How one rep dares to be different

January 1, 2000
Tom Lutz

Pharmaceutical Representative

Ways you too can set yourself apart.

As I approached the five-year mark as a sales representative with Muro/ASTA Medica, I found myself becoming frustrated with sales figures that were consistently stuck in the middle of the pack. My sales were always good, but not great. And surely not good enough for Muro's President's Club.

As I broke down my prescription data attempting to discover which doctors had let me down, I began to realize that there was a group of about 30 doctors slowly emerging on my prescription reports who were prescribing more and more of my competitors' products and none of my product. The same old routine was not working with these doctors, so I had to find a way to distinguish myself from the other reps. Here is what I did to be different:


• Called on every doctor once a week for three months.


•Â Made sure a promotional message regarding my product was conveyed on every call.


•Â Did everything opposite of what I had done with these doctors before.

I had almost 250 doctors in my call cycle. How could I devote so much time to just 30 doctors? I concluded that these 30 doctors were the ones holding me back, so I was going to focus on them and just try as hard as I could to see all of my other doctors.

My next objective was to make sure I always got a point or message across on every call. Some of you are thinking that this falls into the category of 'duh,' but these 30 doctors happened to be the most difficult to see. For this reason, I knew that seeing these doctors face-to-face every week would be impossible.

However, I was going to make sure that these doctors knew I was in their office every week for the sole purpose of claiming what was mine – a percentage of their business. I accomplished this with clever and creative leave-behinds that would grab the doctors' attention. For example, I went out and purchased lottery tickets (the scratch-off kind that only costs a dollar). I would put them in an envelope with a brochure and write a note saying, "Doctor, please look at page five and six of this brochure to see why you should only gamble with lottery tickets and not with [my class of drugs]."

I did this every week with a different marketing piece and theme. After a while, I realized that my doctors loved these creative selling ideas. It didn't work with all of them, but it did work with most of them. I also found out that the more frequent your calls, the more fortunate you become at accidentally bumping into doctors at the counter, through the window or in the parking lot.

Lastly, the time had come to do the complete opposite of everything that I had ever done in the past with these doctors. For example, I had a doctor who would not see drug representatives. To top it off, he was never very friendly and gave the impression that if he were detailed or given a sales pitch, he would jump right down your throat and throw you out of the office. For that reason, I could never close this doctor well.

But the time had come to be different, so I went into the doctor's office with a bottle of Snapple® on a really hot day. I taped my business card on the cap and wrote, "Dr. Jones, how come you don't prescribe my product?" I asked the receptionist to give the bottle to Dr. Jones and tell him I'd be in the waiting room. I did not expect the doctor to even acknowledge I was there, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Because I was doing the opposite of what I normally did, the opposite response happened. Dr. Jones came out to the waiting room to talk with me.

It turned out that he was not using my product because of an objection that I was not able to uncover because I just never came out and asked. This objection was very easy to overcome because the doctor had been misinformed about something. I asked Dr. Jones if he would use my product if I supplied him with the correct information and he said he would. A couple days later I dropped off that information to Dr. Jones with my business card.

The next day I got a voice mail message from Dr. Jones that said, "Tom, thank you for the data you supplied me with. It was an education to me. I will start using more of your product."

Refreshing success

As I applied these three principles, I began to see and feel that I was getting immediate results. I had doctors coming out to the waiting room to say "Hi" to me. I was doing things that I never did before, and that no other drug reps were doing. It was refreshing to them. I was making scientific points to sell my product but doing it in clever and creative ways. And because some of these points were witty and done in a different manner, not one doctor ever asked me to stop coming into their office on a weekly basis. In fact, I happen to know that most were looking forward to it.

Being different has become my religion. I concentrate on doing the things that the other drug reps are not doing. For example, I have cancelled all lunches, and I refuse to ever bring another lunch to an office. Why? Every other drug rep in my territory brings lunch. Lunches don't set you apart from your competition. With a lunch you just blend right in and go unnoticed.

I initiated all of these changes during the third quarter. During the fourth quarter, I averaged about 50% growth for my first detail product – my most ever! And I finally qualified for Muro/ASTA Medica's Presidents' Club for the first time. I only wish I learned this five years ago. PR