I was only going to continue to have trouble, and called my manager to explain that I was leaving the field and why. He was very understanding and only concerned that I feel better.
Have you ever spoken out against corporate policies or were unhappy with a senior management decision?
Two years ago our company had a 50% layoff and a resulting restructuring or re-alignment of territories. At the time I was a specialty rep, and I was told that they valued me and wanted me to stay, but that due to the restructuring of the territories, they needed me to fill a primary care position. Initially I was disappointed, as I felt like it was a demotion, but after reflecting on it, was happy that I still had a job, and that the company valued my contributions enough to keep me. I also came to look at it as a new challenge, and it actually motivated me to succeed.
Do you think healthcare is headed in the right direction and should be controlled by the government?
Although I'm sympathetic to the plight of people who can't afford health insurance, I believe that free enterprise is the best way to stimulate competition which results in benefits to the insured.
What were some situations in which you worked under pressure or met deadlines?
There have been times when I had several paperwork assignments for my complete and it almost seemed overwhelming, but by breaking them down into smaller daily goals, I managed to stay on track and complete them without too much stress.
Why haven't you found a new position after so many months?
Finding any position in this marketplace is challenging, but finding the right position takes care and time
Tell me about a time your work was criticized. What was your biggest business mistake?
The criticism I've received has always been from my manager, and it's always been constructively delivered. I receive it that way too, because I realize that I cannot objectively see the way my presentations appear, and because I know that we're on the same side, and striving for the same goals.
What can you offer us that other candidates cannot?
Not knowing the qualifications of the other candidates makes answering this question difficult, but I can tell you that my greatest strength is my commitment to excellence in all my endeavors, which has enabled me to consistently put forth the effort to deliver consistent top results.
Why a career in home health vs. pharmaceuticals.
Pharmaceutical sales have been very rewarding, but the industry is very volatile now, and layoffs are commonplace. I want to continue to make a difference in peoples lives by working in healthcare, but an area that is stable and in growth mode, to reduce the likelihood of being laid off in the future, and also to provide me with a secure environment which allows me to concentrate on doing the best job possible.
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