Entrepreneurs

What It’s Like to Work in Pharmaceutical Sales

As a young boy, Chris Hamilton watched his father build a company from the ground up in his garage, which would grow to become the largest belt buckle manufacturer in the U.S. This experience single-handedly inspired him to pursue a career in sales.

“What I loved most about the process of sales were the relationships that were built,” he says. “The people from all of my dad’s key accounts became like family. The integrity and the trust that was built with his customers lasted a lifetime.”

Hamilton also saw that no matter how stressful work got, his father and the sales team always had fun. “So I decided a career in sales would give me the opportunity to work hard, set goals, compete, walk with integrity, invest in people, build lasting relationships, and have fun!” he says.

Today, Hamilton is an executive clinical sales specialist at Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, where he’s responsible for sales attainments and goals in Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas.

Here, he shares why he went into pharmaceutical sales, how Ironwood supports employee growth, and what he loves most about the company culture.

How did you get your start in sales?

I got my start working through college in retail sales at Harold’s Clothing. After graduating with a degree in history, I started my own company, Award Design Apparel, manufacturing Western outerwear, and launched Bee Wild Western Wear, with sales in every major Western store and rodeo association in the United States and Canada. My favorite aspect of running my own company was managing the national sales force and working with key accounts.

What made you decide to go into pharmaceutical sales?

After I sold my company, I decided to pursue a career that would allow me to focus on sales and sales management. The pharmaceutical industry gave me an opportunity to sell products at the highest skill level and make a difference in people’s lives. I could have entered the industry at the management level, but I believed to truly understand the industry I had to start out as a sales representative. At Ironwood, I am privileged to work with a team of highly talented individuals dedicated to redefining the standard of care for GI patients.

What attracted you to work at Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, and what has kept you there?

The people at Ironwood are everything. I was immediately impressed by the integrity of the commercial and leadership teams. They create a supportive and inclusive environment that allows us to bring our best selves to the workplace while continuously providing opportunities for professional growth and development. One of the company’s six key values even included having fun.

What has kept me at Ironwood is also the people. Just like those who worked at my dad’s company, the people at Ironwood truly care about one another and embrace a spirit of collaboration. Even in the face of organizational or industry challenges, Ironwood always puts their people first, prioritizing health and wellbeing in and outside of the office. It’s really an inclusive culture so that everyone can use their voice and learn from one another.

You’ve received two promotions during your tenure. How is this emblematic of the way Ironwood Pharmaceuticals supports employee growth?

When I was recruited, Ironwood knew my goal was to manage my own sales team. When Ironwood expanded their sales force and hired several new regional sales managers, they promoted from within instead of hiring from the outside, which gave me an opportunity to realize my dream.

What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?

I’m working on the development and execution of technology platforms that are intended to help grow our brand by creating more disease state awareness, empowering our customers, and meeting the unmet needs of GI patients. I’m also working on a project that will continue to give our employees the opportunity to be promoted at all levels of their career path, as well as an internship program that will inspire college students who want to pursue a career in pharmaceutical sales. Finally, I’m putting together an Ironwood virtual bible study that will give those who are interested the opportunity to strengthen their faith.

What do you like best about Ironwood Pharmaceuticals’ company culture and values?

Ironwood’s values are our North Star, guiding us in our every day, and creating a culture that supports everyone. The value that resonates with me most is collaboration, which I believe is the key to success at every level. I also like that “having fun” is a priority at Ironwood. After all, that is why I went into sales in the first place.

How has the company supported its employees throughout the pandemic?

Ironwood really came through during the pandemic. They demonstrated integrity and put the safety of their employees first and foremost. Ironwood created a safe environment for their sales force to go back out into the field and meet the needs of our customers, including providing scrubs, gloves, and masks. They set realistic expectations and put safety first, including the option to work from home and use virtual platforms that were easy for customers to use. During the pandemic you had the opportunity to take training courses at your own pace to increase your skill set.

What advice do you have for someone interested in joining Ironwood Pharmaceuticals’ sales team?

Sit down and map out your career. Where do you want to be in your career goals one year from now? Where do you want to be in five years? Share those goals with your team so that they can help map out a path to success.

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