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First Impressions of Reps

Discussion in 'Ask Dr. Dave' started by DrDave, Aug 22, 2013 at 7:08 AM.

  1. DrDave

    DrDave Member

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    The following question was posed on the Med Student thread, but it really is a separate topic, so I thought I would re-post it as a starter:

    With the caveat that what applies to me does not necessarily apply to all doctors:

    I don’t meant this flippantly, but when I’m "swamped with patients" is the last time you want to make a first impression because the odds are so skewed against you. How often has someone made a good first impression while interrupting you when you’re busy? It's probably better to make your impression at another time.

    Any rep, new or familiar, may schedule lunch in my office. My clerical staff handles the scheduling (IE no interruption for me while directly caring for patients), so the lunch itself is the better opportunity for a first impression. I’m more focused and much less likely to be interrupted. In addition, I have times I have made known that are better for me if lunch is not an option for whatever the reason. Of course, I realize that every office has its own system of access (or lack thereof), but, generally speaking, if you can find out when things are slower or when the physician you want to see prefers interaction, that’s best for first impressions.

    This is a little less concrete, but if you cannot really be certain of where you are inserting your interaction in the flow of patient care, think of it this way:

    Picture yourself the last time you had to see a provider or maybe the last time you accompanied an ill family member to a physician’s office. You may have been worried, very ill or just in simply a hurry with many other important things going on that day. Now picture a field rep colleague with the same drug to detail as yours stepping in immediately before your patient encounter to compete for your health care provider’s attention. How would you feel about the priority of the field rep’s need compared to your own or your family member’s need?

    I try very hard to ensure that this scenario doesn’t happen in my practice, but reps can’t really know how flow is managed in my office or anyone else's. Reps who see a crowded waiting room, hurried looks or staff waiting for a provider’s gaze to shift and still push forward with talking points about their drugs are not going to leave a good first impression. In contrast, if they are somehow able to convey that they truly understand that patients come first – not just the abstract, hypothetical study population in their glossies but also the patients sharing the waiting room with them – they usually leave a good first impression. For example, this may seem small, but I always prefer hearing “I know you have patients waiting” to “I know you’re busy.” It tells me there is understanding of why we (hopefully) both do what we do.

    Thanks for your post and your question! I hope that's helpful in some way.
     

  2. anonymous

    anonymous Guest

    Hi Dr. Dave,

    Thank you for helping shedding some light on a physician's perspective, I really appreciate the transparency! As a newer/younger rep with primary care experience, who has now switched over into specialty, I have a few follow up questions. I would hope that every rep here already knows that a patients' needs come first and that time is always limited, but I know that sadly isn't always the case.

    1. Given time/access can be an issue, I always want to make the best first impression possible and would never interrupt a crowded office. When the opportune moment finally arises, how can I distinguish myself from the other reps? There's many posts about higher/lower quality reps, and I genuinely view my role as providing support for two of our major healthcare stakeholders and keeping tabs on state/community/disease state changes and being a "cliffnotes" type resource. What kind of impression would if leave if I just bluntly stated this in my introductory meeting? It takes time to build a relationship and earn the right to ask questions, and I am afraid that telling a provider about my mission statement might be cheesy/dramatic.

    I switched into specialty because I wanted to have scientific discussions about peer reviewed journals, talk about their views on the healthcare system, help with ICD10 changes, state reimbursement programs and the roles reps provide (if any), figure out what thought leaders they respected and why etc etc. There's zero time for that in PC offices, and I felt I never got to have those types of discussions due to time or the assumption that I wouldn't provide much value. I want to maximize my efficiency towards immediately standing out as a "good" rep. I've seen bad reps in the field and I'm always amazed by a general lack of professionalism or disease state knowledge. I fear I'll be lumped into a doctor's preconceived negative notion of reps.

    2. Do you have any examples, or opinions of what you think makes up an amazing rep? Ways they've been able to help you or your office? And, what do you think the breakdown of building friendship vs. office understanding/perception should be? 50/50? 10/90? At times if I have a lunch, I feel like I'm wasting a doctor's time if I'm asking about where they went to school or why they decided to go into medicine, but I know that I'll be calling on them for a while and I really want to get to know them as a person. If I start immediately talking about the healthcare system or new product changes, I don't want that to be perceived as rude. I'm having trouble finding the balance of how much I can understand about them/their patients and how much they already know about my products/disease state changes.

    Thank you!
     
  3. DrDave

    DrDave Member

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    Thanks for your post and your questions. With the disclaimer that all physicians are different (with the possible exception of being hard to please), I always appreciate the approach of keeping the first interaction more personal than product focused. Upon reflecting, the reps who introduce themselves and then ask what would work best for me to discuss his/her role in supporting my practice as it relates to the product(s) (as opposed to "when can we talk about Brand X?") are unusual and virtually always get a commitment to that second meeting. The corollary is to avoid making assumptions about what the physician wants your role to be. For example, you don't want to extol the virtues of your patient education materials if the physician has a negative perception of pharmaceutical industry direct to patient education. Using your ICD-10 example - our EMR has robust support of ICD-10 built in. If you indicated ICD-10 support as a service you offer, it wouldn't make a negative impression, but it certainly wouldn't stand out.

    The friendship question is a little more challenging. Some physicians really have no interest in the relationship component of the sales interaction. I tend toward the opposite. I have friends who are/were reps that have not called on me for years with whom I still keep in contact. Generally, I don't choose to spend time with people whose company I don't enjoy unless there is a very compelling reason. In 2016, there are many ways to access pharmaceutical support without the personal interaction, so with the hyper-awareness that friendship can potentially bias prescribing, I spend more time interacting with the reps that I also consider friendly acquaintances or friends.

    I hope some of that is helpful. Best of luck to you!