Back On The Upswing

By Malcolm Fleschner
Maybe you’re already seeing the signs of diminished job-related motivation – you’re not springing out the door every morning to begin the day, there’s less excitement, even about seeing the friendliest and most accessible docs in your territory, and the word whatever is popping up in your post-call notes more frequently. Perhaps you don’t even bother with your hilarious – Is there a doctor in the house? – routine during hospital calls anymore.
The good news is that flagging motivation is nothing unusual. Nearly everyone who works in a competitive career goes though periodic slumps. Your enthusiasm and desire may come back on their own, says pharmaceutical sales trainer Sally Bacchetta (, but just in case she suggests an eight-step plan of attack to get yourself back on track.
  1. Face facts. When you go into a slump, your first impulse might be to ignore it or pretend it’s not happening. You’re a go-getter, and go-getters don’t suffer personal stalls, right? Wrong – of course they do. So the first step to getting out of the slump, as with any other difficulty, is to acknowledge it.
  1. Point the finger. After admitting there’s an issue to face, the next step is to take responsibility. Recognize you have ownership over how you feel and how you spend your time. Taking responsibility gives you the freedom to come up with solutions rather than cultivate excuses.
  1. Take the long view. Sometimes people become disheartened when they feel the day-to-day tasks they perform no larger have meaning. Refocus your attention until you recall the bigger picture behind your daily activities. You’re not just dropping off samples, getting signatures and talking about clinical findings – you’re helping physicians treat patients and improve people’s quality of life.
If you think it will help, create some visual aids for yourself. Post pictures with motivational slogans or quotations in your car, your daytimer or your presentation binder – anywhere they’ll catch your eye and give you that little pick me up.
  1. Get back to basics. Sometimes a motivational slump arising when sales reps drift away from the fundamentals that helped them become successful in the first place. Take a moment to think about whether you:
         begin each call with a clear statement of purpose
         ask the right questions to uncover physicians’ objections and needs
         ask for a commitment of some kind on every call
         follow through with an action plan
  1. Know thyself. Parents like to tell their kids they can grow up to be anything they want, as long as they work hard enough. It’s a nice thought, but it’s not true. We all have unique strengths and talents as well as shortcomings. The key to addressing a temporary slump often lies in making an honest self-assessment. When it comes to your work-related responsibilities, ask yourself these questions.
         Which competencies are most enjoyable?
         Which parts of the job do you procrastinate or avoid entirely?
         Where are you most effective? Least effective?
         Which sales challenges are the most difficult for you? The easiest?
         How do you engage with different personality types?
These questions, when answered truthfully, should help you gain a greater insight into yourself and your work, expose roadblocks and get you back on the path to success.
  1. Ask others what they know. Realistically, a self-assessment can only take you so far. It’s also critical to get feedback from others who can offer constructive thoughts on your performance and the ways it’s changed over time. Direct supervisors, trainers and territory counterparts all can be good resources to ask questions such as these.
         What do you think is the greatest contribution I make to the team?
         What are my strongest selling and/or territory management skills?
         How could I make my presentations more effective?
You also can look for direction from the prescribers in your territory who might be able to offer pointed observations on ways to improve your efforts. Some suitable questions include the following.
         Which information are you most interested in discussing – clinical trials or your own personal experience?
         Has the lifestyle information I’ve presented benefited your patients?
         What’s the most important thing I can do when I call on you?
  1. Let the good times roll. It’s oft forgotten but extremely important – make sure you still enjoy what you do. If your energy is always directed at putting out fires, you’ll have no time to step back and reflect on why you chose this career in the first place.
Keep on cycling. Having worked through the previous seven steps, you probably have some idea about the source of your slumping motivation and have begun to come out on the other side. That’s terrific. Just remember that this is not a one-time exercise. You might need to revisit these issues from time to time throughout your career. Make this kind of examination a regular part of your professional development and you’ll improve your chances of professional advancement and career fulfillment.