The lost art of #pharma selling - samples, sales aids & copy what others do | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

First let me be clear what I mean by selling. I'm talking about a discussion that leads to the identification of needs and the proposal, and hopefully subsequent agreement, of product the rep is selling as a potential means of addressing these needs. This was a time when reps joining a company could expect their first six to eight weeks to consist of enduring the, generously described as functional, three star hotel nearest to their company's head office, where they would spend their time learning to sell their company's three main brands. And to those of you reading this who are under the age of forty, yes that was six to eight weeks, not the six to eight days that would seem like “a long time off the road for training” these days.

Now if you're in that sub-forty age bracket you're probably wondering at this point what on earth could a training course agenda have possibly consisted of to fill up six to eight weeks of a reps time. Well believe me when the invite arrived on my doorstep twenty-something years ago I too wondered the same thing and I'm sure did most of my 'Initial training course' alumni did too.

However, I can tell you that the time flew by and I'm pretty sure we all learned quite a bit about how to sell pharmaceutical brands. So let's look at how the eight weeks broke down. The first four weeks focused on the disease and the product. None of the distance learning we see nowadays, rather proper face-to-face teaching delivered by people that had made it their craft to both understand and be able to teach representatives with a variety of backgrounds, about diseases, their diagnosis and treatment and how, where and why their company's brand was of benefit. Three brands covered across four weeks, the culmination of which was a written and verbal exam to test understanding.


Here are some basic tactics you must master to practice the art of pharma selling (source: Basics of Sales Rep Watching):

  1. If there are other reps in the office, wait your turn just as if you were at a deli counter at the local Acme super market;
  2. Before entering the back office, the sales rep ahead of you must leave the back office;
  3. Ask the receptionist if it's OK to drop off your samples in the sample room;
  4. After dropping off your samples, wait in the hallway until you can accost the doctor;
  5. Get the doctor's signature and leave.