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I started writing this script over two years ago. It is about making of a Pharma Salesperson, the proverbial Medical Rep/SPO. It is written in collaboration with Javed Akhtar, an old friend and colleague. Some parts were published here at that time.
Javed and I started working as Medical Representative at the same time in 1975. We stayed in Pharma selling for several years and then were reallocated to other functions. Javed was finally Head of Training at GSK, from where he retired. He is currently running his own training house and offers public and corporate programs. I am still working as Head of Operations at a Pharma company.
Pharmaceutical Selling is a rather large profession, employing couple of hundred thousand people. It is less recognized socially as many other selling jobs are. It is therefore important to tell this story in the interest of greater understanding and acceptance.
This story is dedicated to all those who started their work life journey on this path and stayed here or opted to pursue other options. This story is also dedicated to those who will join this profession in times to come.
The story begins……
Jamil comes from a middle-class family. His father works in a private office as an accountant. It is a medium size company trading in car accessories. His job is tough and not well-paying.
Jamil is the eldest of the three siblings; has a younger sister and a brother who is the youngest. Jamil’s mother is house-wife. She is very organized and runs the household, finances and children well. It is her skill that she maintains a decent living despite limited income. Overall, it is a regular family, like millions of others in Pakistan.
Jamil had been an average student; always passed, but without distinction. Being eldest among the children, his parents naturally pin a lot of hope on him for his and family’s future. Jamil is sort of introvert and has few friends. He does not hang out much and prefers to stay home. His hobbies are the same as those of most young people; internet surfing, little bit of gaming, Facebook, and searching for job.
Chapter 1 – Searching for Job
Jamil, trying to follow in the footsteps of his father, just completed his B.Com degree. He has been actively looking for a job for more than a year. He applied for Accountant positon in several companies and got interview calls from few. Apparently, his interviews went well but he was not able to land a job. He is stressed, and his eagerness is now giving way to despair.
Yesterday, Jamil bumped into an old class fellow, Anwar. They had met after some gap and were happy to see each other.
“Come, let us sit somewhere. It has been a long time” Anwar said. So, they sat in the small café nearby and started talking.
“How is your family?”
“They are good” replied Jamil. “How is your family?”
“They are fine, Alhamdulillah”. Anwar replied. “What are you doing Jamil? Got a job?”
“Job? Who can get a job without connections and ‘sifarish’? You know, few jobs are advertised. They probably fill vacancies through connections. I applied to all the job ads that I saw. I got few calls. There were written tests and interviews but no luck so far. I am becoming more and more worried now. My parents look up to me and I want to support my father who is getting older, but I am not finding the way. What are you doing? Looks like you are working?” Jamil outpoured his frustration.
Anwar said calmly “Yes, I am working. I passed through the same. One day, someone advised me to apply for the job of medical representative. I didn’t know what the job was, and if I would qualify. Luckily, I qualified the first interview I had. Then there was a second interview and final interview with a big boss from head office. I passed all, Alhmadulillah. And so, I became a medical representative. My company is not very big, but we are all working to increase the business”.
“Medical Rep? I have heard about it. I don’t know much about what they do. They are kind of salesmen. But you did B.Com, how did they accept you? Did you know about medical rep work before? What do you sell? Do you get salary? Or you work on commission? Is it very tough work?” Jamil had many questions.
Anwar said “let me try to reply to your questions one by one. The basic education required for medical rep is graduation. They prefer science and bio graduate but BA and B.Com are also hired. I knew nothing about medicines. My manager gave me information about all the products. He also told me in detail about how to do my work; the territory I shall work in. He taught me how to plan my work. He gave me sales target and advised on how to achieve the target. I get salary and I get expenses for motorcycle petrol, mobile phone etc. These are fixed. I also get incentive money if I achieve more than 80% target. If I achieve more than 100%, I shall get more. In the first month, my sale was very low. My manager is a good person. He motivated me to work harder and try to do better. I achieved 60% target in the second month. I was still below incentive line, but I was happy that I improved. My boss was also happy. I achieved 80% in the third month, and I continue to achieve. Yes, it is quite tough and challenging work. I work in the field all day, I visit doctors and pharmacies, go to distributor three times in a week and go to office meeting two times a week. I have to work, no matter if it is very cold or very hot or rain or whatever. I start about 9.00am in the morning, take a break in the afternoon, and work again in the evening. I meet some doctors who practice till late and I see them even after 10.00PM. I was very worried and scared in the beginning, but now I enjoy my work. I have been working for almost one year now and it passed so quickly as if it flew. I definitely plan to continue”.
“You know me, I am not social type. I would rather work alone on a table all day. What you are telling looks very difficult. How can you enjoy your work?” quipped Jamil.
“There are many good things about medical rep job. First of all, you do not need ‘sifarish’ to get this job. You will qualify on your own merit. The job pays much better than office jobs. And you can increase your income further by earning more incentives. You deal with people, many different kinds, and you learn a lot from them and how to develop and maintain relations. You work in tough conditions and it makes you tough physically and mentally. Your territory business is your responsibility and it teaches you to accept and fulfill responsibility. I have only one-year work, but I hear that you can become manager in 3-4 years if you do good. And you can become more senior if you continue doing good work. Yes, it is not easy work, but once you get in the flow, you start liking it”.
“Wow! You have really fallen for it. To me, it still looks very hard. Impossible, I don’t think I can do it” Jamil said skeptically.
“Honestly, I can’t say for sure. But do think about it. If want to know more, you can ask me. You can talk to your family. I can look around and try to find some opportunity for you. Then it is your luck and your work. I shall support you in any way I can.” Anwar replied.
“How much this job pays?” Jamil asked hesitatingly.
“The salary and other allowances make up rupees 25,000 – 27,000. The incentive on achieving 100% target is around 7,000 every month” Anwar gave the ballpark figure.
“This really is good money. Much more than I would get for office work” Jamil felt a surge of motivation.
Jamil and Anwar said goodbye and went their ways. Jamil was recalling the entire talk in his head and was thinking……
To be Continued……