Adopt a proactive attitude

July 1, 1998

Pharmaceutical Representative

Learn to make decisions and before you are forced to.

Amidst mergers and layoffs, formulary restrictions and physician offices closing their doors to reps, it is tempting to shrug our shoulders and proclaim, "There isn't anything I can do… my market share can't increase because of X, Y or Z."

Without being cognizant of it, we may become reactive to our work industry and environment. How many of us have blamed the cost of our product vs. that of a competitor's, lack of Medicaid coverage, or HMO formulary status as the reason why sales are sluggish?

Because we're selling prescriptions and knowledge of new products and disease states, it is sometimes difficult to get a handle on how much our sales calls are really making a difference in an environment that is already overwhelmed with restraints. The representative who excels and makes President's Club is the one who is proactive.

According to some of the best-selling motivational literature, the basic habit of a highly effective person, in any environment, is the habit of being proactive. It means more than merely taking initiative. It means that as pharmaceutical reps, we are responsible for our territories and our lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We have the initiative and responsibility to make things happen!

Consider the word responsibility as the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame the lack of counterparts helping them copromote products, historically poor territory potential or other circumstances for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice and is based on values; it is not a product of their conditions.

Each and every day, and on each and every call, we have the power to choose whether we will be responsive or reactive. If the receptionist is downright rude and makes us wait 20 minutes before allowing us back to see the doctor, we can respond by shrugging off the unpleasant treatment. We can be even more determined to give strong, meaningful presentations to all health care providers in the office. Or we can, by default, react, and empower the receptionist to control our enthusiasm on the call. A highly reactive person may even choose to quit calling on that office.

Reactive people are affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn't, it affects their attitude and their performance. Proactive people can carry their own weather with them. They are value-driven, and if their value is to produce good quality details, it isn't a function of whether the weather is conducive to it or not.

Reactive people are also affected by their social environment, by the "corporate" or "social" weather. When managers and supervisors treat them well, they feel well. When managers and supervisors don't treat them as well, they become defensive or protective.

For example, during an annual performance review, a representative receives a lower than expected score. The reactive sales rep may be recalcitrant, resentful and sulky. The proactive sales rep realizes that he or she may not be able to control this evaluation, but he or she has the ability to direct future ratings and evaluations. He or she asks questions regarding what the manager would like to see in his or her behavior in order to receive a top score next time. Proactive sales reps combine creativity and resourcefulness, and choose a positive response to an unpleasant circumstance. Granted, this can be difficult to accept, especially after years of practice explaining our misery in the name of industry conditions, circumstance or someone else's behavior.

However, the difference between representatives who exercise initiative and those who don't is literally the difference between night and day! Try it during your next sales presentation, interaction with management or discussion with peers. Taking initiative does not mean being pushy, obnoxious or aggressive. It does mean recognizing our responsibility, and taking the initiative to make things happen. PR

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