The Whys of Pharmaceutical Training

Pharmaceutical Representative - July 2002

Pharmaceutical Representative - July 2002

I recently took my six-year-old neighbor Kristen with me to the garden store, and somewhere between a mouthful of birdseed and a pocketful of mulch, I was reminded of why I love being a regional trainer. I had mentally organized the trip much like I plan my sales calls, deciding in advance where to go and what to do in order to most efficiently accomplish the tasks on my list.

Kristen apparently had a single objective: to ask me questions about everything I looked at or picked up in the garden store. "Why are you buying that dirt? Why are you buying that grass seed? Why are you buying that plant food?" You get the picture. I believe it was right around why number 47 that I asked Kristen what was behind all of her questions. I had to smile when she answered, "If I don't learn why, I won't know how to do it myself."

As a regional trainer, I've had the privilege of witnessing sales reps discover all of the whys that fuel their achievement. By participating in their discovery, I am continually reminded of the reasons I worked so hard to get into the pharmaceutical sales industry.

Working with new reps requires that I examine the decisions I make every day. Sometimes they seem more intuition than decision ("How long do you wait to see a doctor before moving on?"), and sometimes they are based on my history with a practice ("How do you know what to bring in with you to the office?"). In either case, the process of explaining my decisions is an opportunity for me to reflect on and evaluate my sales calls. Answering their questions teaches me the value of my experiences and makes me aware of how much I have learned in the last year and a half.

Much like a six-year-old at the garden store, new reps notice things that I may take for granted, things that I have come to consider routine. Listening to their post-call observations reminds me to celebrate after a hard-won success instead of moving too quickly into preparation for my next call.

I am continually impressed with the optimism of new sales reps, and their unshakeable expectation that physicians will make time to see them. Even as they nod in understanding about "no-see" offices, I know that an inner voice is saying, "Well, that may have been the policy until now, but I'm going to change all that!" What an inspiration to expect more from myself on each and every call!

The question I most look forward to from a new rep is "How long did it take you to get established in your territory?" The rep is really asking, "How soon will I be able to start selling?" Their eagerness to learn and see and know everything spurs my own motivation to continue learning and growing and achieving.

Field visits with experienced reps are every bit as rewarding for me as working with new hires, although for different reasons. Other reps have told me that because I am not in a supervisory position, they are more "themselves" when I am with them than when their manager is. Let's face it. We all make a conscious effort to be at our very best when our supervisors are with us, since we know that in addition to their support and training, we're being evaluated. We tend to deliver familiar messages and use the start statements and the sales aids we are most comfortable with.

Because I share a peer relationship with the other reps in my region, they are often willing to take creative risks with me that they wouldn't take with a manager present. Knowing I am not evaluating them encourages some people to stretch beyond their comfort zone and try new skills. As a result, I get to be there with them when a visit to a "non-talker" unfoldjdjdjdddddbecause they risked asking difficult questions. I get to be there when they transform a "just a signature" office into a partnership to organize a patient education group. I get to be there when they grow good provider relationships into productive ones, and truly understand the difference.

Observing other reps in the field is a unique opportunity for me to see how other people do my job. I see different ways to handle the same objections and different approaches to gaining more time with a physician. I share my challenges with experienced reps and never fail to benefit from their perspective.

Almost every rep I meet asks me at some point if being a regional trainer makes it difficult to maintain my own territory. Absolutely! I constantly worry that my sales performance will suffer from the time I spend out of my territory. I pressure myself to stay ahead of the learning curve with new products and clinical studies. I can't walk past a newspaper or magazine without leafing through it to see if there are any articles that may benefit our sales force. And I wouldn't give it up for anything.

In this industry, we strive to create synergistic relationships with the providers in our territories. The role of a trainer is an opportunity to develop that synergy with other reps as well. It connects us in the field, where our most important learning takes place. So when new reps ask you "why," consider your answer carefully and you may learn as much as they do.

As published in the July 2002 issue of Pharmaceutical Representative magazine. Copyright 2002 Pharmaceutical Representative magazine.

Sally Bacchetta is an award-winning freelance writer and sales trainer. She has published articles on a variety of topics, including sales training and motivation, pharmaceutical sales and emerging technologies. Read her latest articles on her freelance writer website.