1. June 2005 05:00
|Dr. Simon Hawley is a Medical Representative at Sankyo Pharma and this year’s winner of the Pharmaceutical Sales Awards New Representative of the Year Award. He has been a GP/hospital representative for a total of two and a half years, having completed a PhD prior to starting his sales career.
Pf asked Simon: What led you to pharma sales? I went straight into the lab after completing my PhD. I worked in the lab for a year and half, then decided I wanted to see what is what like . . . to sell these life-saving drugs first-hand to doctors. What do you find challenging when calling on GPs? I finished the ITC on a high, armed with the best knowledge of the clinical papers etc, very enthusiastic however, quickly realised that there is a lot of work to be done before you get to use all this knowledge and enthusiasm. I find the most challenging part of selling is to identify WHY the doctor is prescribing in the first place. Once I figure that out, then I can use all my knowledge and enthusiasm to sell my product to their real needs. How did you find the job when you first started? A refreshing change. I came from working day after day in the lab and spending the previous eight years at university. There I was, in my car, and doing what I wanted, organising my own diary . . . running my own business, really. I work hard, work all my target accounts and nurture whole surgeries into using my product. All of this, I know, leads to meeting my ultimate goal . . . my sales target. Why did you choose Sankyo Pharma? The people I met were willing to take a risk on me and were confident in my abilities. I had one and a bit years’ experience, and had not sat my ABPI yet. They believed in me and that remains the overall culture today . . . open and confident in a sales rep’s abilities. That is why I like it and it makes me feel as if I am running my own business. What is your biggest success? My biggest success is definitely . . . winning the PSA New Representative of the Year Award 2005. (It has even beaten the feeling I had when I received my PhD.) It was such a great honour to be nominated, and furthermore to accept the award. I would like to thank those who nominated me based on my performance, and those in my personal life who supported me when I was doing all those meetings. What advice would you give to someone thinking about medical sales? It looks very glamorous on the outside…nice car etc, but be sure you understand what you are expected to deliver. Be enthusiastic and confident when talking to people, and enjoy the idea of meeting new people and that NO two days are ever the same. Lucy Randle of STAR Medical offers some top tips for a flying start in pharmaceutical sales: I recently interviewed a rookie rep who had just started their pharmaceutical sales career. When asked what they would do in their first six months they replied; ‘get my head down, deliver lots of calls and keep my boss sweet’. This response brought a wry smile to my face. I really don’t think that it was this approach that got Simon to where he is now. If you are new to the industry, here are some pointers that may help to launch your pharma sales career successfully: What’s my job? Start at the very beginning. Do you really know what you are being asked to achieve? What expectations does your manager/trainer/company have? Are these expectations specific, measurable, achievable and realistic? Do you know what success will look like? Seek first to understand Having come off a training course with a head full of facts and figures, you will be at serious risk of dumping data on your customers. You will need to be highly disciplined to ensure you ‘use your two ears and one mouth in those proportions’, and really listen to and understand your customer’s needs. Showing off your newly-found knowledge of the patient numbers and p-values in the latest study will only serve to alienate your customer, who probably won’t know or care that you are new to the job. It’s not what you know . . . In my experience, the people who make the best start upon joining the industry are those who have exceptional networking skills. They see the value in taking time early on to build a network of useful contacts to advise, support, mentor and counsel them. This should happen both internally (e.g. head office staff, initial training course colleagues, top reps in the region) and externally (e.g. other reps on territory, rep-friendly GPs, postgraduate centre managers). Learn, learn, learn The learning curve for any new sales representative is steep, and this is heightened in our industry by the complexities of the NHS environment and the uniqueness of our customer base. This means there is a huge amount of knowledge - and skill-building to be done. During this period of your career, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask, challenge and question in order to make sure you really understand. Finally, you have a finite amount of time to use the line I’m new, can you help me? . . . so don’t waste it!