Former rep aims to sell appointments with doctors

January 1, 1998

Pharmaceutical Representative

Sales representatives' daily call schedules could change if Chong Jones, a former rep and current CEO of Missoula, MT-based Professional Time Brokers successfully promotes the strategy of his new company.

Sales representatives' daily call schedules could change if Chong Jones, a former rep and current CEO of Missoula, MT-based Professional Time Brokers successfully promotes the strategy of his new company.

His idea - selling time with physicians to the pharmaceutical industry - is relatively straightforward. Physicians donate two 10-minute time slots per week to Professional Time Brokers. Professional Time Brokers sells the time slots to pharmaceutical companies for their sales representatives to use. Sales representatives schedule appointments with the physicians through Professional Time Brokers. Once a meeting takes place, the physician and representative sign and return a reimbursement/evaluation sheet to Professional Time Brokers verifying that the meeting took place. Professional Time Broker then donates 70% of the money the pharmaceutical companies spent "purchasing" the meeting to charitable causes within the community through a non-profit foundation it has established.

"There's no cost to the physician; the pharmaceutical companies get direct feedback from the physicians (by way of the evaluation forms); and the community benefits," explained Jones, who has worked for The Upjohn Co. and Bristol Myers-Squibb. Physicians may count the value of these time slots as charitable donations when they do their taxes. "Everybody wins."

Jones has approached several major pharmaceutical companies with his concept but so far none have formally agreed to be Jones' pioneers.

Impact on sales reps

What are the implications of Jones's proposal for sales representatives?

The reimbursement form provides physicians with an open forum to make critical comments - good or bad - about a representative's performance or product. These comments are sent directly to Professional Time Brokers and Jones said he will forward the data to pharmaceutical companies on request.

The scheduled appointment system could allow pharmaceutical companies to hold salespeople more accountable for their time, although Jones insists this is not how or why the scheduling system should be viewed. "This is not intended as a way for companies to manage their sales reps' time," he cautioned. "This is an additional tool to help reps target top prescribers."

The 10-minute guaranteed meeting is attractive for several reasons: It would be time-efficient for reps and doctors, and it would allow representatives to do more than drop off samples or race through a 30-second, bare minimum presentation. How exactly would Professional Time Brokers guarantee that a doctor would keep a scheduled appointment? That's a little unclear, although Jones said he has built rescheduling features into his system.

Will representatives who work with Professional Time Brokers have an added advantage over those who choose not to? That depends on how successful the system works. If Jones is able to convince doctors that two scheduled appointments per week are more convenient than 10 unscheduled ones, and if pharmaceutical companies feel that the investment is worth the results, the answer could be yes.

But the door could swing both ways. Sales forces that rely on Professional Time Brokers to open the doors of tough-to-see doctors might find that it creates closed ones with previously easy-to-see doctors. After all, why would a doctor permit free, unlimited access to his or her office if he or she could sign up with Professional Time Brokers and chalk those visits up as tax write-offs? Do sales reps really want to see further restrictions to physician access?

Full steam ahead?

Jones is optimistic that he can sell time. "In my opinion, the most expensive call is the one that never takes place because a sales rep drives all the way to an office only to hear that a doctor is too busy to be seen," he said.

Plus, he adds, the charitable giving reflects handsomely on both physicians and pharmaceutical companies. Physicians can feel good about taking 10 minutes out of their day to meet with representatives, and representatives can have the time they need to share their valuable information.

According to Jones: "This will place value back on the time the doctor spends with the representative." PR