Sell Well, Grasshopper

By Malcolm Fleschner

What do pharmaceutical sales and the ancient Eastern tradition of Zen Buddhism have in common? Well, for one thing both involve spending a great deal of time sitting, although you find few Zen masters thumbing through old People magazines in physicians’ waiting rooms. But the similarities don’t end there, says Organon Pharmaceuticals rep Robert Wright, who found sales inspiration from Robert Persig’s best-selling book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Here are Wright’s tips for taking a more Zen-like approach to your job.

1. Get your gumption up.Success in any endeavor often depends on having the right mindset. If you’re not ready to focus on the task at hand, then you likely won’t have the gumption to perform quality work. Whatever you need to do to get into the right mindset before a call – listen to relaxing music, meditate, play a motivational tape – make it a habit and you will dramatically improve your capacity to focus on performing your best.

2. Step into the light.Just as a mechanic cannot be expected to perform good repair work in the dark, a pharmaceutical sales rep needs to shed light on the task at hand through proper precall planning. Poor preparation turns any call into a cold call and significantly increases the possibility you’ll wind up making mistakes. So make the most of those minutes you have with the physician by reviewing your notes from previous calls (you do take good notes, right?) in the same way doctors review their patients’ charts. Then set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) objectives for the call.

3. Use the right tools.A good mechanic insists on using high-quality tools. The same should be true for drug reps. Every night load your car with all the tools you’ll need for the next day’s calls. Keep your studies and sales aids neatly organized and easily accessible. You don’t get back the 30 seconds you spend in front of a physician fumbling around for a study. Finally, make good use of your most important tool – your brain. While waiting to see a physician, review study data or your competitors’ information. A good mechanic takes care of his or her tools; you should always do the same.