It's not the hours, but how you spend them

May 1, 2001
Steve Kalivas

Pharmaceutical Representative

Call preperation made easy.

After attending my high school re-union, I began reflecting on the various ways my past has shaped my life. In thinking about this, I could not help but remember something my wrestling coach always used to say: "It's not the hours you put in, but what you put into the hours." Back then it meant training hard so that I would be prepared for my next opponent. Now, as a pharmaceutical sales representative, it means being prepared for the next sales call. When an average sales call is only fifteen to thirty seconds long, it has to contain something of interest to the physician. Today a sales call must be short, precise and meaningful, and the only way achieve that is to be prepared.

Before you can even start your precall planning, you need to understand what you are trying to achieve. What are your goals? What is it going to take to make you the number one rep in your company? When determining your goals, you need to be able to answer a few important questions.

First, you should ask yourself where your numbers need to be by the end of the quarter, and the end of the year. Once you determine that, you should decide which doctors are most likely to give you that business. Once these questions are answered, you can begin your precall planning.

Planning with partners

Most pharmaceutical companies have multiple reps in the same territory selling the same medications. In order for this arrangement to be successful, you need to be in constant communication with your partners. It is imperative that you put together a call rotation that will allow you to become more efficient, and this requires planning with your partners. The call rotation will depend on the number of partners you have. I have two partners, and we have found that a three-week call rotation works best.

The way we established our call rotation was by first dividing the territory into three sections. Then we viewed each section and established a call rotation to maximize our time in that area. To establish a call rotation, you need to take into consideration each doctor's office hours and the distance to and from each office. By keeping the offices close to one another, you will eliminate unwanted windshield time and maximize the number of calls you can accomplish in one day. After this was completed, we viewed our prescriber list and determined who our top twenty-five doctors were. These were the physicians we wanted to call on twice a week to ensure their business. My pod mates and I decided that every Monday and Thursday were to be spent calling on these high-priority physicians. We rotated these physician calls each week. The doctors I detailed on Monday would be detailed by my partner on Thursday. With the calls rotating, the physicians received the same message twice without feeling overwhelmed. Once these calls were completed, we would go back to our regular call schedule.

The call schedule needs to be broken down day by day. With a little experience in the field and some investigation, you will be able to find the best time to see each doctor. This information will allow you and your teammates to use your time most effectively. By having a daily routing schedule, you will be able to keep track of each of your partners' location and avoid overlapping calls. If you know where your partner is Thursday and Friday, then you know where to be next Monday and Tuesday. Having each day and week planned will cut down on your precall planning time and make your day in the field as effective as possible. Once this list is completed, it becomes very easy to plan the week. Just pick up your list, review your notes and begin your day.

Prepare for all calls

In the pharmaceutical industry, there are two types of sales calls. There is the stand-up, thirty-second message call and the full detail (usually given over a lunch or specified appointment). During precall planning, it is important to prepare for both. To ensure that each sales representative has an effective call, my company has developed a precall planning strategy called Focus, Act and Reflect.

Focus. This simply means taking the time to focus on the call. When focusing on the call, you need to answer important questions, like: "Who am I going to see?" "What are they using?" "What do I need to present to them to make them try my product?"

The evening before my calls, I look at my call schedule to determine which physicians I will be meeting with the following day. Next I begin reviewing my physician profiles. This means focusing on their potential, prescribing habits and most commonly used competitor product. This information will allow me to see if business has gone up or down.

After reviewing the physician profiles, I review the notes that my partners have left from their previous calls. Through these notes I will be able to follow up with any unanswered questions and continue the particular message. My partners' notes will allow me to decide what type of physician he or she is and the amount of time I can expect with this physician. Their notes will also answer many important questions, like whether there is anyone else in the office who has script-writing potential, whether there is a phone nurse who calls in all the prescription refills or patient call-backs, the names of these individuals, and which case study is most suitable for this group (as well as which ones have already been presented).

With this information gathered, I begin to determine the best way to approach the physician. I then ask myself the same question my manager requires me to answer before we walk into the office: "What is your goal for this office?" In determining the goal of the visit I ready myself to deliver a short and concise message specifically asking for the business I need.

Act. This is the actual call, where you need to apply all of the information you have focused on. Before the call, you should make sure you look professional. It is important for your detail binder to look professional. Make sure your information is organized and easy to follow and you are familiar with the order of your binder and its contents. An organized binder will allow you to quickly flip to a supporting study or detail piece that will back up your message or answer a doctor's question. Remember, when putting together a binder, quality is important, not quantity. It is better to have one or two studies in your binder that you are very familiar with, rather than ten that you are not familiar with. By doing this, you will come across as more confident and professional.

Reflect. Once the call is completed, it is vital to reflect on it. Here you need to ask yourself, "Did I make an impact on that call?" If you planned the call correctly and were able to deliver your message, you probably did. Now you just need to put that information into your notes so your partners can begin their precall planning. It is important to take good notes, because as you relied on your partner's notes for your precall planning, they will rely on you for theirs.

With all precall planning, remember that "if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail." By preparing on a consistent basis, I have been able to increase my overall sales, as well as make daily progress with each physician. PR

Related Content:

News