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Pharmaceutical Selling: Progressive Learning Experience

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The first impression, and everyone knows just how important that is. It is here that a representative portrays himself: confident or careless, ready or reluctant. A picture is worth a thousand words but a first impression is worth far more. The office staff will often barring those occasions when a longtime friend may enter draw conclusions on those first critical moments when someone enters the room. Equally as important, so do patients. While a representative's time is important to the physicians, no purpose is served antagonizing their patients such that bad reports are brought back to the inner sanctum. Furthermore, a wealth of competitors' promotional literature can be found in here; spend a few moments to look around and see what is available do not miss an opportunity to get free information.

The Front Window

Or the desk, or better yet, the front gate. There is no seeing the prescriber if this obstacle is not overcome. As will be mentioned later, no one ever sold a thing sitting in a waiting room. The staff is incredibly critical in obtaining access, information, assistance, and even a smile when things are not going so well. Spend a few moments to develop this critical resource. Remember they too have a job to do, but working together can enhance both. A warm hello, a helpful tip, or even a small box of candy can go a very long way.

The Sample Closet

An invaluable source of information, but seems of late to be getting harder and harder to access. Here is where all the patient starter samples are kept, but more importantly the prescribing habits of the healthcare providers in the office. Are the samples moving or gathering dust? Are patient education materials being handed out or deposited in the circular file? Improve your access to this resource; do not make a mess when leaving samples, maybe even tidy a bit so the staff does not sigh in exasperation upon your departure. Also do not trash your competitor's materials; not only is this the reason access to the samples is getting harder, but it is also bad business, a poor reflection of character, and even illegal.

Lastly, remember that this is an excellent place to catch a prescriber even on the busiest of days if all else fails.

The Doctor's Consult Room

The inner sanctum. If a representative is here some real selling should be about to occur. Do not ever forget, when here, the invitation is to sell. Certainly, the relationship portion of successful selling cannot be overlooked, but this is the prime opportunity to do what the profession demands. Do not squander this opportunity. Respect physicians' time; while this may also be a respite for them, nowhere is the expression "time is money" more true. Do not get too comfort able some senior representatives have commented on the fact that they knew many of their customers since they were students, but even so, they are still a customer. Make this time count it is becoming harder to obtain and far too precious to miss.

The Examination Room

Every so often and, unfortunately, sometimes far too often, this is where a representative may wind up waiting and selling. While certainly not ideal, it is no less an opportunity to provide a first class sales presentation. This may actually be an excellent sign demonstrating the busy schedule of the physician and the large number of patients in other rooms of the office. Be prepared, however, to make this sale standing up and perhaps using the examination table as a desk. Don't let the smell of antiseptic or the sight of syringes dissuade a great product discussion.

The Hallway

Last but not least, this locale should not be over looked. Time for a sales presentation, no matter how exceptional, may not be in the schedule of even a semi retired physician. Nonetheless, a brief interlude, on the way to the sample closet, checking for patient literature, or just to genuinely say hello may lend itself to an abridged presentation. Though not the most ideal situation, if the alternative is another thirty, sixty, or ninety days until the next visit, this is an excellent stopgap if even the sample closet fails!


Finally, as will be mentioned in other sections of this book, strive to make your presence an asset. Access, respect, time, and ultimately success will be all the more easily attained by being looked upon as a positive addition to the office setting. Certainly much harder to earn than perhaps suggested here, it will nonetheless pay double in the long run. It is always easier to extinguish rather than distinguish oneself, but nowhere will the benefit be as great.


Many of the skills and techniques discussed in this article can be learned and practiced. One attribute that unfortunately cannot be picked up along the way, but rather must be there from the outset, is attitude. Attitude defines a person's feelings toward what he or she is doing. It can be negative or positive, and perhaps in many professions it really does not matter what employees' feelings are toward their day to day responsibilities. In sales, however, and particularly in pharmaceutical sales, attitude is everything. It is hard for a customer to get excited about a product if the individual selling it is disinterested, particularly if it is a repeat type of selling where a representative is in front of a physician every few weeks with little new to say. A positive attitude provides the stamina needed to face the stiff competition present in the industry today. And lastly, it is the stuff that differentiates mild success from great success.

Enthusiasm is a by product of attitude. It is generated by the desire to be successful and involved in a world leading industry, and by the knowledge that the ultimate result of your efforts is improved longevity and quality of life for many people. To be in this industry, one must want to be in it; there is little room for lukewarm interest and motivation.

Just as important as having a good attitude is showing it. Let the world know that you enjoy what you do: smile warmly, offer a welcoming handshake, and walk with pride and bearing. The greatest compliment that can be paid to you as a professional is being told that you look like you enjoy what you are doing. Truly, this is a characteristic that becomes clearly evident long before product knowledge or sales skills are mastered.

Certainly there will be periods when tough times seem to be getting the best of you: sales may be down, a major account may be lost, or personal problems may be becoming a bit overwhelming. However, this is where a good attitude really shines, because it will provide the perspective required to carry on and make it through to better days. Difficulties will ultimately pass, and a good attitude will ensure that you last.

Once in a while, take a personal inventory and acknowledge the many blessings you have. Working day to day sometimes makes this a bit difficult, but the results of such reflection can be amazing. We easily forget just how much we really have and should be thankful for. A quick review of the daily paper can readily illustrate this. Being involved in your local religious or charitable organization can also provide great assistance toward achieving this goal.

Ultimately, many things can be hidden with a new suit, fancy marketing materials, or a large expense account, but a bad attitude is not one of them. One's attitude is worn quite clearly, and a good one is a key ingredient in the recipe for success.

Role Playing

Just whispering these two little words can make a strong man or woman shake in terror. Nothing seems to have as unnerving an effect as the prospect of confronting peers and virtually baring one's very soul. Yet, it is the very stress and pressure caused by this exercise that makes it perhaps the most important training tool available to a representative.

A diamond is undoubtedly one of the world's most beautiful and hardest substances, yet it was once a mere lump of coal; the gem emerged only after the coal was subjected to great stress and pressure. The flawlessly executed Broadway play became so only after draining repetition, and the game winning basket sunk only after thousands before it.

It is painfully obvious that perfection is achieved only after practice, practice, and more practice. As good as you think you are, there is always room for improvement, and rest assured that after you have mastered the game, the rules will change. As is true of professional athletes or actors, repetition and drill hone skills.

Role playing is the best way to keep at the top of your game. Every possible situation and objection can be staged, rehearsed, and refined. The role play becomes the dry run, the rehearsal of the actual selling situation. The environment can be contrived so that when it actually occurs every angle and possibility has already been reviewed. There will be no surprises.

Maximizing this training, however, requires conscious effort and the involvement of the entire sales team. Stripes must be left at the door tenure, success, or experience cannot be used as buffers or excuses for not participating or exercising less than 110 percent.

Utilize props or recreate a situation that caused problems in the past. Strategic practice and rehearsal make successful sales professionals.

Role plays should at a minimum be conducted in groups of three. Obviously, the salesperson and the customer must be included, but just as important is an observer. This individual becomes the key to a worthwhile exercise, carefully noting the dynamics of the scenario what goes right and what can be done better. If he or she does the job right, the observer is actually the hardest working individual in the group.

Furthermore, role playing sessions should be held before peers and videotaped. This allows for feedback and critical insight as to what can be improved and refined. Reviewing a videotape enables an individual to observe what actually happened. It provides a different perspective, and the chance to reconsider a given response or action and alternative courses of action. The tape can be stopped and a discussion can be initiated, a luxury unavailable during the presentation itself.

The audience, meanwhile, provides feedback and enables the all important sharing of ideas and suggestions; this is why it is important to forget the stripes. Attacks and attitude cannot get in the way of meaningful criticism, learning, and, most importantly, praise. Furthermore, peers can see mistakes that might not get noticed by a customer but still prevent the call from being as successful as possible. On the other hand, peers also can see positives, learn from them, and benefit from the exercise.
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