Outwit, Outplay, Outlast, Outsell

By Malcolm Fleschner

As a pharmaceutical sales professional just surviving some of the tougher days to sell another day can be a victory. In fact, says Lee Belote, a Pennsylvania-based sales rep with Aventis Pasteur, life as a drug rep is a lot like being a character on Survivor, the popular CBS reality program. Whether faced with eating dung beetles to win immunity or trying to get two minutes with a particularly inaccessible physician, the keys to winning remain the same, he says.

1. Be prepared. Though Survivor contestants are only allowed to bring along one survival tool, drug reps have more options. Ask yourself: What tools – current call notes, clinicals, details, pricing information, formulary information and knowledge of issues surrounding the managed care marketplace – will be of value to the offices I’m visiting? What have they requested on previous sales calls?

2. Rapport it on. Since the first episode of Survivor, strong alliances have meant the difference between sticking around for another week and having your torch snuffed. Of course the same is true in doctors’ offices. Ask yourself: How can I engage the nurses, office staff and physicians? What college degrees are on the wall? What family photos are displayed?

3. Push yourself. Survivor contestants are forced to leave their comfort zones, whether to eat something disgusting, push their physical limits or outwit their opponents. To succeed, drug reps also must step outside their comfort zone, whether that means using a new sales technique to get a foot in the door with an intractable office manager, interpreting a difficult clinical for a doctor, setting lunch dates with intimidating doctors or just seeking creative solutions to other age-old selling challenges.

4. Prepare to win. Yes, each Survivor series concludes with a single winner taking home the $1 million prize, but there are other ways to win. Many of those voted off before the final episode wind up with other opportunities, whether in commercials, movies or other areas of the entertainment industry. By the same token, even if you have a bad run where the rest of the world seems to be in an alliance against you, you can still be a winner. Just prepare, build rapport and keep challenging your comfort zone and you will keep taking steps in the right direction.