Why a technical sales rep role can be a good jumping board to become an MSL!

Last week I spoke to an aspiring MSL, who had recently stared working as a technical sales representative, selling research compounds to researchers and pharma companies.

He asked me if being a technical sales rep is a good job to then move into an MSL role later on?

He had finished his PhD recently. First thing I told him was that it is better than becoming a postdoc, because as a postdoc you will not learn much, other than perhaps another disease area if you are lucky, but most likely you will learn a research technique you will never ever ever everrr going to use again.

The only real good reason for taking a postdoc role is that it is fairly easy to move into after finishing your PhD. And probably most importantly, it pays you money with which you can pay your bills AND have a nice life, something you might not have had for the past 4-7 years, because you were broke and were forced to work 24/7 by the Prof.

I told him that moving out of academia was a good thing. You are working in an actual company with a proper structure, KPIs, deadlines and goals. Something most of us did not really have in academia and something you have to get used to working in a pharmaceutical company as an MSL. So better start early with getting used to this.

I told him "your role is quite close to an MSL role". First of all, your role is a customer focused and customer facing role, just like the MSL role. This will help you getting used to working and talking to people. You need to reach out to them via email, phone, face to face meetings, chase them up etc. An essential skill to have for the MSL role. 

Second, you need an in-depth understanding of your customers. You need to map and profile the customers, knowing who your top customers are based on key criteria that are important to your job, the company and the company's objective at that time. This is similar to the MSL role, where you need to map your KOLs, selecting the top 40-50 key opinion leaders that you then profile, i.e. know everything about them that could be of importance to your product drug launch.

Third, you need to become a subject matter expert (SEM). In his case it was knowing all the pathways where the research compounds acted on. I told him, great, while you do your reading for your current job, think about these pathways from a clinical trial perspective in patients and find and read papers that actually target this pathway in human conditions/diseases. This way you upskill for your current job AND for the more clinical focused MSL job you are aiming for in the next 12-18months. 

In short, "you are doing a lot of the work that an MSL would be doing", in just a slightly different way, you are currently selling, while an MSL is never ever selling. You just need to write it up in your cv/resume in a way that resonates with the hiring/HR manager when you apply for your MSL job in the (near) future.

Happy days!


In our Board Certified MSL aspiring training platform we explain clearly what skills  you can highlight and elaborate on your cv/resume to ensure you tick all the boxes from the MSL job description to write the perfect MSL CV that will land your first MSL job interview.

Join our FREE MSL webinar to learn "How to become an MSL without having any pharma experience" and test yourself if you are suitable for the MSL career.


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