From stressed out to superstar

January 1, 2002
John Kuchna
John Kuchna

John Kuchna has directed training at large, mid-size and small pharmaceutical companies. He specializes in the redesign of representative and management curricula. He holds over 92 certifications in the areas of coaching and selling skills.

Pharmaceutical Representative

A day with your district manager.

You get the voice mail: It's your district manager calling you for a ride-along with only one day's notice! Does panic set in? What are some standards that you can set for yourself so your ride with your district manager is no different from an ordinary work day? Utilize this day not only to demonstrate your skills, but also to access hard-to-see offices that may give you more time because your manager is with you.

Meeting with your DM

A few basic principles should be kept in mind when you meet your DM. Common sense dictates that your car is clean and your trunk is well-organized. This should be a standard operating procedure. Review your territory binder with your district manager over breakfast or in the car to update him or her on your current successes and challenges. A few traits consistently appear in the binders of the better award-winning representatives I have spoken to at various companies:

• An organized review (three-month and 12-month trends) of the top 10 prescribers for your product and the competitors' products.

• A top 10 list of the therapeutic category. This is important to uncover generic prescribing, as well as branded volume. The top 10 lists should have corresponding notation about what makes the doctor loyal to your product or to a competitor. The reason may be managed care formulary, efficacy, side effects, tolerability, speaker activity, etc. Your district manager generally wants to know that you are aware of your key customer issues and are working toward taking the doctor along a prescribing continuum. This continuum may start with unawareness of the drug and continue to trial use and to brand loyalty.

• Other key information within a territory binder may include zip code potential, non-retail account sales, target sheets, a business plan and territory cycle pod coordination.

Seek out knowledge from your district manager with regard to best practices within the district in certain areas where you need new ideas. Ask your manager for advice on certain situations within your territory where you need assistance. Be certain that you are comfortable with your manager's philosophy on e-mail, voice mail communications, deadlines, teamwork, professional development, business reviews, expense reports, significant events, sales incentive ranking and the best times to call. Discuss the best methods for interacting with key specialty representatives within your company and important non-sales personnel, such as account management. If your company requires pharmacy calls, explain your key tactics for keeping pharmacists informed about your products and which pharmacies are your high-volume customers. District managers also want to know that important company resources are being used. Be prepared to share news on your current projects and how you plan to track return-on-investment for your educational spending.

Prior to entering a physician's office

District managers observe how you have developed access within an office. Does the office know you by your first name, and do you know the names of the office personnel? Are you visiting during the best hours, and do you know how to access the doctor in alternative settings, such as the hospital or a nursing home? Have you incorporated key managed care knowledge into your pre-call planning? For example, if your product is preferred over a competitor, you should stress this during a closing statement to pull the product through. On the other hand, if your product requires prior authorization, you should be aware of the proper forms needed and appropriately close on the availability of the product on the formulary. Speak to your district manager about successful initiatives you have taken to increase access to the hard-to-see physicians. Remember, there is no such thing as a "no-see" physician! Often, "no-see" physicians actually see about two to four reps per week. Your job is to be among this select "see" list.

Tie in your previous calls when explaining your goals for the upcoming call to your district manager. A quick review of the prescribing trends should follow so that your DM may support the call appropriately if necessary. Other updates prior to entering a call with your DM should include your call objective, tools you will use (visual aids, reprints, patient education), office policies, how you plan to engage the physician, what questions you are planning to ask and what objections you anticipate. Include any pod coordination that is in place with the physician and how many calls have been placed with the physician over the past three months. This helps the manager understand the level of call frequency within your territory. Discuss some key bridging statements you use to get to your secondary and tertiary products. Key district manager evaluations from senior management generally include calls per day, samples per call, details per call, targeted calls and frequency within top-decile doctors.

After a completed call

Your district manager will generally review the call with you, discussing strong points and possible areas for improvement. Ensure that your call notes are completed after the call. Discuss any future strategy for the customer, based on your district manager's viewpoint. Other points to analyze after a call include:

• Were my objectives achieved on the call? If they were: What went well? How will I reinforce my message? What will the follow-up be? If not: Why not, and what should I do differently?

• What did the physician agree with?

• What questions did the physician ask?

• What objections did the physician raise?

• What promises did I make?

• How will I open the next call?

• What are my objectives for my next call?

• Who else needs to know? A pod member?

• How can I improve?

Summarizing the day

Depending on your company policy, your DM may complete your coaching form on your final work day with him or her. Be an active participant and state the strong points that were demonstrated during the work day, as well as areas for further development. An open, two-way dialogue between you and your district manager will limit miscommunication and help ensure that your career path is well-managed. District managers take great pride in the development of their people. Communicate often, and your ability to succeed will be unlimited! PR

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