Respect the gatekeeper

September 1, 2002
Marjorie Brody
Marjorie Brody

Marjorie Brody is the founder of Brody Professional Development in Jenkintown, PA. She is an internationally recognized author and speaker who helps individuals achieve their potential by strengthening their professionalism, persuasiveness and presence. To book Marjorie for a presentation, call (800) 726-7936, or visit her Web site at To sign up for Marjorie’s free quarterly newsletter, go to

Pharmaceutical Representative

Pharmaceutical Representative-09-01-2002,

There's an old saying that is as true today as it was 50 years ago: "Be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you may meet them on the way back down."

There's an old saying that is as true today as it was 50 years ago: "Be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you may meet them on the way back down."

When you start working, it's not unusual to want to please your manager or impress other higher-ups in your company. This isn't necessarily a bad idea, if you are impressing others by doing your job, being pleasant, contributing to the bottom line and networking within the organization.

But when it comes to being an effective pharmaceutical sales rep, this "impress the top dog" mentality alone won't cut it.

"Kissing up" to more prominent individuals but ignoring people you don't think will benefit you is not a good strategy as a rep. In fact, it can backfire big time.

Make friends

One person who is often ignored, but whose role is critical, is the gatekeeper. You should always make sure to befriend these behind-the-scenes workers, those who are the glue holding various departments together, or who can influence the decision-making doctors or pharmacists. If you antagonize them instead, you'll find gaining access to your physicians a lot more difficult - if not impossible.

Always be interested in others – no matter their title or status within a hospital, doctor's office, etc. It's amazing how much you can learn and how you can make others feel important when you show an interest in them. Ask questions that encourage conversation, open-ended questions like "How was your commute this morning?" If you know the person has a child who plays soccer, inquire about the game. Take time to get to know people beyond what they do at work.

... Or face the consequences

You should never antagonize the gatekeeper. In fact, it's a good idea to ensure that when your name, company name or product is mentioned, or when this gatekeeper thinks of you, only positive associations arise. You never know when you'll need quick access to the doctor to discuss a new product or new or amended indication. And it never hurts to have friends in high places!

I know of someone who lost a huge internal promotion to become human resources manager, despite her qualifications, because she treated the vice president of human resources' assistant poorly. When the VP heard about what had happened, she told the job candidate exactly why she didn't get promoted. The vice president explained that as an HR manager, this woman would need to make everyone feel equally respected and appreciated. But given the way this candidate had treated the vice president's assistant, the VP felt she didn't have the maturity or character traits necessary to be a successful member of the team.

Showing the gatekeeper respect can only help. If the administrative person answers the phone, ask for his or her name. Be courteous, and request his or her help. Make personal connections with these critical players, who can be as important to you as prescribers.

In future conversations, chat with the gatekeeper before asking for the person you want to talk to. When making the call in person, be sure to be pleasant: Smile, make chitchat, and give the administrative person or office manager your business card.

True respect, consideration and appreciation for the importance of the gatekeeper's role will go a long way toward helping you establish meaningful relationships with all of your customers.

The magazine tycoon Malcolm Forbes once said, "There are no unimportant people." He respected the value and contributions of each individual within an organization. So should you! PR

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