Get Into Analysis

By Malcolm Fleschner

You’ve just completed another challenging but intriguing call with a targeted physician. Now is the perfect time to do which of the following?

  1. Get in the car and catch a quick nap in the parking lot.
  2. Call Mom and tell her all about the call.
  3. Grab a drink at the nearest bar – who cares if it’s only noon!
  4. Conduct a postcall analysis.

Regardless of your drowsiness, how long it’s been since you spoke to mom or just how thirsty you might be, the correct answer, of course, is D. As you’re no doubt aware, a postcall analysis is a critical tool for long-term performance improvement. As Robert F. Wright, a district trainer/pharmaceutical sales representative with the Roseland, New Jersey-based Organon Inc., points out, there are specific steps drug reps should take to ensure they’re conducting effective postmortems. Writing in a recent issue of Pharmaceutical Representative Magazine, Wright suggests the following four-step approach.

1. Accentuate the positive. Beginning with your precall planning, go over the areas where you feel you were the strongest during the sales call. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Did you create a precall plan?
  • Did you review prescribing behavior?
  • Did you role-play issues you planned to cover ahead of time?
  • Did you have an established call objective?
  • Did you engage the physician or just bore him or her?
  • Did you handle all questions the doc posed to you?
  • Did you close?

Make sure you conduct a thorough postcall analysis, whether the call went well or poorly. You often can learn more by analyzing good calls than by pointlessly kicking yourself for a call that registered high on the stink-o-meter.

2. Investigate the negative. Having answered the questions listed above, you should have pinpointed areas where the call did not go so well. Make a record under the heading developmental opportunities. For calls that went poorly, don’t create a laundry list of your failings. Instead, focus on two positives and one negative you know you can work on to improve. At the end of the day, make another note to work on the weak area you identified.

3. Get to the why. After looking over the negatives, it’s time to ask yourself why. For example: Why did I fail to precall plan this time? Be honest with yourself. Maybe you just don’t like going over clinical studies because you find them boring. That doesn’t excuse you from taking care of this critical aspect of your job, but by honestly addressing your shortcomings – and their root causes – you will be better equipped to come up with strategies to correct counterproductive tendencies.

4. Declare yourself POA. Just as corporate executives lay out a company plan of action at the beginning of the year, you also should define a personal POA. In fact, establishing and communicating a plan is a critical component of the postcall analysis process. Using the clinical studies example above, let’s say you decide to use one study on each call for the next two weeks. Write this down and also email it to your manager. Now you have additional accountability. Don’t overburden your manager with your self-improvement strategies – one email every two months is sufficient. Include progress reports with those emails as well.

Ideally, Wright notes, reps should have time for a postcall analysis after every physician interaction. Reality doesn’t always allow this, however. When time is at a premium, limit your postcall analyses to the most significant calls of the day or lunch appointments. Stick to the regimen of asking what you did well, what you did poorly, why you did what you did and how you plan to improve. Not only will you see positive change taking place in your territory, you also might find your manager viewing you more as an able colleague than just another rep to keep in line.