Many of the candidates we’ve placed into Medical Sales roles over the years have (or had) long term ambitions to move into a marketing role. Making this move can be challenging, however it is of course possible, as over the last 20 years CHASE has many who have successfully made the move from sales into marketing. This blog has therefore been written utilising the experience of our candidates who have made this move to provide guidance on how you can go about structuring your career and one day make this career move.
Nailing your sales targets is usually the first step
Having a solid foundation and track record in sales is definitely a great place to start when it comes to moving into a marketing career. First of all you’ll be able to understand the role of the sales representative and the challenges they face each day with much more clarity. This will also give you credibility across the organisation, and many of our clients insist that Brand Managers need to have two years’ experience ‘carrying the bag’.
Go back to school … in your own time
Once you’ve got solid sales experience and success behind you, getting a post-graduate Marketing qualifications such as your CIM Diploma would be a great next step to take. If you’re lucky enough to work for a company who’ll pay for this then not only will that save you some money it will also act as a indicator that they’re willing to back you. After all they’re going to want to see a positive business outcome for all parties and not just help you out financially. Regardless of who is paying, whilst you’re doing these qualifications make sure your manager is supportive of why you’re doing this and aligning it with your development plan.
Get involved in as many Marketing projects as you can
This is a great way to get more experience and to be seen to be interested in Marketing. Typical Marketing projects that a sales person could add value to quickly might include; sales material development, market research, advisory boards, conferences and even national level speaker meetings.
As a respected member of the sales team your insights, energy and experience can play a pivotal role in helping the Marketing team get things right from the start in terms of the messaging and materials for a specific brand, as well as help them to influence the rest of the sales team to sell in line with Global brand expectations.
You could also ask your manager what other project work the Marketing team would like to do if they had more time and see if you could pick this up – this might involve creating or refreshing patient literature, running a social media page or just writing up a summary of some clinical trials at an international meeting. There will be something there that will help you get involved and forge ahead by proving yourself. Just make sure you go through your own manager first and don’t neglect your current sales job as this is what the company is paying you for – so you need to deliver this as your first priority.
Present on stage at a sales conference
Presentations at sales conferences are another way to show what you’re capable of and position yourself as next in line for a role in Marketing. Again this is something you could work toward with the backing of your sales manager so should definitely be discussed as part of your development plan. Presentation topics might include how the latest sales messages were formed, what the processes were in testing them or what one of your Key Opinion Leaders is saying about your product. If you get this opportunity try to get some presentation and slide deck coaching. Even if you feel you’re a good presenter they’ll find ways to make you better. Finally remember this is your chance to shine – you might be waiting a while until the next opportunity to present comes along so take it with both hands!
Networking will play an important role helping existing Marketing team members to get to know you and feel comfortable working with you. You might even be able to gain an ally or two who will support your claim for joining the team.
You should also make sure you share your longer term goals, ask their advice about what they did to get into Marketing and subtly let them know this is the direction you’re heading in.
Remember though that these people, like most people you work with, are busy. Don’t take up too much of their time and definitely don’t neglect your own team mates, you’ll need their support too, especially when you’re working in Marketing.
Keep hitting your sales targets
No matter how well you do in your Marketing exams, how well you present from stage or how much support you have built in trying to make the move into Marketing, there are no guarantees when, or even if, you will be rewarded with your dream job.
In thus uncertain world, even where all of boxes have been ticked and moves lined up, last minute or unexpected organisational changes can happen and everything you’ve worked towards changes (e.g. People leave, departments downsize and even brands are pulled out of the market place).
If this happens when you’re on the cusp of achieving your next big career goal then you’re going to need to have a strong set of sales figures to fall back on. This will help you to either impress the next incoming Marketing leader, take a step back on your own ambition for a while to allow things to settle down or even help leverage a move into another company.
When to stay, when to move
If you are thinking of leaving your current company to further your career then you need to be sure you’re making a decision that is as free from emotion as possible.
You might feel you’ve done everything you possibly could have, however you’re going to have to ask your manager and possible the Marketing Director what they think you should do next as they’re your key supporters.
If they clearly tell you to stick at it then you should listen to them. If they’re vague or non-committal then you might like to take that as a sign it’s time to move on.
Over the last 20 years there have been occasional examples of sales people moving from a sales role in one company into marketing role in another. These are in the minority though and being totally transparent it is rare and very difficult to make this type of move.
More realistically if you’re looking to move companies to get into Marketing then you’re going to have to start again, building yourself up as a credible, consistent sales performer and then getting involved in projects, presentations and anything else that will help you.
You should also think carefully about how you position yourself if you have an interview for a new company. If you’re going for a sales job it’s OK to tell them you eventually want to move into Marketing, but make sure you’re realistic.
The other thing you might look for is a hybrid role with an agency such as one who provides medical education or advertising services to the Pharma industry. In these roles you’ll get the chance to use your selling skills (selling services to Pharma clients) whilst learning about things like copywriting, sign off, project management, graphic design and digital skills. Who knows you might even decide this type of environment is much more suited to you. There is normally an agency guide that is compiled each year. If you don’t know where to get this from you could either ask a member of your Marketing team or if you’re not comfortable then reach out to the organisers of one of the industry awards events and ask them. You should be able to find it pretty easily.
As always if you’ve got a strong track record in sales or marketing already and want to advance your career then the team at CHASE are here to help.
If you’re interested in looking at your career options and would like to speak to a member of the team simply call 0131 553 6644 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Johnson UK Business Lead – Healthcare