Why good sports hit home runs

September 1, 1997
Neil Baum

Neil Baum, M.D., is a speaker and consultant to the pharmaceutical industry. He can be reached at www.neilbaum.com.

Pharmaceutical Representative

Your course of actions when doctors say 'no.'

All of us experience rejection at some time or another. We try hard and do a good job, but we are told, "Thanks, but no thanks."

What do most of us do when that situation occurs? We often put our tail between our legs, crawl away and think of excuses why they didn't follow our directions, heed our advice or buy our products.

That's the natural response, but it doesn't make us feel any better and it certainly doesn't help promote and sell products.

Let me tell you a story involving my 10-year-old son Craig. He was cut from a "major" baseball team he wanted to join.

I suggested to him that he write the coach a letter thanking him for the opportunity to try out and for all the instruction he received during tryouts.

That evening I came home and found a letter he had written to the coach. He expressed his appreciation for the chance to make the team and wrote that his baseball skills had improved as a result of working with the good players and the coach. He also wished the team and the coach good luck, and promised to cheer for them.

The coach wrote back. He told Craig that in 15 years of coaching, he had never received a letter like that from a player who made the team, let alone from one who had been cut. He told Craig he had class and character and that he was looking forward to Craig trying out the following year.

Turn refusals into results

I tell this story because if a 10-year-old boy can say thanks when the coach says no, then all of us can express gratitude for the chance to show a product or services when a customer says no.

Will it work? Sometimes. I recall a sales representative who called on me for several months and encouraged me to switch from a product I had been using for 15 years to her product. She wrote me several notes thanking me for seeing her and learning about her product. Nearly six months later, she came into my office for a visit and gave me a laminated copy of an informative article. She got my undivided attention, and her kindness and persistence resulted in changing a 15-year prescribing habit.

Another time, a medical manufacturing rep came for a visit. I told him I used his competitor's product and was satisfied with it and with the service. He said that he would be by on a regular basis and would be available if the situation ever changed. After every visit, he sent a note of thanks and promised to come back in a month. After more than a dozen visits, he returned at a time when a need was not being met by his competitor. He got my business. We can learn a lesson from Craig and these sales reps. If everyone said "yes" to every sales presentation, there wouldn't be a need for pharmaceutical representatives.

One way to help ensure a sale is to thank those physicians, members of the formulary committees and pharmacists who say "no". PR