Fun in The Waiting Room, or How I’m Tired of Watching Medical Reps Misuse Their Tools

I have all of my wellness checkups done in June.  It’s not fun being a patient, but it is fun to observe sales reps who come into the doctor’s office while I’m in the waiting room.

Pharmaceutical reps all seem to sound alike.  Their short conversations sound like this…

“Hi. Barbara with [name of company] Pharmaceuticals.  Would Dr. Doctor have 2 minutes to see me?”

“No, he’s seeing patients.  Let me find out if we need samples.”

“I’ll need to get his signature.”

“That’s about all he’ll have time for.”

The Pharma rep steps just inside the door into the back office.  The doctor comes to sign for the samples and as he does, the pharma rep vomits her 20 second sales spiel and walks out of the office feeling like she has done her job.  They call themselves pharmaceutical representatives, but mostly I see sample-delivery people.  And they’re wondering how they can be replaced by the Internet.  Really?

The medical product reps that I see are not much better.  They often start with the same compelling opening:

“Is Dr. Doctor in? Can you ask him if Bob from [name of company] can speak with him for a minute?”

“I’m sorry, he’s seeing patients.  If you would like to leave some information and your card, the doctor will call you if he’s interested.”

Not surprisingly, Bob already has the brochure and business card in his hand.  He transfers it to the receptionist and just like the pharma rep, walks out of the office feeling as if he has done his job.  The sight of a medical sales representative reducing himself to the role of brochure delivery person is painful to me, even more so than the sample-delivery person.  You see, his efforts were totally unnecessary because brochures can be mailed, or better yet, accessed by the click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger.

I’m going to skip discussing the sample-delivery person because most of the pharmaceutical “sales reps” I have encountered in my life have been essentially walking brochures who dropped off samples.  Their numbers have declined and will continue to decline significantly due to a changing pharmaceutical sales model that doesn’t include them.

Let’s talk about medical product reps who drive around and drop off printed brochures.  I call them brochure delivery people and brochure delivery people in my opinion are clueless.  I get it…their hope is that the doctor will glance at the brochure, keep the product in mind, and call them when there is a need.  Sure it works…maybe 1 in 100 times, if that much.  But it’s like believing in magic and that’s too big a leap of faith when gas is $4 a gallon!

Why magic?  Because a brochure is nothing more than a tool.  Tools need someone to operate them in order to get the desired result.  Without someone to operate the tool, the only way it can work is by magic.  Let me explain.

Let’s say your car is broken.  I know, you drive an expensive import that never breaks, but work with me here…

You have a bag of tools.  Tools can be used to fix the car!  So you pop open the hood, throw in the bag of tools, and close the hood.  If you believe in magic, when you come back at some point, your car will be fixed; after all, you delivered the tools!

A brochure is a tool.  Like any tool it can either be used correctly or misused.  If you use it as designed, it can move you closer to the sale.  But if you go around dropping them off at hospitals or doctors’ offices, what you’re mainly doing is providing enough information for customers to decide NOT to use your product…because they don’t know how to use the tool (the brochure) to make an informed decision.  That’s your job!

If you don’t know how to convince customers to spend time with you so you can discuss how your product or service will help them and their patients, the solution is not to throw brochures at them.  That brochure will be better served if you use it for kindling in your fireplace or to housebreak the new puppy.  Don’t shoot yourself in the wallet by expecting a sales “tool” to do your job.

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