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Training of Medical reps in Pharma industry was no less than an institution, and that institution has been lost. These posts are an inquiry into what happened, not a requiem.
First the historical facts.
I started in 1975 and at that time all MNCs and known Local Pharma always trained fresh or even experienced people before they started work. In fact, qualifying training was a prerequisite for appointment as medical rep. It was usual that a training session would start with 15-20 youngsters, who would keep falling on the way till the completion, which saw may be half of them qualify. The appointment started after that.
Training sessions were rigorous and were designed to make complex medical subjects into easy-to-understand form. I was a science/Biology graduate when I attended the six weeks training of Hoechst. There were about 15 people who started and all of them were fresh graduates. Eight were appointed at the end of the training session. The more important thing was that one week each was dedicated to cardiovascular system/diseases, Renal system/ diseases, and diabetes. We were certainly so well-informed at the end of the training that we discussed products and their application in detail and in the appropriate medical language. We could answer most of the questions raised by the doctors.
I would like to share one field event particularly. It was my second day in the field, and I was working alone. My assigned territory was Mayo hospital in Lahore. In the evening, I went to see Professor Alamgir Khan who was a very senior professor of medicine. He looked at me and could see I was a rookie. He asked me if I was new, I said, “yes, it is my second day in the field”. “Did you receive training?” was his next question. I said yes again. “Do you know the mode of action of Segontin?” He asked. Segontin contained Prenylamine which was a calcium channel blocking agent, and it was used as a vasodilator in patients suffering from Angina Pectoris. We were taught that Segontin had five actions: it was calcium channel blocker, it was peripheral vasodilator, it was coronary vasodilator, it was mild sedative, and it was mild antihypertensive. I replied to the Professor, “Sir, Segontin has five actions” and I repeated the five actions fluently. Professor Alamgir looked at me for a moment, nodded almost imperceptibly, but did not say anything. He did not ask me any question at any later time, but he became the biggest prescriber of several of my drugs. This was the power of having information when needed and it lit a forever-burning desire in me for acquiring knowledge. There are numerous other such events in my career which endorsed the power of information and knowledge, but this one is enough to prove the point.
Not every company had six-weeks long training programs, it would be minimum two weeks anyway. And it was always intensive. Training was fun also. We met new people, made friends, went out in the evenings to roam around, and enjoy. Karachi at that time was peaceful and danger-free. We learned all day and enjoyed the evenings. The comradeship developed during that time lasted long into future, just like batchmates in other places.
A major part of training was disease and product training, the other part was selling manners and selling skills training.
Mannerism was important because we were new to the work life and new to sales profession. Sales job is about meeting people and interacting with them in a positive, productive manner. Selling is defined in so many ways, but the essence is that it is about ‘getting the mind space’. To get mind space, it is mandatory to create a positive impression.
Selling Skills were important so that we could make an effective sales call. Selling Skills are not something that could be learnt in few weeks, it is an effort which continues for all times to come. We were introduced to the basics and then it was up to us to build on that. There were more reinforcements over the years to support the process.
It is my conviction that training is integral and critical to the success in any profession, and sales is no exception.
It is a matter of serious concern that this integral element has been suffering due to years of neglect. We shall continue this topic in the next blog and see some steps how this situation could be salvaged.
To be Continued……
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