Dear Pharma Colleagues! I and my long time friend Javed Akhtar are writing a book about Pharmaceutical Sales Profession. It reads like a story but will take up all aspects of Pharma Sales. I and Javed started as Medical Rep in 1975 and went through various stages. Javed got assigned to training and left as Head of Training at GSK. I stayed in the line management and reached the top in various companies. This is not exactly our story but it is the story of all of us; the Pharma Salespeople.

‘PART I – Chapter 1 was published on Wednesday’. Chapters 2 & 3 are published today. Kindly read and give your reviews and comments here or at asrar@asrarqureshi.com 

PART 1

Chapter 2 – Thinking Hard

Jamil had some hard thinking going on in his mind. He was trying to tackle many questions.

“Should I drop the idea of becoming an accountant? What about my education? I did B.Com for this reason, if I do some other work my degree would go waste. Medical rep is unknown field to me, will I get a job as medical rep? I don’t know the ABC of this work; how will I work? Does this job suit me? Suit my personality? My thinking about life? If at all I get this job, will I be successful? Anwar talked about earning extra money by achieving target; what is a target? How can I achieve the target when I know nothing? Does it mean I shall never be able to earn more money? Will this job really pay me more than what I shall get as accountant? What about future? Accountant becomes more experienced with time and gets more salary; what happens to medical reps after 5 years, 10 years? If I work in office I can keep working even when I am old; what will happen if I become medical rep?”

These and many other questions bugged Jamil. He could see that the medical rep job will pay better than assistant accountant job. He could support his family better if he earned more money. He would work hard and try to earn more and support more.

He decided to talk to his parents. When his father came back from office, he sat with him and mother and narrated briefly what Anwar had told him. His mother and father both were silent. Then his father said “I don’t know about medical rep work. Looks like a salesman job from what you tell. No one in our family has done this work before. I recall that the son of someone I knew started working as medical rep, but I don’t know what happened to him. I know accounts and I can only tell you about it. Accounts is important work. Every company needs accountant. It is safe work; no harm comes to you as long as you keep following instructions. It is peaceful; you sit in the office and don’t have to run around in sun or rain. But times are changing. Look, when I started, there were no computers, but now all work in done on computers. Our office now has an IT department which only handles computers; no other work. Apparently, they do very little, but they get good salaries and they are close to the management. While I would feel more comfortable with you working in accounts, I still say that you should review medical rep job more closely and then choose what is better for you. Our support and prayers are always with you”. “Yes beta, I pray for you all the time. You are our first-borne and part of our heart. Allah will bless you and make you very successful in whatever work you do, In sha Allah”. Jamil’s mother lovingly consoled him.

Jamil felt encouraged with this discussion. He thought it would be better to understand more about the work a medical rep does. He will be better able to decide then.

Jamil contacted Anwar and asked him to take out some time and meet him. Anwar promised he would come on the weekend……

Chapter 3 – Seeking information

Jamil and Anwar met on the weekend. Jamil told him about what he had been thinking since they met last. He said he wanted some more information to understand better.

“Ask as much as you want. I think I can answer your questions”. Anwar encouraged him.

“What is the work of medical rep? What they do? More detail about work please”, Jamil pleaded.

“Ok. Let me try. The job of medical rep is to build and increase the business of company. I give you my example so that you can know better. I have seven products in my group. I promote all products and I have target to achieve for all products. I have target for every product in number; for example, my target for the product ‘Axomycin’ is 300 packs for one month. Similarly, I have target for each product in number. I also have value target. My target for this month is 180,000 rupees. If the achievement one product is less, I must try to sell some other product more to complete the value of 180,000”.

“It looks tough Anwar”, Jamil apprehended.

“Yes and No”, said Anwar and then continued to explain. “When I joined, I was given a short training about products; and their use in diseases and patients. I was assigned a territory for working. I was given a list of doctors which was prepared by the medical rep who worked in this territory before. I was asked to update the list if I found more doctors or new doctors in the area. I should have 100 doctors on my calling list. But it could be between 90 to 110”.

“Why this number? it a very high number”. asked Jamil.

“The actual number of doctors in my territory is more than this. But I cannot meet all of them in one month. This number is what I can manage to visit in one month. I should choose those doctors who are related to my products and who are more important for my business. My work cycle is one month. I should complete my visit cycle in the month. I visit every doctor at least two times in a month. There are many companies, many products and many medical reps. There is competition. If I don’t visit for long time, some other medical rep will get business”. Anwar replied.

“You make me worried”. Jamil felt concerned.

Anwar did not attend to Jamil’s concern and continued. “I make daily, weekly and monthly work plan and give to my Field Manager. He reviews it and makes some change what he thinks is necessary. I follow my work plan. I make a ‘Daily Visit Report’ and give to my FM when I meet him. Remember, I told you two times a week? The DVR is a summary of what I did on that day”.

“How do you make business?” Jamil was curious.

“I visit pharmacies to see how my products are moving. I also book orders if needed. Mostly, the order booking is done by the distributor’s team. All supplies are done by distributor anyway. I go to distributor on every Monday and Thursday. I note down sales of my territory. If it is in line with my target, I keep working the same way. If it is more, I want to know what happened. Of course, I am happy. If it is lower, then I follow my customers more and try to generate more business. So, I work, I check, and I adjust my activities. That is why, I am able to achieve 80% and more target every month”.

“Are you very successful in your job?” Jamil asked a rather direct question.

“I am successful as I keep achieving target; but not always 100% and not yet more than 100%. I want to become very successful though” Anwar replied matter-of-factly. “I have one colleague, Sajjad. He is a star. I want to be like him” Anwar continued.

“Really? What makes him a star?” Jamil asked eagerly.

“Many things” Anwar said. “He speaks very well. He always wears clean clothes. It is easy to listen to him and understand what he is saying. He knows more about products. He has been able to build good relations with doctors in his territory because doctors like him. I am sure that because of these reasons, he achieves his targets, many times more than 100%. He earns more incentive money than any other team member.”

“Why don’t you become like him? Is it very difficult?” Jamil asked.

“I am trying. It is not impossible, but it needs some hard effort. I am trying” Anwar replied.

“Look! Do you want to become a medical rep?” Anwar asked directly.

“From what you tell me; and you have told me many things, I feel excited and I want to apply. I am somewhat scared whether I shall be selected or not” Jamil was truthful.

“Do try. I shall look around and tell you where the vacancy is. You should apply. We’ll pray about your success”.

“Thank you, Anwar. You are a great help. I shall wait to hear from you” Jamil hugged him and went home.

Key Learnings

  1. The job of medical representative is to develop and maintain business in the assigned territory.

  2. Medical rep visits doctors and pharmacies, and promotes products to get business

  3. Medical rep job is better paying than most office jobs for the young graduates. They can earn even more by achieving more than the target.

  4. Basic requirements to become medical rep are;

    1. Presentable – clean look
    2. Ability to speak clearly
    3. Good social manners
    4. Mindset to work hard, take challenge and achieve
  5. Product knowledge, Territory knowledge, selling skills are learnt over time with the help of seniors and other company resources.

  6. Medical Representative work is Challenging; but Exciting and Rewarding.

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