Climb the Ladder

By Malcolm Fleschner

What could possibly be better than a career as a pharmaceutical sales professional? Why a career as a pharmaceutical sales manager, of course. Admittedly, not all front-line reps want to make the transition to the managerial suite, but for those who do, Selling Power solicited some tips from Patricia Strandboge, a cofounder and managing partner of Targeted Performance Partners (, a Rochester, New York-based training and development company that specializes in the unique needs of pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Her first piece of advice? Get the word out about what you want.

“Without a doubt,” she says, “the number one key to laying the groundwork for afuture management career is communicating your desire to move up to a management position to others in the company who have the ability to help you get there. You can’t expect that your work will be recognized. Instead you have to take charge of your own future. The first steps to doing this are deciding where you want to go and enlisting others to help you get there. Your immediate supervisor, usually a district manager, is the best place to start, but you also must go beyond that level to anyone in the company who might be able to help your career. Networking with home-office sales managers, trainers, marketing managers and other district managers from around the country will increase your profile in the company and your future opportunities.”

Of course, Strandboge notes, no amount of networking and personal horn tooting is going to help you become a manager tomorrow if you aren’t pulling in the numbers today.”The better you do your job today, the more people will believe that you can do a management job tomorrow,” she says. “Winning sales contests and awards and consistently growing market share and prescriptions will garner a sales representative the highest possible level of attention and admiration from senior level managers who ultimately make hiring decisions for future sales management positions.”

Finally, another important strategy is to actively pursue opportunities to demonstrate leadership while taking on ever-increasing responsibilities. “If sales reps are doing extremely well in their territory, they are more likely to be singled out by managers or trainers for opportunities, such as field training of other sales representatives, leading portions of district sales meetings, mentoring new sales representatives or participating in advanced sales training classes. Performing these additional duties or taking advantage of advanced training can help sales representatives build their resumes and add to their qualifications for future management-level positions.”