Digital Detail Reps

Many drug companies are looking into technology to market their products to doctors.  73% of providers own a smart phone and can look up medical and pharmaceutical information on the fly.  In the near future more and more providers will adopt and integrate these tools into their practice to create efficiencies and share vital patient information throughout their practice.  This digital revolution is a big opportunity to reach an audience that has been hard to crack without the use of expensive pharmaceutical sales reps.  In addition, with recent legislation in healthcare such as: HIPPA, Sunshine Act, and PDMA many hospitals and clinics are evaluating their relationship with sales reps.

IMS reports, one of every five doctors in the U.S. was what the industry calls a “no see,” meaning the doctor wouldn’t meet with reps.  Events like this and tighter regulation might change the return on investment of hiring an elite sales force.  You wouldn’t want to pay someone $100,000 a year in salary and benefits when they cannot increase their sales due to the fact, they cannot get in front of their customers.

The alternative is a digital-marketing package to target doctors, including organizing webcasts for leading physicians to speak to other physicians about the drug.

What might a digital marketing plan look like?

  • Providers sign for samples online with a digital signature.  This would take away the need for a rep to stop by his/her practice.
  • Make samples contingent on the provider watching a short flash video on the products safety and efficacy.
  • Direct Mail product and disease resources to the providers office.
  • Have online coupons for pharmacists and physicians to use on demand.
  • Hold Web conferences at lunch or after hours to update physicians on label changes and updates to their products.

Is there a future for detail reps?

What are your thoughts?  Can an entire industry replace its reps with apps and online ads or will there sales suffer?

Only time will tell if the old school model of pharmaceutical sales will evolve, change, or be digital.

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Why Pharma Sales Reps are Reeling

Lets look at a few stats from IMS on the current state of the pharmaceutical industry in the U.S.

The U.S. will remain the single largest pharmaceutical market, with 3-5 percent growth expected next year. Pharmaceutical sales in the U.S. will reach $320- $330 billion, up from $310 billion forecast for this year.  So Americans are consuming more pills than ever before and drug companies are still making profits but why are  these companies laying off their best sales vehicle, their reps?

IMS  explains a major reason reps in the U.S. will be laid off.

Peak years of patent expiries shift major therapies to generic dominance.

In 2011, products with sales of more than $30 billion are expected to face the prospect of generic competition in the major developed markets. In the U.S. alone, Lipitor®, Plavix®, Zyprexa® and Levaquin® – which together accounted for more than 93 million prescriptions dispensed in the past 12 months and generated over $17 billion in total sales – likely will lose market exclusivity. The full impact of patients shifting to lower-cost generic alternatives for these products, as well as other brands in their therapy classes, mostly will be felt in 2012, due to the timing and expected competitive intensity among generic entrants.  To sum it up when your product goes generic and you no longer have a patent to protect your price and profits your profits will eventually shrink to $0.  This is because generic companies like Teva and Sandoz step in and manufacture/sell the product just above cost.  In economic terms you go from a monopoly to perfect competition where you sell your product just above its cost.

Compounding the problem

We’re in a recession so layoffs are expected, but pharma is supposed to be a steady job.  Back in the old days reps worked for one or two companies their entire career and retired with full benefit and pensions.  I used to compare it to a government job on the stability side but with better pay.  So why such a drastic change?  Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, drug companies spent lavishly to increase their U.S. sales forces, an escalation most companies came to regret as a burdensome arms race. Sales reps with company cars and trunks full of free samples became a ubiquitous, and expensive, industry symbol.  The future for many sales reps looks bleak until a bunch of new and innovative products hit the market.

What industries do you see the most opportunity for top-level talent that might be leaving a career in pharmaceuticals?  Please share your thoughts below.

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Winners and Losers, What’s Your Office Like?

Winners and losers are around us everyday.

Winners find a way to achieve their goals and losers find another excuse.

I can think of peers and people in my life that fall under both categories.  Fortunately, I have recognized that you can influence and help people that fall in the middle however,  you need to stay away from the LOSERS.  Furthermore, I know that I have been happiest in my career and life when I am surrounded by positive and motivated people.  My motivation for this blog is to identify winners so that you can get them on your team. If you have too many reps that are making excuses, this can be a cancer to a team and cause nonperformance.  You want to surround your people with the best and brightest and set the expectation with the entire team the type of behavior that is encouraged and rewarded.  Remember you goal is building a winning team.

Below are definitions from


a. A person or thing that wins

b. A person or thing that seems sure to win or succeed


a. person who has failed at a particular activity

b. Someone that is marked by consistently or thoroughly bad quality, performance, etc.

Here is a quote that I love to revisit when I’m thinking about people and their intentions, it is from an unknown source.

Winners Versus Losers

*The Winner is always part of the answer;

The Loser is always part of the problem.

*The Winner always has a solution;

The Loser always has an excuse.

*The Winner says, “Let me do it for you”;

The Loser says, “That is not my job.”

*The Winner sees an answer for every problem;

The Loser sees a problem for every answer.

*The Winner says, ” It may be difficult but it is possible”;

The Loser says, “It may be possible but i t is too difficult.”

* When a Winner makes a mistake, he says, “I was wrong”;

When a Loser makes a mistake, he says, “It wasn’t my fault.”

*A Winner makes commitments;

A Loser makes promises.

*Winners have dreams;

Losers have schemes.

*Winners say, “I must do something”;

Losers say, “Something must be done.”

* Winners are a part of the team;

Losers are apart from the team.

* Winners see the gain;

Losers see the pain.

* Winners see possibilities;

Losers see problems.

*Winners believe in win-win;

Losers believe for them to win someone has to lose.

*Winners see the potential;

Losers see the past.

*Winners are like a thermostat;

Losers are like thermometers.

*Winners choose what they say;

Losers say what they choose.

*Winners use hard arguments but soft words;

Losers use soft arguments but hard words.

*Winners stand firm on values but compromise on petty things;

Losers stand firm on petty things but compromise on values.

*Winners follow the philosophy of empathy: “Don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you”;

Losers follow the philosophy, “Do it to others before they do it to you .”

*Winners make it happen;

Losers let it happen.

*Winners plan and prepare to win.

Please share your thoughts on winners vs. losers and how to find and retain a winning team.

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Average to Awesome!!

Average is an attitude.  If you do not love what you do you probably show up to work on time, leave at 5:00pm, and do the minimum while your on the clock.  Your aspirations are to be average and collect your bi-weekly paycheck.  This not only spikes managers blood-pressure but is more common in sales than you think.  So how do some sales people do it?  How are they top performers in their industry and on their team?  Selling is not always the slick story or the beauty queen.

In my experience I keep coming back to a few key traits:

  1. Work Ethic
  2. Tenacity
  3. Discipline
  4. Passion
  5. Teamwork

So how do you bridge the gap from Average to Awesome?

  1. Work Ethic:  Sales is a numbers game.  The more you sell the more you make.  You have to work more, especially in the beginning to build your client base.  You need to show up to the office early and stay late.  Decision makers for the products you sell are typically early risers and its best to catch them at 7:30 am in the office before the receptionist shows up for work.  Furthermore, 9-4 are the “Golden Hours” of seeing your customers face to face.  If you are prospecting for more clients than your peers, you will create more business.  However, if you are in the office doing paperwork during those hours you are only taking care of a smaller potential number of clients and you will be average.
  2. Tenacity:  Sales is a full contact sport and is not for the easily bruised ego.  You will hear NO more than you hear yes and that is o.k.  You will develop thick skin to rejection and move onto the next client.  Like I’ve said in previous posts its nothing personal, people do business with people they know, like, and trust and it just doesn’t happen to be you right now.
  3. Discipline:  Do not model your efforts after a 4th of July firework show. Big and bright but fizzles out too quickly.  Your territory can get routine, your product is old news, and your pitch gets stale.  You need to focus on your customers needs and just because you’ve talked about something a 1,000 times doesn’t mean your customer has heard it or remembers it more than once.
  4. Passion:  If you do not believe in your product your customer certainly won’t.  Stay motivated and know that every time you’re in front of your customer they are evaluating you and your product so put on a smile and make sure you leave them in a better mood than when you walked in the room.
  5. Teamwork:  You need to be able to play well in the sandbox.  It’s great to perform, but what’s more impactful than that?  Being a leader on a team and helping others achieve your common goals.

Do you have any thoughts on going from Average to Awesome?  Please share them below.

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Building a Winning Team

Part of success is proper planning, and if you’re a manager you have your all-stars, average but still good, and then reps on the edge of non-performance.  Well if you could get everyone on the all-star level you certainly would be an all-star manager. We all want to be on winning teams. This is sales, winning teams get more recognition, more money, raises, bonuses, awards, etc.  In this post we’ll focus on how to take an average team to a winning team.  A lot of it depends on the managers attitude and motivating the reps to do their best work.

“Toxic Reps”  One HUGE issue that must be dealt with swiftly.  A rep that doesn’t value the team, the manager, or the organization can be very harmful and well “toxic” to everyone else around them.  These people need to go because negativity breeds more negativity.  You want to surround your organization or team with positive people who help others work with each other to achieve and exceed their goals.  A great example of this is a committee I work on in my sales organization. The team consists of one rep per team that is in charge of sharing positive behavior in the territories in our district.  We call it “Inspires and Motivates”.  We recognize reps that are going above and beyond in their jobs functions.  This recognition breeds more creativity, sharing, and fun in our workplace.

However, as a sales manager you will be faced with situations where a rep doesn’t want to  change.  To deal with the situation effectively you usually face one of the two options below.

1. Manage the rep out:  This can be time-consuming, harmful to trust on the team, and may not be necessary just yet.  Make sure its more than a conflict of personalities and seek to understand the employees point of view.  I have been witness to many good people leaving an organization, but then again there are three sides to every story; theirs, yours, and the truth.

2.  Coaching Plan:  This lets the rep know that they are valued but need to improve in key areas.  Being fired is not a surprise when someone is on a coaching plan.  It is a process, if a rep values their manager and organization they will stick to the plan and work harder than they ever have before to show their manager what they are capable of to help the organization reach its goals.  If the rep doesn’t have it in them or cannot meet the obligations of the plan then it will be no surprise to the team or to the rep that they are no longer part of the organization.

What are your thoughts on building a winning team?  Do you think everyone that isn’t performing their job functions deserves a second chance?

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Sales 101

Employee turnover with sales reps rivals many industries.  My first sales job was for a copier company and on an annual basis we would turn over 50% of employees.  Why is this?  Sales is tough, customers are not there waiting to buy, they are not making any money, and many new reps get sick of the rejection and throw in the towel way too soon.

So why do people get into sales and what sets apart the good from the bad reps.  I feel the primary trait is motivation.  Some people in life are winners and others are losers.  If you’re a victim or always come up with an excuse for not making things happen sales is not for you.  Sales organizations need people who are honest, hard-working, career minded, team oriented, customer focused, and are motivated by money, incentives or just doing a good job.

Why do people get into sales? 

  1. You can make a nice living with very little education.
  2. There are always job openings.  Especially for a sales job that’s commission based.
  3. Autonomy- you work on your own for about 1/2 of the day.
  4. Teamwork:  If you like to share your ideas and help others sales provides a forum to work with all sorts of support staff.
  5. Challenging-  Some see it as a game of If I see x amount of customers and x amount of them come in for a product demonstration, then x amount will buy from them.
  6. Uncapped income – The more you sell the more you make.  You get a percentage of the sales.  So the more you sell, the more money you will make.
  7. Benefits- Some of the best sales organizations have tremendous benefits.  Life and health insurance, expense accounts, salary and bonus, retirement through pension or 401k, paid time off, tuition reimbursement, company cars, career opportunities either in marketing or management.

If this post interest you and you would like to explore a career in sales please reach out to me or post a comment.  I have been in sales for over 13 years and it has provided a tremendous amount of opportunity for me personally and my family.  I would love to help someone find a place in this ever revolving door called sales.

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Listen Up

To earn your customers you must listen to them.  Market research states the best sales rep speak only 30% of the time but listen 70%.  This is only possible through good questioning, probing, and keeping quiet while you give your customer time to respond.  How much talking are you doing in your customer interactions?

Listening  helps you solve problems your customers care about.  One story is when I was selling copiers to a large graphic arts firm.  The rep demoed their product and positioned it against mine on how it could  print on 12×18 paper.  They printed color on big sheets of paper to prove they could print on some of the largest format.  However, this was never a requirement for the customer.  I focused on the customer  to listen to and understand their needs.  Guess What?  I got the deal.

Most of us have been educated in reading, writing, and arithmetic, but have ay of us taken a listening course?  Below are some quick tips to put your best foot forward with your customers.

Do’s of Listening

  1. Take Notes-  This will show others that you are paying attention and will help you take down pertinent information to follow-up with.
  2. Don’t finish other people’s sentences
  3. Ask clarifying questions every once in a while to make sure you understand.
  4. Nod Your Head and lean into the person speaking to show interest.
  5. Recap and have a followup plan of action
  6. Read body language.

Dont’s of Listening

  1. Look at your watch
  2. Stand up before they are done talking
  3. Start thinking about what you are going to say  next
  4. Stare somewhere else besides at the person who is speaking
  5. Yawn

How to Measure

  1. You don’t want to hear “As I previously stated”
  2. Ask a question they already answered
  3. Other party’s body language
  4. You understand what they are saying by having great responses, feedback, and questions.

Let me know what you thought by commenting below.  Do you have any funny stories about some bad listeners out there?

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