Avoid Being a Staff Infection

By Malcolm Fleschner

Contrary to what some pharmaceutical sales reps might believe, few people pursue a career in medical administration simply because they love to say the word no, particularly to hard-working drug reps who only want to help physicians improve their patients’ lives. OK, let’s acknowledge that maybe staff members don’t take a perverse pleasure in denying reps access. So what do they want?

In an effort to get the answer to this question, Kathleen Pagana (www.kathleenpagana.com), a healthcare industry expert and author of the soon-to-be-published The Momentum Factors, interviewed 21 medical office managers and asked for their take on the pharmaceutical reps they see every day.

“Although managers had good things to say about most reps, they all had examples of negative behaviors and were eager to offer advice,” Pagana says. “A common problem is reps that think, they are more important than the patients, act like they are doing us a favor and ignore the staff. Staff members sometimes are treated as obstacles to cross before seeing the doctor.”

Specifically, Pagana says, her interview subjects listed the following as the most common mistakes made by reps trying to get in to see physicians:

  • acting pushy when they see or are told the doctor is busy
  • tying up staff members’ time with idle chitchat when they see they are busy
  • blocking the window so patients cannot access staff members
  • overwhelming the office, which sometimes see more than 20 reps per day
  • failing to recognize that staff members have jobs to do in hectic environments

Above all, Pagana suggests, office managers are united in wanting to see drug reps who exhibit one common characteristic – a good attitude. Other than that, they also ask for courtesy, consideration and respect.

“An unassuming attitude is greatly appreciated while a presumptuous one is the height of discourtesy,” she explains. “Office managers like reps who notice when the office is busy and reschedule or get in and out quickly. Also, several advised new reps to approach staff members as if going for an interview. Schedule an appointment. Demonstrate that you really want the job and are eager to learn their office guidelines and protocol so you can work well with them. First impressions are key. As one said: You need to sell yourself before you sell your product. Be professional and don’t overwhelm them with stories about your personal life.”

Pagana also reminds salespeople that office personnel tend to be a tight-knit, interconnected group. Once your reputation is made with one office, you might face more obstacles in other offices as well. She adds, however, that a negative experience in the past need not condemn your future efforts. To mend fences, she suggests scheduling an appointment to get together with staff members to review office policies and procedures.

“This is a great way to focus on the importance of the staff and their contribution to the office,” Pagana says. “I would advise repairing a strained relationship by arranging for an appointment to openly discuss misunderstandings. Although first impressions are important, respect and open communications can go a long way toward repairing problems.”