Looking ahead to 2002

December 1, 2001
Kimberly A. Farrell
Kimberly A. Farrell

Kimberly A. Farrell is the CEO of Los Angeles based Unlimited Performance Training(R) Inc. UPT(R) is an educational services corporation specializing in integrated and blended instructor-led and virtual learning and development programs for executives in healthcare. For more information send requests to: information@UPTraining.org or call (800) 877-5755.

Pharmaceutical Representative

Taking steps to grow into a well-rounded professional.

At the end of every year we stop, go to our sample storage locker, and take the dreaded annual year-end inventory. We check off the sample boxes/cases and determine how much we gave to physicians versus how much we were shipped by our company. Then we do a "gap analysis" - where we began versus where we are. Our gap analysis provides us with key information on the next steps we should take. As 2001 ends and we look toward the open opportunities of 2002, representatives not only have to take inventory of their samples; they have to take inventory of what they have received inside and outside of the job, what they have given, and what they need to do next year to grow into a well-rounded professional. This can be done by evaluating three major categories: work performance, career development and personal life.

Work performance

Five key areas to review based on 2001 performance are sales results, field visits, meeting contributions, leadership and feedback.

Sales results. Sales representatives get paid to perform. What was your performance in relation to your goal? Did you excel? How did you compare with your district, your region or the nation? Now is the time to do a gap analysis of expectations versus results and plan how to contribute with greater sales results in 2001. Look at the company sales goals for 2002; next, determine the percentage of goal you will be responsible for in 2002 and then what you would like to do to exceed expectations. Write these numbers down! Goals make people more accountable if written on paper. This way, your written goal sheet will constantly remind you of your commitment to your company, your customers and the patient.

Field visits. Evaluate all the written feedback from your district manager. How many field days did you spend together? What did your DM, trainer, regional manager discuss with you during the day? What did they document as strengths and areas of development on a follow-up letter or field report? These reports act as a compass to lead you in the direction your district manager wants you to take while sailing your ship through the rough and competitive seas of pharmaceutical sales. Have you implemented these changes and returned input to your sales manager on how you have carried out these objectives? Have you given concrete examples of improvement? If some of the feedback from your manager indicated that you should spend more time selling the features and benefits of your product, did you demonstrate the improvement on your next DM field visit? Let your DM know about your progress by writing a note expressing thanks for the specific feedback, with examples of how you adjusted your approach and the kind of positive results these changes have made with your customers and your ability to increase prescriptions written for your product or products.

Meeting contributions. How did you "step up to the plate" to make team contributions during meetings? Was it an endorsement solely for yourself and how great you are doing, or did you look for ways to contribute by running a workshop for the district, or sharing/learning some of the administrative responsibilities of running a meeting with your DM? Did you incorporate any of the great ideas your peers shared in meetings? When you successfully implemented the ideas, did you acknowledge your teammates' contributions to your success? Were you prepared at all meetings and training programs? Did you not only practice with the new clinical studies, visuals and resources, but also come prepared to add additional perspectives on what the competition is doing and how to use these new materials to counter their marketing activities? Did you find new ways to sell the features and benefits of your product or products to impact resistant customers?

Have you found new solutions to old problems (getting more doctors to attend speaker programs, for example)? Give yourself an evaluation on this year's meeting contributions, and then gear up for some strategies to score higher in this area in 2002.

Leadership opportunities. How many times did you offer to screen résumés of new sales representatives? How many times have referrals for excellent hires come from you and your network? Have you joined any outside groups that complement your organization's work? How about the American Cancer Society, for instance, if you sell cancer medications, or Toastmasters if you want to improve your group speaking skills, platform skills or overall confidence in teaching clinical information? Have you taken the initiative to join the local pharmaceutical representative organizations? If you want to get involved in a future training role within your company, how have you prepared? Consider developing your skills by joining a local chapter of the American Society of Training and Development, or joining the Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers (www.spbt.org). Leadership opportunities are given and created. If you were not happy with the level of leadership opportunities that were offered to you by your company this year, take the lead! Leadership skills can be learned inside and outside your company. What is important is to add this developmental leadership skill to your professional portfolio. Do any of these ideas belong in the goal section for your 2002 plan?

Feedback. Often, we receive informal feedback throughout the year and dismiss or forget about it because it was not given formally. Maybe it was during what seemed a casual discussion over the car phone on the way to your next appointment, or during a walk out to the car to get more samples. Maybe the feedback didn't come from your DM, but rather a peer. Feedback, when specific, practical and well-intended, is important to consider. It helps us to understand how we are perceived. Part of taking inventory in 2001 is self-evaluation, and part is outside perception. The proverbial "blind spot" is just that – blind to us - and the only way we can round out our growth and development is to hear the voices of those we trust advising us on the strengths and areas for improvement they think we should consider while taking our personal inventory.

Career development

The four key areas to review under the career development category for 2001 include mentoring, networking, reputation and leadership portfolio.

Mentoring. Developing others is often thought to be the role of the DM. Not so. What has your commitment to service and guiding the talents and dreams of your peers been like in 2001? Have you role-played with someone who has a less-developed clinical or sales skill ability? Have you taken phone calls or made phone calls to support the efforts of teammates? Have you listened to the ideas of your counterparts in the field and tried things enthusiastically that you were unsure would work? Are you a positive change agent for others who begin to complain and ridicule a new process, request, leadership change or idea? Have you found ways to contribute to the success of others without any intention of self-promoting your "mentoring" activities? If you are unsatisfied with your self-assessment in any of these areas, look toward 2002 to broaden your mentoring contributions and establish yourself as a coach and leader.

Networking. Are you in your hotel room alone during cocktail receptions, social activities and pre-event gatherings at company meetings instead of attending these key events?

Have you introduced yourself to your regional director, operations manager and national sales director? Do the product managers for the products you promote know your name because of the creative approaches you take to selling your products? If so, then internal networking is looking good in 2001 and needs to continue to expand in 2002!

How about external networking? Are you a member of pharmaceutical representative associations in your area? Are you on any non-profit boards, or a volunteer at any local fund-raisers for medical research? If not, what can you do to enhance your contacts? How can you leverage your unique skills and talents to make a positive difference in this business? Take inventory, and add your new ideas to your list of goals for 2002.

Reputation. Do you receive calls from headhunters trying to woo you off to another company because of your stellar reputation? Do representatives from other companies discuss your reputation as an outstanding performer? What do they say about your office behavior? The way you treat others? Your integrity? Your work ethic? The nurses and office staff you call on now may one day be working in the "no-see" doctor's office you need to access in the future. They may also be in your company next year as sales representatives or clinical liaisons. How would they describe working with you? If you took a sampling of what offices, other company representatives, your team members, company leaders and the community thought about you and your professional behavior, what would be said? Listen closely, because this is a predictor of your future mobility. Heard enough? Now discern how you can enhance your reputation in 2002 - remember, you have a whole year to make changes.

Leadership portfolio. Look at the year in review and ask yourself: "Did I lead effectively?" "Where did I lead?" "How did I grow in my leadership skills?" Not having an "official" leadership role does not matter. Leadership is a set of behaviors that influence, impact, model for, and improve any group or arena you are in. Will you be invited to contribute on the next sales advisory board? Will you be asked to take a new sales rep out to ride with you in the field? These are all areas where you are looked upon as a role model and positive leader. How did your portfolio of leadership activities look in 2001? Continue to make progress, because 2002 is just around the corner!

Personal life

Personal life is made up of four major aspects: family, relationships, health and hobbies.

Family. How does your family feel about your job? Do they see it as a good fit for your personality, skills and goals? How do they feel about your workload? Do you still have time to spend enjoying family life, birthdays, special events? How well does your travel schedule fit your responsibilities within your family? You are the best judge of how well your job and family life balance. Are you a new representative to the pharmaceutical industry? As you know, the first six to 12 months are atypical in terms of travel for training, and have a steep learning curve. Don't make any major decisions about your job in pharmaceuticals until you have done the work for at least 18 months. Eighteen months will give you the true flavor of your workload and ability to balance job and family.

Relationships. How has the primary relationship in your life been impacted by your job? Is this person happy to see you so motivated and excited? Or is his or her stress on the changes the job is making on your personality? Are you able to be with the people you care about and still get a quality job done? Look closely at this category. Long-term happiness in your career will depend on your ability to get your job done well and still have time for the important people in your life. What does this year's snapshot look like? Any changes needed for 2002?

Health. Are you taking care of your health? Are you still finding time to work out, play sports and spend time outdoors? What about routine doctor and dental visits - no, not work-related, but to maintain your health and well-being? Are you still pursuing your passions? Take inventory! Job burnout occurs because we make work the center of our universe, losing sight of all the other joys and pleasures we have to live for. Managing a long, healthy and successful career means a holistic approach to work management.

Hobbies. Do you still quilt? Sail boats in the summer? Play basketball or golf? Sometimes work demands can get overwhelming. Understanding how to plan and organize our time as effectively as possible will help us keep time for ourselves so we can reenergize and relax. How did you do in 2001 making time for yourself? Long-term balance means taking care of yourself so you can provide the best you have to offer toward the other goals you have set for yourself personally and professionally.

Putting it all together

Now you have taken inventory of three key areas impacting your motivation, performance and happiness on the job. Once you do this, you may feel like you have an overload of information, and you'll want to know: What do I do with it?

Next steps. If these three areas were laid out on a pie chart, what would it look like? Are your professional achievements taking over your life? Or are you less focused on your professional achievements, which impact your current company standing, and too focused on your own career goals? Are you spending too much time with family and not enough time planning tomorrow's call cycle? Or have you not had dinner with them for weeks? A consistent quarterly inventory on how balanced the work/life pie chart is will help you make ongoing minor adjustments to maintain balance and harmony long-term.

Why are balance and harmony so important? Work achievement is a great predictor of continued motivation on the job. Achievement helps us find satisfaction and rewards us for our effort, time, commitment and resources. Career development is important because it gives us a vision of what today's investments may add to our future portfolio of earnings and growth opportunities. Opportunities keep us challenged, inspired and striving to learn and grow to our fullest potential. Personal life is important to maintain for many obvious reasons. How many times have you seen or experienced a distancing and independence created by a consistently absent spouse or significant other? What happens if tomorrow the Food and Drug Administration decides not to approve the drug you were hired to promote, or your company down-sizes the sales organization? If you have balance, these difficult times will be just a bump in the road, and you will quickly use the professional and career development skills you have been fine-tuning to get another job with opportunities equal to or greater than the first!

Take a moment to score yourself on a scale from 1 to 5 on each key area described in the three sections of this article. How did you do?

Use this information as a guide to build your goals in each of the three categories for 2002. (See goal-setting template on page 19). Once you have this sheet filled out, you will have a constant reference to help motivate you to achieve your goals in 2002. Continuing this system of self-evaluation at the end of every year will ensure that your work and personal life are balanced and that each year will be better than the last both personally and professionally. PR

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