Now-a-days all Pharma Companies have been struggling to find good quality candidates for field positions (Medical Representatives), because of the job opportunities available elsewhere, like BPOs, Big Shopping Complexes, etc. Since this Industry has been doing well, obviously we see lot of new entrants coming in, and they are also on the look- out for candidates for field work. Under the circumstances, if the Line Managers follow up with under/poor performers to understand the reasons and improve their performances, many MRs chose to keep the bags down and call it ‘quits’ because they know, they don’t have to wait for too long for another job. All these have put a lot of pressure on Pharma Companies, a) to fill up vacancies – both existing, as well as for expansion programmes, b) retaining existing people, and also c) make the existing under/low performers perform better, without making them quit. We discuss below some of the ways and means to address this important issue:
a)Widen your net for sourcing of candidates. Example, Campus placements ( in as much colleges as possible), let the Line Managers spread the message for candidates to their friends’ and professional circle, take the help of own field force/team members (reward them if they give a good candidate), mass SMS to the concerned age group, print Ads in prominent dailies, friendly neighbourhood dailies (this may be cost effective as well effective too) in places where the vacancies are there, seeking the help of recruitment consultants/agencies, etc.
The Company as well as the Line Managers must understand that ‘vacancies means loss of business’ therefore the importance of filling up of vacancies with the right candidates FAST. Business once lost due to vacancies, is pretty difficult and time consuming to get back, even after filling up of such vacancies.
b) Try to select the better ones from the pool of candidates available.
c) Selected candidates should strictly meet the important eligibility criteria, as given below, so as to ensure that the right candidates have been selected. Don’t compromise/dilute on selection criteria/process.
i) Age (not more than 25), Qualification (atleast a graduate, preferably Science), iii) Fresher or with only 1-2 years experience in similar line, iv) willing to be posted anywhere iv) good communication, vi) owning a 2 wheeler with a valid driving licence, etc.
d) Offer a salary structure, daily allowances, performance linked incentives, etc. close to the Industry standards for similar sized companies, so that eligible candidates do not reject the Company, or soon after joining, they don’t leave, as some other Company is giving a raise.
e) Selected candidates should be exposed to a good class room training programme to impart the following skills, knowledge, and behaviour in them:
i) Product Knowledge for all products:
From my experience I can say that a majority of MRs (more so if they comes from other than Science stream) feel that ‘Product Knowledge’ is very tough, technical, hence difficult to learn, whereas in reality it is not so. If such MRs understand the following basics, it is very much possible to master ‘Product Knowledge’.
The product treats which disease, and how that disease/illness is caused?
How the product treats that disease/illness?
The role of each ingredient/composition of the product in addressing the disease
Benefits of the product vis-a-vis major competitors’ products
If the above are explained to the Trainee MRs in a simple and easy way to understand, I am sure their understanding of the Products being taught will be far better, and I have seen this happening.
We are all aware that now-a-days it is difficult to find candidates for the position of a MR with good communication skill. Therefore we are required to improve their skill in this important area during our class room training programme, and also should be carried forward by the Line Managers during their On the Job Training during joint work.
The MRs should be made to understand/realize that if they want to be successful in this job, it is very important that they should be good in their communication skill as well. If the MR is very sincere in addressing this issue, the urge to improve should come from within, then every thing else will be falling in place, because good communication skill can be acquired, through practice, practice, and more practice. MRs should be asked to practice the following during class room training programme towards improvement of communication/detailing skill:
a) They should understand that more than 50% of the job is already done, if they get their communication good/right.
b) I have seen Trainee MRs struggling to pronounce lengthy words. The solution lies in breaking lengthy words into many convenient parts, tell them separately, and once comfortable in pronouncing them separately, can tell the same in one go. For example: ‘Metalloproteinases’. This can be broken down into a) Metallo, b) Protein, c) Ases. Tell them separately, and once you are comfortable, tell the full word in one go, you got it!.
c) It is important to understand the meaning of every word/line in the detailing story. This will help in proper detailing.
d) Use pointer always while detailing.
e) Keep eye contact with the customers while detailing
f) Say boldly whenever mentioning the brand name, and benefits/advantages of the products.
g) If the detailing/communication is good/interesting, Doctors tend to give a little more time also!.
h) Develop the habit of reading English newspapers daily
i) Can join spoken English classes on holidays/Sundays.
j) One can stand in front of the mirror, detail, watch the English, body language, and then correct wherever improvement is required. Ravi Sastri, the famous ex-cricketer has practiced like this, before he mastered the art of ‘running commentary’.
k) One can try to converse in English as much as possible at home and also with friends in order to improve spoken English
Benefits of mastering the communication & Product Knowledge:
a) More Doctor conversions, leading to better results
b) More confidence, not afraid to detail even to a great Doctor and convince him/her.
c) Due to better results, more earning.
d) Career growth
e) Better acceptance in the peer group, customers, industry, and also in society.
iii)Other than Product Knowledge, and Communication, they should be exposed to introduction about the organization and its back ground, what is the job responsibility, and career growth prospects available in the job for good performers, necessary selling and marketing skills, like how to identify right customers for right products, how to do market survey (RCPA) to identify right customers for right products with exact potential, important competitors’ brands for each product, how to fill up required report/s, what are their daily allowances, leave eligibilities, details of insurance coverage, incentive schemes, importance of doing POB every day, achieving call & coverage norms month after month, etc.
Thus, Training can be used to create the difference in the field force. Line Managers should carry forward, and ensure that the ‘difference’ created in the field force is further improved upon, and polished well during their On the Job Training (OJT) during joint work.
f) Selected candidates, who have successfully completed the class room Training Programme also, can be offered a posting closer to their native, to the extent possible, so that they are not inconvenienced much, which may make them to stay longer, as I have often seen that people joining for the sake of getting a job, and opt for postings far away, but after a few months, leave the job quoting this as the reason.
g) Ensuring salary, expenses, and incentives if any, are paid to the field force promptly. We need to understand that most of the MRs belong to lower middle class families, stay alone in their H.Qs, can’t ask their parents to support them even after having a job, therefore need money promptly to take care of their living expenses.
h) The Line Managers, must understand their role clearly, ensure proper induction of newly joined MRs, put them on the right track from day one, guide them properly, motivate them, address genuine problems/issues if any, so as to ensure that they succeed in their job, start earning incentives, and become more confident. This will ensure ‘respect’ for Line Managers, and also the MRs under such Line Managers are likely to stay for long.
i) To ensure that career aspirations of consistent performers are taken care of properly. Before looking outside for Line Managers, please see if we have proven talents inside.
j) If existing people do well, earn incentives, under proper guidance and direction of Line Managers, then obviously sales performance as well as top and bottom lines in the balance Managers, the top and bottom lines in the balance sheet will improve considerably. This will help organizations to take better care of the employees, leading to better brand image for the organizations in the market place. Under the circumstances, people will like to join such organizations, and existing employees will last longer. Retention of employees and filling up of vacancies, therefore, will be that much easier.
If the above are taken care of in all sincerity, I am sure it will take us closer to creating a vibrant, active and highly committed field force, which is the secret to success in these days of very tough competition out there in the market place. They are vastly different from the average MR that we see in many Pharma Companies today. Such field force through their systematic and better quality working will create genuine demand for business, and sales closings every month will be a pleasure for them instead of pain. They are vastly different from the average MRs that we see in many Pharma Companies today.
(The author Mr.V.Srinivasan is heading the Training & Development function in M/s.Nutri Synapzz Therapeutix Pvt Ltd, Bangalore. He has over 30 years of rich experience in Pharma Industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile no:09972390513)