An Open Letter To Salespeople Who Visit My Office

Please have a seat. We need to have a chat.

You do decent work and I know you are a new product rep. However, we need to lay down some ground rules here if we intend on working together. If you find this offensive or a waste of your time, you are free to leave anytime but I suggest you stick around and hear me out.

Let us start with what I expect, etiquette-wise, when you come to my office.

Please do not just show up to my office unannounced. It is just plain disruptive. If you expect to have any time with me at all, the worst thing you can possibly do is show up during my very busy day without any notice. The staff hates it because really, you are in the way. The patients hate it because if I give you my time while they are there, they feel like I am not paying them the attention they deserve and expect.

Please do not show up unannounced at my office during my lunch hour expecting my attention. Lunch is when I catch up on charts and phone calls. I may even be trying to rush out the door to get to my office across town to start another busy session. Notice I did not bring up actually eating lunch at all. That is a luxury I cannot afford sometimes. If I do not have the time to feed myself, do you really think I give a hoot about what you are trying to show/sell me?

If you absolutely need something from me (like a signature on a document), call the office to make sure I am there and ask if you can come by. This way, my staff knows you are coming and can let me know you are coming. Show up when you say you are going to show up as well please. Do not tell my staff you will be there in 10 minutes and show up three hours later when we are all leaving. When you do come by, I expect you to be a ghost. Sneak in, be polite, get what you need from me and quietly make an exit. I cannot have you hanging out, talking to staff while they are trying to do their work, chatting up patients or trying to get my attention for more than the signature you need. It casts a bad shadow on you.

I have to remind you that in most situations, you are coming to my place of business to conduct business. Especially when we first meet, do not expect me to welcome you as a best friend or treat you like one just yet. That takes time just like any relationship.

If you do insist on showing up unannounced, do not come empty-handed. The Sunshine Law doesn’t mean you cannot bring my staff something to munch on. They will be far more likely to dismiss the intrusion (yes, it is an intrusion to them) if they can happily munch on a doughnut during their afternoon. Seriously. A little gesture goes a long way. If you can't quite figure that out, you have a lot to learn.

How To Get Our Attention

Schedule a lunch and bring food. You can’t afford it? Your boss won’t let you because you are not allowed to feed my staff? The “Sunshine” thing has you gloomy? Really? Tell your boss I am a big eater and all five pizzas were for me. If I know when and what time you are coming, I promise you will have my undivided attention. Show me the new stuff. Talk to me about why your medication is better than all the others. I will pay attention and my staff will love you for breaking up the monotony of the day with greasy pizza and the full-on sugar rush they will get from the soda you brought.

Once you have done the right thing, scheduled a lunch and fed my staff (oh, I mean me), do not bug me every 48 hours about using whatever it is you are peddling. Give it a few months. If you “pop by” (see above), do not be surprised if I politely ignore you. Find a way to “bump” into me somewhere. I know that is not easy. What you have is a job and if it were easy, well … you know the rest.

Now if you have a neat new surgical product you want me to try, I really like trying it on something other than one of my patients first. This would involve a sawbone or cadaver in a lab for example. If you cannot be bothered to make sure I am at one of your lab workshops if there is one locally, how do you think I will get experience with your product and use it on one of my patients? If there is a dinner lecture with a talented, experienced surgeon who wants to tell me about your product and his or her success with it, great. Please make sure I know about it. Now that I have brought up the operating room …

How To Conduct Yourself In The OR

You better know your product. Not with your nose in the pamphlet while you’re on the phone with your product manager during the case. You need to know your product cold. If you are not confident with the product, how do you expect me to be when I am using it on my patient for the first time? If I ask you a technique question, I expect an answer right away, not “hold on while I call” so-and-so. That will not fly at all, especially if you steer me wrong. If you leave out a step during the procedure or tell me to use the wrong instrument and things go wrong, well, we have a problem.

Along those same lines, if something does go wrong, please do not start getting mouthy. The worst thing you can possibly say is, “I told you you should not have done that it that way.” The other thing not to say is, “Maybe you need a little more practice on the sawbones before you try that again.” This is my patient on the table and I need to circumvent whatever it is that went wrong. You saying anything (unless asked) is only going to serve to aggravate the situation. I know I can act like a hot shot sometimes but my ego is fragile and blurting out stuff like that in the OR makes the staff in there question my skills and whether I actually know what I am doing. Frankly, if you cannot understand that, you have no business in anyone’s OR. When things get tense, please stay quiet. I will ask you if I need some guidance. I would prefer if you did not volunteer information. I do my best thinking when there is quiet and generally when things go wrong, I have a lot of thinking to do.

Be gentle with your guidance in all situations. There are many ways to relay the same information. My native tongue is Romanian. In my first language, there is a great saying that basically translates to “The tone makes the music.” Do you understand where I am going with this?

Also, as I mentioned, the OR is one of my places of business. We do not need to hear all about your various weekend escapades. We do not need loud, obnoxious behavior. We need quiet, concentrated attention to the task at hand. When we are in the lounge or in the hallway between cases, I would be happy to tell you about how cute my kids are and I would love to hear all about yours but not in the OR when I am working. I am happy to shoot the breeze with you when we are hanging out but not while I am working, at least not until I am comfortable with your products and we have had a few successful cases together.

Lastly, don’t ever say to me “I’ve never seen that happen before.” That means one of two things to me (in general): either you are lying or you just have not been around long enough to see the complications associated with your product. Neither of those two things will endear me to you. Hearing this comment from you also tells me that you do not have the good sense to know when to talk and when to stay silent.

Now that we have gone through all that, as we get to know each other better, things will loosen up, assuming you are still around. I have seen a lot of reps come and go so forgive me if that sounds harsh, but reality generally is harsh.

More Advice On Staying Out Of Trouble

Do not complain about your job and/or fellow reps and/or your boss. I could not care less and word will get around fast. If you intend on having a long career as a rep, that is a big no-no.

Another big no-no is to complain to me about other doctors. We all know each other and the walls have ears. If you are bad mouthing one of them, I assume you will do the same about me regardless of how much you seem to like me or say to my face. I know I can be a pompous jerk. If you say I am a pompous jerk behind my back, I will find out and call your boss. I promise.

I do not want to hear about how little you get paid or how bringing my staff (oops, I meant me) doughnuts is putting a dent in your drinking/weekend fund. This is another thing I could not care less about. I do not trouble you with how much (or little) insurance companies pay me as I am sure you could not care less. Spare me the lesson in your finances. Bring my staff a doughnut or two. Seriously.

Any questions?

Final Notes

I thought of this blog during an awesome dinner with a good friend, whom I first met when he was a rep. We laughed our tails off about stories behind the above advice. So thanks, Matt Kandell. I hope to share many more stories with you over the years.

Lastly, I would like to give some kudos to some truly outstanding reps I have had the privilege of working with and knowing both past and present. Cory (Philadelphia) and Nick (Virginia Beach) with Integra, Jennifer (Philadelphia) and Corey (Virginia Beach) with DJO, and Larry (Philadelphia) with Arthrosurface. I truly believe that when you work with good people, it makes you better and they deserve to know you appreciate their work. Tell their bosses too. No, they did not pay me to give them kudos. They are really that good.



Chris Murphysays: February 13, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Dr. Raducanu,

I am a medical device representative and a former drug representative in NJ. I enjoyed and appreciated your 'open letter'. For me personally, it serves as a reminder that it is not about ME. It is about YOU and your practice/patients. We sales reps can get so caught up in our sales goals and the company's urgency for numbers that we blindly barge into your office expecting a meeting and a case with our new hammertoe implant.

I, for one, will reevaluate my approach to office visits and staff (I mean, Doctor) treats.

I would like to know though, in your view, what makes the reps you mentioned "really good"? Perhaps you could discuss this in another article?

Reply to this comment »
Ron Raducanu, D.P.M.says: February 14, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Hi Chris and thanks for the feedback.

I really think you hit the nail on the head that companies are really pushing their reps for "hard sells" and more quantity rather than honestly trying to build a quality relationship with the physicians. Believe it or not, I've had reps break every single one of the above "rules" and continue to even after the above was explained to them politely. They've followed me out of my car, tried talking to me while I'm on the phone or talking to patients, and even have interrupted me in treatment rooms while treating patients!

"Really good" reps are sensitive to all the above issues without having to be told per se. They are "naturals" at what they do. The ones that are in the OR know their products back and forth, know how to talk to the egos of surgeons, can troubleshoot, and know when to talk and when to stay quiet. The best ones know how to steer you in the right direction to avoid issues when they see things going south. And they generally do this politely and without anyone even knowing they are doing it.

I hope that helps.

Reply to this comment »
Patti Ferrisays: March 1, 2013 at 2:12 am

Dr. Radacanu,

Great article and reference tool for all reps to review from time to time. Thanks for the reminders and I will share your blog with the reps in my network.

The saying "tone makes the music" are great words to live by, not just in work-related communication but in all aspects of communication so thanks for sharing it.

Appreciate you taking the time to share your insight.

Reply to this comment »
Mat Kandellsays: March 10, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Doc,

Thanks for the mention in this blog. I think every rep old and new should be taught these points. It is very important that reps and managers understand that knowing everything about their product is equal and maybe slightly less (I say that loosely) important as the conduct and respect that you need for a surgeon to believe and respect you enough to trust you with his patients. I am blessed to have worked with Dr. R in a rep's role as well as management in orthopedics. It's a sticky game we arere all in and it's nice to see the good people within this world of orthopedics. Kudos for NO FUSIONS Doc!!! :).

Mat Kandell

Reply to this comment »
Ron Raducanu DPMsays: March 18, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Thanks Mat,

I appreciate the kind words!

Reply to this comment »

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