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Pam Bailey Marinko is director of professional development for Wilmington, NC-based aaiPharma Inc. She is also a co-founder of the Atlanta Medical and Pharmaceutical Representative's Association and a member of the Pharmaceutical Representative editorial advisory board.
How one rep established an association for sales reps.
About three years ago, a fellow rep and I were complaining to each other over lunch. We felt we were losing control over the time we spent in offices doing our jobs. We felt there was a need for guidelines for presenting a professional image to Atlanta's medical community.
We decided to establish a local rep association for sales reps who wanted to address the selling environment. We had no idea where to start, but we were motivated and determined to make it happen.
Today, the Atlanta Medical and Pharmaceutical Representatives Association, also known as AMPRA has more than 120 members. We boast of active participation in community service projects, monthly professional development programs and, most importantly, area recognition among physician groups, pharmaceutical companies and medical companies.
Developing the purpose and mission of our newly founded organization was not easy.
Initially, we wanted to find a way to stop unwanted behavior in certain offices by certain reps in our area. We thought it was a great idea, but we had a tough time implementing it.
The two other founding members and I tried to write a contract that each rep who joined the association would sign to allow a future "emissary" access to certain offices. But between the three of us, we couldn't agree on content.
It became clear that we needed a more long-term approach to the development and professional support of reps in our area. Therefore, we decided to create an environment where the following was possible:
• Reps could come together for educational purposes in a non-competitive environment - no product discussions permitted.
• Reps could attend a monthly function for one hour and gain knowledge that would prepare them to be more effective and productive.
• Reps could interact with members of the medical community who were invited as speakers, guests, panel members and advisory board members.
• Reps could have a place where they were interacting, learning and developing professionally outside of a specific company environment and among their peers.
We talked with as many people as we could about what they wanted and expected from a local rep association; if they would participate if one existed; and where and when they would want to meet.
Once we had that information, we picked a location, set a time and publicized the meeting like crazy. We pooled our business card collections and handed out or mailed dozens of flyers. The result? Nearly 50 area reps showed up to find out what we had planned they would learn.
Based on my experience leading a rep association, here are a few suggestions.
Find a couple of other reps who share the same interest in creating an organization. Then compile a list of currently active reps in your immediate area. Collecting business cards is a good place to start.
Determine the purpose of the organization. Is it professional development? Networking? Community service? A defined purpose helps keep everyone focused.
Choose a day and time that work well for area reps. Select a central location for your meetings, commit to keeping your meetings short (no longer than an hour and a half) and begin and end promptly.
Learn from our mistakes: Mondays and Fridays are the worst nights to meet, and, depending on traffic in your area, meetings held right after work are best.
Prepare an agenda for each meeting. This will keep things running smoothly and allow you to make announcements without taking extra time.
Also, schedule guest speakers or events as often as possible. It will improve your turnout and will increase the value of the meetings.
Successful programs that AMPRA held include:
•Â Efficiency in your trunk.
•Â Managed care: How it affects the local area.
•Â The 60-second presentation: Effective ways to make an impact on your physicians.
•Â The total office call: A panel discussion with doctors, a secretary, a receptionist and an office manager.
•Â Financial planning for sales reps: Beyond the 401K plan.
•Â Professional courtesy guidelines.
•Â The value of medicines.
•Â Present a professional image: Dress for success.
•Â Manager appreciation night.
Once your association is up and running, you'll have time and reason to diversify and expand.
Consider creating a resume file, quarterly newsletter or Web site. Set up an information hotline through a voice mail system. Make generic name tags for meeting attendees (exclude company or product name) or distribute membership pins.
Hopefully, this will stimulate some ideas to assist you in creating a local organization. One last tip: Be sure to include Pharmaceutical Representative and fellow rep associations on your mailing list. We all benefit from knowing what others are doing successfully. PR