My alarm scandalously woke me up. I have to chose a “scandalous” tone for my alarm because if I don’t, I may not be able to wake up.
I am still sleepy (I only got 4 hours of sleep) because I decided to stay late last night, doing a very unproductive thing — “facebooking”. I’m tempted to hit the snooze button but my inner self is reminding me to move my lazy ass ASAP. I can’t afford to be late, six times of recorded late in our EBM (Early Bird Meeting every Monday) per semester means suspension from work. I firmly believe that late is the most undesirable reputation I could possibly reflect in my 201 file. Well, lucky me, I didn’t experience such shame in my almost four years of service in this pharmaceutical company.
With the speed of Flash, I have taken a bath, dressed for luck and whispered a prayer for world peace. I think I am ready to conquer the pharmaceutical selling world. I grab my car keys & head straight to our meeting venue.
A few of my colleagues (we call each other counterparts) are already there when I arrive. I could hear them chatting about their week end’s escapade, their kids & families, the latest happenings in this crazy little city and some interesting tweets/fb statuses. I just smiled politely and sit quietly in a vacant seat, carefully choosing which of their topics I’m interested to listen or to participate to. Oftentimes, I prefer to be quiet and apathetic about their issues. Because sometimes I think it is too petty to be considered. Big issues for me are like something that could make this world a better place to live. Well, before you judge me, to each its own, right?
After almost three hours, the meeting concluded. There were a lot of discussions about work activities, doctors’ requests and the competitors. Ofcourse, there are pocket meetings too. Sometimes, they form a group and talk about a particular topic, a boss, a colleague, etc. I do not exempt myself in participating in such such gossips. Sometimes, I need it too.
I headed to the first doctor to cover. It is located in a clinic somewhere in the city. If a clinic isn’t located in a hospital or out of town areas, we call it it “territorials”. Well, throughout this blog you will encounter a lot of terms we designed to cater to our lingo needs. For starters, let me introduce some terms for you:
Cover- to cover means to visit a doctor or a group of doctors, discuss a few salient features and benefits about the medicines that you are promoting. Sometimes, it is merely a product mention incase the doctor is in a hurry. Sometimes too, it is to talk about a particular concern like sponsorship requests to a doctor’s convention, a round table discussion invitation (and other invitations), food sponsorships for the doctor’s meetings, etc. In between, it is important that you have your device or call sheets signed by the doctors. It is the only way that a particular pharmaceutical company knows that you are working.
Call/s- it is the number or frequency of times you visited a doctor. 1 call means 1 doctor. 3 calls means you have covered 3 doctors already. On the average, we are required to make at least 18 calls per day.
Quota- means your sales target. It could be in terms of monthly, quarterly and year to date quota. Reaching your quota means having incentives. Oftentimes, incentives are way higher than your monthly salary. This is what I often bleed to achieve. LOL.
1 in 1 out – term used to refer to the number of patients. 1 in, 1 out means the doctor is seeing 1 patient right now and there is another 1 patient waiting to have an appointment with him. “Last out” means you better keep your “detail materials” ready and do not go anywhere. Not even to pee. The doctor will have his coverage anytime soon. “20 outs” means good luck to you. It will may take an eternity before you could see this doctor. Depending of course on how much time he spends in consulting each patient. You could grab some lunch at this time or see another doctor to cover.
To Detail- means to present your product’s benefits and features during a coverage. It involves sharing to the doctors a particular scientific studies about your products. Detail materials may include brochures about your products. Also, you share to the doctor the samples of medicines that you are promoting for their patients to try.
Medreps – a collective term to refer to pharmaceutical sales representatives like me.
Well, those are some basic terms you need to understand. And it is important to note that the pharmaceutical environment here in the Philippines behaves so differently compared to other countries. It has a “unique” setting. I will share some of it in this blog in a little while.
Going back to the first doctor that I visited, it was just a casual hi-and-how-are-you-today-doctor coverage. She mentioned some of her patients whom she has prescribed with my products. She asked a few scientific facts about my products, too. As a medical representative, you are equipped with some basic knowledge about how your products work. It is important also that you communicate this very well to your doctor. In my opinion, it is very crucial because it can save a patient’s life or it can make it worse. Imagine telling your doctor some wrong information about your product because you did not take it seriously. A patient can die!
It is almost noontime. I rushed to the parking area where I left my car and rushed to the hospital to my next coverage. I waved to the guard who allowed me to park. It is necessary that you are nice these people. They come in handy when you are in dire need to park your car in a busy street. Be aware though that they love to ask for ball pens and other promo materials. I don’t know where did they get the idea that medreps are their personal school supplies store. Anyway, it is necessary that you plan your day very well. There are doctors whose coverage time is unplanned. So it is important that you know their schedules so that you won’t waste time going to & fro their clinics, only to find out that they don’t have a clinic that day. That is already a “missed” call. Remember, you are required to meet a particular number of calls per call cycle.
Sometimes, I arrive too early in a clinic. That means the doctor is still attending to his patients. Depending on how “important” a doctor is, it is my judgement whether or not to wait for the doctor to finish his consultation to his patients. Well, there are unlucky times when you waited for hours, (missing your lunch and not minding your tummy aches) when the doctor’s secretary announced that there is no coverage. You can do nothing about it but still smile and curse under your breath. A customer is always right sign is tattooed on my forehead.
There are “difficult” times. It is when the doctor’s secretary is not too friendly. It is important that you are nice to them. They are the gatekeepers. Sometimes, your coverage depends on them. They may or may not allow you to see the doctor. Most of the time I don’t have any problems with the secretaries. Thanks to my charming personality, I don’t have much trouble getting along with them. LOL. I suggest you buy stuffs from them (snacks, brassieres even pre need plans) to befriend them. You must engage in a little chitchat with them so that they will “warm” unto you. They can provide you with some much needed information like whether or not the doctor is prescribing your product or not. They may tell you about the group of patients that the doctor is seeing. It will help you determine your “strategies” on how you detail to the doctor. If a doctor is seeing a lot of hypertensive patients, you may opt to highlight your anti-hypertensive portfolio. Some secretaries are kind enough to let you see the doctor before his patients, depending on the doctor’s rules too. In this case, you are very lucky. Some secretaries are not “kind” enough. There is this one particular secretary whom I really hate. Whenever I asked her how many patients this particular doctor has, she doesn’t seem to hear me. Sometimes she makes me wait for hours, only to find out later the doctor is just relaxing inside his clinic and waiting for medical representatives like me to cover. Still, I have to smile to this secretary and curse under my breath.
My cellphone beeps for the first time today. I checked to find out that a doctor texted me. She is asking if I’m free later to fetch her after her clinic. She is asking for a “servicing”.
Servicing means doing menial tasks like fetching a doctor from his clinic to his house, a mall or even from an airport. I have nothing against this. In fact, sometimes it is a “tool ” to get close to the doctor. I can get an additional time to spend with the doctor and get really “close” to him. Sometimes you need this especially if the doctor is quite aloof. Whenever you are alone with him, you get to know more about him, his peculiar interests, his families and his practice. It could be your talking point to your next coverage. A medrep will usually do almost anything just to please a doctor. The “closer” you are to the doctor, the better. It sometimes means that a doctor “owes” you a favor. In return, you may politely asked for a favor, like asking him to prescribe your medicine in lieu of the generic counterpart of your medicines.
But this particular doctor who texted me is quite peculiar. Let’s call her Dr. A. Dr. A is known to us medreps to asked about almost anything. Her bestseller requests are servicing from her clinic to some place she wishes to go, sometimes even on week ends when I am supposed to rest. Oftentimes, she would bring along her family with her. At times, she would asked for a “lunch out” with her family. It means treating her and her family to dine to a restaurant of her preference. Dr. A is also fond of asking for a sponsorship to a particular doctor’s convention. It means asking for my company to pay for her airline and hotel accommodation while attending her convention. There are times she surprises me when she asked me to drop by a rabbit store to buy some rabbits for her son’s science experiment. (I told you, she is peculiar). Dr. A is very helpful to me because she prescribes my product a lot more than my generic counterparts. But since she is doing me a favor, I am “expected” to give her a favor in return. This is why I have a hate-love relationship with this doctor. I have a difficult time saying no to her requests. I have to consider my company’s policies too about dealing with these kind of requests. I am paid as a “walking advertisement” of my products, not as a chauffeur. Again, it is my judgement whether or not saying no to her would affect my “business”. Take note, she is easily offended and allergic with the two letter word, NO.
Then there is Dr. B and his wife, Dr. C. They are my personal favorites. Sorry, but I play favorites among my doctors too. I like this particular couple doctors because they are very responsible to my own opinion. They do charity works like free medical consultation, with free starter medicines among the less fortunate. They prescribe medicines to their patients because they deemed it to be therapeutic to their patients. Not because of the favor you have given them. They are also very grateful. Oftentimes, I will bring them snacks like coffee and some pastries during my coverage. And they will be eternally grateful for your thoughtfulness. Sometimes, they will surprise me with unexpected gifts — foods, branded bags and oftentimes, the gift of valuable advices about life in particular. (I appreciate the gift of a good advice more than anything else). They would asked me how could they further help me achieve my sales quota and how I am doing in my day to day life. They are the type of doctors who will definitely win in Best in Kindness doctor competition. They do not look and treat me as a mere medrep only, but a human being of their equal footing. They do not asked for servicing or sponsorship. They just sincerely want to help me. I am so lucky to have known this doctors.
Meet Dr. Joker. No, he isn’t a villain. But a doctor who loves to crack jokes, pick up lines and witty one-liners. Be smart enough to be able to retort an appropriate joke. It helps if you read a lot and keep yourself updated. Anything can be a topic during your coverage. This doesn’t apply to Dr. Joker only but for most of the doctors.
Dr. Bring Me. Ah yes, sometimes you’ll meet a doctor who loves to ask you to bring him something— usually foods. Which reminds me that I’m not just a medrep but a food server too. Kidding aside, I seldom encounter this kind of doctor anymore. And if I do, I won’t mind. It’s just food anyway. I couldn’t help but mention it since I believe this is pretty peculiar type too.
If you are the “cocky” type, be afraid. This won’t work for Dr. Q. He is often silent during coverage. I do most of the talking (which I usually do), he merely say a word. You’d be very pleased if he gives you a nod. It means a “buying” signal. Or maybe, it is a signal that you stop talking already because he is bored or effin sick of your nonsense. Your call.
Dr. NR’s: about 30% of the doctors that I cover. No reaction. I just visit them, promote my products, have them sign my device and leave their clinics. All about science. No emotions involved.
There are also doctors whom I considered to as “important” doctors. I call them, Dr. I. These particular type of doctors are usually VIPs and influential. They either hold an important role in a medical institution, decision makers and are influential too. Oftentimes, they have a lot of patients. And a long line of medreps is usually wanting and waiting to cover them. These are the types of doctors whom you would often consider giving foreign and local sponsorships. By this time, I hope you already have an idea why.
You shouldn’t miss Dr. L. He is a type of doctor known for his many issues and rumors. It may be about his love issues, issues with other doctors or issues with medreps. I don’t usually allow myself to be affected by such rumors and issues. For all I know, it isn’t true and it may ruin my perception about a good doctor. There are even an unconfirmed rumors about doctors who are sleeping with some medreps. Some medreps are rumored to do so for the mighty name of Sales Quota. Ugh! I think these issues are so 1980’s. And again, these innuendos are capital letters R-U-M-O-R-S.
Sometimes, you will overhear your fellow medreps talking about Dr. B. Why? Because this type of doctors who are businessmen rather than doctors. They are the ones who make their profession a business rather than a vocation. They will charge unbelievable consultation fees among their patients, would not consider if their patients can afford the medicines or medical procedures, etc. Who am I to judge? No one. It is my personal opinion that doctors are meant to help a patient heals, and not to personally gain from it. We don’t call it a Hippocratic Oath for nothing. Don’t worry. In my own experience, there’s just a few of them left.
I can enumerate a whole lot of types of doctors but this blog isn’t about them. I just wanted to emphasize that as a drugpusher, you have to be very flexible. You will encounter a lot of personalities everyday. From the doctors, secretaries, patients and even from your fellow medical representatives. It is necessary that you maintain some sanity when dealing with them. You should also have a set of your own standard “ethical” behaviors. I may not be the best in my field of work, but I am proud of what I am made of. I may be imperfect in my work, but one thing’s for sure that works well with me: I am dealing with them with my utmost sincerity and honesty. Bear in mind, doctors are just human too. They eat rice or no rice (in case they’re dieting) and they poop too. Don’t be afraid to ask them with questions especially about healthcare of their patients because they know better. I treat them with utmost respect too, as healers. And for the unselfish service they gave to their patients. They are on call round the clock. They will save a life regardless of the fact that their own family’s lives are in danger. They’ve spent countless sleepless nights while in med school.
These are some people who play gods during sales cut offs. You beg, you promise (that you’ll make your products “move”), you even play dead (just kidding) in order to make them dispense your products. Be careful in dealing with them. Some of them, I heard, are quite astute. They make some of my poor medreps friends bleed by asking impossible “deals”. Lucky me, I have my salesman to deal with those kind of people.
They could make or break you. It depends so much on you. Again, I’m not a perfect, worry-free medrep. I have my own struggles with my work. But I often wonder why most medreps are “clamoring” about their bosses. I often listen to them telling me about their boss asking too much from them. And most medreps dreaded “work withs” with their bosses. It simply means that your boss will work with you in a particular day. Fir me, it is an opportunity for me to brag about my work. What the heck! I work my ass out of it. Your boss will observe how you deal with your doctors, will coach you with some strategies and sometimes, he will buy your lunch. LOL. So why do they hate fieldworks? It is your time to shine & learn. I maybe just lucky enough to have little issues with my boss. If I can’t get a job done, I will tell my boss about it, ask for his coaching, do my best and hope for the best too. If he can’t understand, that’s not my problem anymore. If ever I commit a mistake, I’d be honest about it. If there’s anybody who can defend you, it should be the boss. But he should know everything. Most of the time, they’ll reprimand you and make you own your mishaps but nevertheless, they’ll defend and teach you. And most importantly, learn from it. And be inspired. And a good boss should inspire his sales team. Not expire them.
Actually, this is one aspect of work I often have issues with. I am still learning how to deal with this. I am the type of person who prefers to work alone, in my own pace. I have strategies of my own. But I do recognize the importance of working as a team. It’s just that I hate waiting for someone especially if they are late. I don’t like carpooling to work, especially if there are gossips involved. I don’t like if a colleagues interferes with my budget plans. I’m not comfortable with free-loaders. Nevertheless, I acknowledge the fact that I have to blend in. I have a lot to learn in this aspect but I am a work in progress.
I don’t mind them. They are just doing their job too. It’s just that, sometimes, they do their job in an unfair manner. The playing field is not leveled. They sometimes entice the doctors to foreign trips with nothing but just plain R&R, no scientific meetings involved. It is the patients who suffer. Again, this is just my opinion. My own judgement. They are just doing their dirty job. LOL.
THE JOB – AN EXPERIENCE
If you are going to ask me why I chose this job, I honestly don’t know why. But I have considered a few sunny side of it. Well, there’s this handsome incentive package when you are able to hit your sales quota, there’s the car, the free medicines, the flexible working hours, travels and the opportunity to meet various kinds of people. The job has a lot of “toxicities” on its own, that’s why it is not a job for everybody. Somebody warned me before applying to this job that if you have an “onion skin”, please reconsider. You can’t just cry when your doctor reprimanded you in front of your colleagues or fellow medical representatives incase you “promise them with something” and you don’t deliver it. Or when they asked you about myriad difficult medical issues. Remember those personalities of doctors I mentioned awhile ago? You must be tough enough to withstand and deal with it. Tough enough so as to not commit Hara-Kiri whenever you fail to meet your sales quota and whenever your boss asked you to present a business review of why you performed poorly in your sales. Be sure to know how to defend your figures. You’d better be smart and witty too. You’re talking to doctors, not just anyone else. You must be able to relate to them and make them laugh too. Remember, they are dealing with serious health concerns on a day to day basis.
Sometimes, I hear people belittle our job. They say it is relatively easy. I just go to the doctor, wait for the coverage time, talk a little, give my samples, have them signed my call cards and off I go and party. Pft! They’ve only seen the tip of an iceberg. Well, maybe there is nothing so noble about our jobs. It is not comparable to being a doctor, a teacher or a social worker. Most people just see the glamor of it — flashy cars, well-pressed uniforms, techie gadgets and eating out in a posh restaurants. They didn’t see the perils we encounter each day when driving to far flung places just to share with the doctors about the latest cure of a certain ailment. They didn’t get to experience the many stressors we have in our chosen career. Sure, there are no easy job out there. Even a dishwasher can be stressed whenever there are so many plates to be washed. But I am, with great pride, could say that this job of mine brings food to the table. I provide my old parents with the medicines they need. And I pay my taxes even before I receive my salary, 32% of which are coming from my salary and incentives (which reminds me to bully the government that I don’t deserve that slow-down-men-are-working sign across the road while driving my way to work. (Better yet, why don’t they replace it with: “sorry for the inconvenience, slow men are working!”)
In general, thou shall know:
– we often missed our lunch while waiting for the doctors. I don’t know why. Our time is quite flexible but sometimes I just can’t leave the doctor’s clinic to grab some lunch for the fear that they might go somewhere while I’m filling my tummy.
-we do servicing for our doctors when I couldn’t even provide some servicing to my very own kin. Honestly, I seldom drive my parents in going somewhere. And my mom cannot understand why I should do this for my doctors. She told me they didn’t send me to a fine university to be a driver. I should go back to my Calculus teacher and tell him how unnecessary it is for him to give me a removal exam for Calculus. The knowledge of solving for the derivative of whatever isn’t helpful in performing the servicing. But a good driving skill is.
– have a lot of patience, perseverance and humility while preserving your own sanity and self esteem. Confronted with so many doctor personalities, you should be able to “adjust according to their personalities”. Also, patience comes in handy while waiting for your turn to cover. Patience to keep on pacing back and forth, up and down the hospital, looking for the doctor to cover. Perseverance in trying to “win” them. Laced it with utmost humility, and you’re good to go.
– be an entertainer, and be prepared to be entertained. As I’ve mentioned, doctors are bombarded daily with many health issues. These issues are not to be taken lightly. I believe it is my job to somehow make them feel relax at times. So bring some good jokes with you. If you are lucky enough, the doctors will entertain you with their funny encounters with their travels and patients. The clinic will be filled with genuine laughters and will keep you wondering what did you do to deserve this. LOL. The best part is, you won’t feel like your work is a drag.
– be unique, but not very unique. This is oftentimes, my pitfall. I am the kind of person who loves to express myself, sometimes without reservation. Being unique helps you get “noticed” instantly by your doctors, therefore, setting you apart from other medreps. Remember, most doctors are seeing more than 20 medreps nowadays and it is important that he remembers your products. Having a great personality will somehow help you make him interested to listen to you. A unique you will draw their attention. A very unique you might scare them. Have that X factor. Not a triple X factor.
– Be conscious of everything. You can’t just say anything of course. There are proper ways on how to talk to the doctors. Don’t worry, the pharmaceutical company that you’re in will teach you that. What a pity though that some medreps forget about this, or maybe they are just unaware of it. Very often, I couldn’t help but smirk every time I overhear a medrep telling false praises to the doctors just for the heck of having something to say: Doc, you look younger and slimmer, you look “blooming”, you sing very well, blah, blah, blah. I seriously doubt that the doctors can’t see right through them. Or sometimes, we spend too much time talking to the doctors, we forgot that they have other more important stuff to attend to. Be conscious of the way you dress and carry yourself. You represent your company and your products.
– be prepared to be disappointed. You woke up early and drive for more than two hours straight just to see the doctor. When you arrive at his clinic, the secretary informed you that the doctor is having his skin tanned in some remote beaches in Timbuktu and will be back after a month. Seriously, you must expect disappointments in this line of work. Or in life. It is never complete without it.
-peculiarities, you will surprised. There are a lot of doctor’s rules when you are covering them. Be sure to know about it. To name a few: you may be asked to leave your red stilettos outside the doctor’s clinic whenever you cover because you might ruin his expensive carpet (although, be prepared too. Some medreps have the tendency to pull some pranks, they might hide your pair of shoes and let you find it in a garbage can ). Some doctors require medreps not to wear strong perfumes, others require you to wear surgical mask while you are covering and infected with flu. There are doctors whose coverage time is at 12midnight to 2 am, you might confuse yourself as a call center agent rather than a medrep.
– shit happens. Enjoy your first coverage weeks blooper. I once saw a rep asking a woman walking through the hallway where Dr. W is. She didn’t know that the woman is Dr. W herself. She said that the doctor looks like a secretary that’s why she has mistaken her to be one.
– be ready to be assigned anywhere. This is often asked in a job interview. I was assigned in 5 different areas before I was assigned near my hometown. So if you are a family oriented person, you might have a hard time.
– lifestyle, the medreps’ way. I couldn’t blame some people who thinks that being a medrep means being shallow. Yup, I eat in fancy restaurants, buy designer bags, travel abroad, drive a car, update my gadgets and well, party on Friday nights. Not all of us though, and not very often. It’s just a way of life. It’s a part of the package to look nice, to feel nice and to experience nice things. But I have to remind myself every time that is not the stuff that I need. It’s just a want. What I need are healthy lifestyle, a balanced work/family life, a spiritual/intellectual/emotional growth and a serene mind. These are the things that I should dress myself with.
Well, these are just a few things I’ve learned and experienced while on the job. The industry is evolving very fast, I’m not sure how it will look like 5 years from now. I just hope and pray that somehow, it will not deter from its purpose of helping this world a healthier place to live.
Oh, I got to go! I forgot to tell you I said yes to Dr. A’s servicing request. Sighs!
This blog does not intend to mock the pharmaceutical nor the medical industry. The author just wishes to share her experience about what she deems to be a reality. No pun intended. This is purely the authors own opinion & experiences. It does not represent the opinion of her employer.