Bad Rep? A Q&A with Jamie Reidy - Pharmaceutical Executive


Bad Rep? A Q&A with Jamie Reidy
Jamie Reidy wrote the book on how to slack off as a pharma sales rep. Now, the sales manager's nightmare unveils more scams, sizes up the corporate selling culture—and reveals what finally made him care.

Pharmaceutical Executive

Even when there are three or four people calling on the same doctor, talking about the same product and giving the same basic speech?

Now we run into problems. That's where doctors have caught on over the years and said, "Hey, this is all canned." Say another rep and I both call on Dr. Smith, and this Dr. Smith doesn't really pay attention to me. He's sorting his mail as I'm giving him my pitch. And then the other rep comes in two weeks later and the doctor's got more time and he's listening to the detail and he's like, this all sounds really familiar. And I come in two weeks later and he says, "Wait a minute. This is the same stuff that other guy just told me." That's when we start to look like storm troopers. I'm not a resource for that doctor, anymore. I'm just like everybody else. I'm the UPS guy dropping samples off. I'm a well-dressed caterer with lunch for the nurses.

So where is the solution? You were on the front lines. What do you think would work best?

I think that they should reinstate our ability to take doctors golfing, and to Laker games, and to Celine Dion shows. But, of course, they had to do away with that to make it look like we weren't buying the doctors' love, which is what we were doing, and what I am advocating.

Are you serious?

In all seriousness, I think the companies need to cut back the sales force by half. When I started, there were about 35,000 reps in America. And now I read there are between 90,000 and 100,000. Doctors are just fed up.

We need fewer reps, because now the value of every rep gets diminished. Once the doctor figures out that John, Jamie, Jenny, and Sheila are all going to tell him the same thing, then none of us have any value anymore, even though I used to be a valued source to him. Now we're all the same and it doesn't matter which rep he sees. It actually doesn't matter if he sees anybody, because they're all going to give him the same company-sponsored line.

If you talk to reps who have been around for 15 or 20 years, they all lament the loss of the old days when they were able to sit down with a doctor and discuss the merits of each drug in treating the 57-year-old Hispanic woman with diabetes and a history of heart disease in her family. Reps were much more of a resource back then. Now we're just extensions of multibillion-dollar companies.

Do senior reps feel like they have to play this diminished role to keep their jobs?

The old guys question the mindset that you have to get, say, ten signatures a day for samples. There's that pressure when your boss comes back to you and reminds you that you only had 38 signatures last week. It drives the old guys crazy. They say, "Look, I'm a sales guy. My job is to drive sales. I'm not a sample guy."

There was a great story at Lilly. We didn't even have samples in the oncology division, but Lilly started pushing us to make more sales calls. We had to make five a day, which doesn't seem like anything. But in oncology you've got to share data all the time, so you wait around for hours if you need to see somebody. So probably the most seasoned rep in the Lilly oncology division picks his boss up in the morning at 8:30 for a ride-along. He goes to a big office to start his day and has good discussions with five doctors. Then he drives the boss back to his hotel.

And the boss says, "What are we doing? " The rep says, "Oh, I'm done. All you care about is that I see five doctors. I just saw my five doctors." He wasn't being a smart-aleck. He was saying, "You won't fire me for this. I want to dramatically demonstrate what's going on at this company."


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