Once again, the importance of sharp, professional dress is not being downplayed, but to suggest that this is the only component of appearance is also wrong. Appearance embodies the individual and includes such qualities as manners and etiquette. The relationship component of pharmaceutical sales demands that a representative be able to function effectively in a social setting. Furthermore, many other personnel besides the healthcare professional are routinely encountered during the sales call. All need to be dealt with fairly, equitably and in a polite manner.
Such nuances as proper etiquette become very important due to the number of after-hours or lunch programs that many pharmaceutical representatives conduct. Learn how to properly handle silverware and maneuver through formal place settings. Maintain the same poise at the dinner table as you would in front of a desk.
Understanding and appreciation of cultural differences is also of critical importance. Learn the greetings, holidays, and dietary restrictions of the ethnic groups in the territory. Be conscious of the fact that the United States is not quite the melting pot it was years before, and cultural norms are readily practiced and displayed.
Learn a few phrases in another language. Nothing delights customers more than being able to converse, no matter how minimally, in their own tongue. A few words in a foreign language can go much farther than paragraphs of your own. Finally, watch your conversation carefully; what may have been perfectly acceptable on the last call may be totally out of place on the current one. Jokes, politics, and religion, while perhaps best avoided, are not improper but should be discussed with caution. Conversation should never be bland, but nor should it ever be abrasive.
Image should be viewed as an expression of one's internal as well as external qualities. It can re-veal that there is much more than merely meets the eye-that your real virtues are more than suit- or skin-deep.
A good sense of humor can prove to be a most valuable asset to a salesperson. It underlies a good attitude, a "stick to it" when times are tough, and a personal demeanor customers find appealing. A little humor will go a long way toward securing a rewarding career.
This is not to say that one need be a professional comedian, nor even have a sense of humor to be successful, but it does suggest that the representative who can smile and take it all in stride is ahead of the game. Being able to chuckle at life's foibles and challenges does wonders for maintaining the positive attitude required in any sales profession, much less pharmaceuticals.
Physicians by the nature of their profession see affliction and illness constantly, but rarely do people see a doctor when they are feeling well. In essence, health professionals do not necessarily see humanity when it is at its best. A representative who can offer a moment of respite during a hectic schedule, present interesting materials, and a smile provides a valuable service to the practice.
A quick word of caution: there is such thing as inappropriate humor. Be wary of off-color jokes and attempt to stay away from topics that border on current political correctness. As mentioned earlier, watch loose lips.
Research reveals that more facial muscles are used to frown than to smile, so for no other reason than to conserve energy needed for your next call, smile broadly. Be quick to brush off failure; grin and drive on. A little humor alone will not drive success, but it certainly will make achieving it more fun and interesting.
As mentioned earlier, much more goes on than what only affects business. It is critical to be involved and also aware of the myriad of current events. This not only provides a greater appreciation of life's many facets but also a better professional bearing and interesting conversation when dealing with customers.
News topics provide an excellent ice breaker before launching into a product presentation. Furthermore, this news may affect the account or customer and, consequently, business.
Newspapers are regularly full of stories of mergers, takeovers, personnel changes, and other events that affect sales. Being aware of the news permits proactive behavior and certainly fosters the appearance of being on top of things.
Every so often an article may even appear featuring a customer or immediate family member. You should always be able to readily refer to these type of interesting events. Merely clipping the article and perhaps mailing it or bringing it to the next scheduled call can start and build excellent relationships. Being well read in global affairs also sharpens impressions at company functions as well as customer-oriented affairs. Individuals interested in upward mobility can only improve their chances by moving easily from one topic of discussion to another, particularly those that affect us on a daily basis.
Often throughout this book we have seen how great gains can be made on a small investment, and it is hard to beat the return you can earn on a thirty-five-cent newspaper.
Community involvement is an easy task that offers a tremendous return. Many volunteer organizations currently suggest the "fives" rule-donating 5 percent of income and five hours a week. This makes sense merely from a good citizenship perspective, giving something back to society. The benefits, however, do not stop there, for not only will the community be better, but so will business.
Practically all organizations associated with the healthcare community-the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and so on-rely on healthcare providers for programs, consultation, and leadership. Consequently, this provides an excellent, quasi-professional arena in which to make and improve business contacts, as well as free advertisement because many events are covered by local newspapers or television. How can any sales professional not benefit from positive media exposure?
Volunteer organizations such as these also provide an excellent opportunity to polish disease and product knowledge. This is a tremendous forum for gaining additional experience insight. Lacking outside influence, product knowledge can become one-dimensional and lackluster. It is a great avenue for change.