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Lunch and Lunacy

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Lunch and Lunacy
Author:  PharmaVet
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Some of the most entertaining pharmaceutical sales stories revolve around the 'lunch and learn'. It's a necessary evil...most pharma reps despise catering lunch to medical offices but realize that it's sometimes the only way to get any time with a prescriber. Some of my favorite stories:

Years ago I had scheduled lunch many months in advance with a key office. There were two physicians and assorted staff, and I called the day before to confirm that both physicians would be there. I was assured that they would be. The next day I arrived at the office, food in hand, only to be told that Dr. A was on vacation (suddenly?) and Dr. B had a staff meeting at the hospital (those are scheduled well in advance)...but that I should go ahead and leave the food. Instead, I breezily said, 'Oh, no...don't worry about it. I'll give you a call to reschedule.’ And I sailed back out the door with my lunch and drove to a nearby office where the physician didn't require lunches (and, in fact, threw an annual holiday party for drug reps to express his appreciation). I took the food in, announced 'Surprise! Lunch for everyone!’ and got more mileage out of that lunch than I ever did with the office for which it was originally intended.

There was another office with a very large staff who requested that I bring Chinese food. I called the best Chinese restaurant in town and tried to place my order with the owner, who didn't speak much English. I thought he had confirmed that the food would come in the traditional white boxes that serve more than one person, but the food came out instead in individual styrofoam containers with flip tops and tab closures, which would make serving a crowd tricky. To make matters worse, in trying to stabilize all the containers, I picked one up the wrong way and dumped the contents all over the back seat of my car. There is nothing quite as permanent as the stench of cashew chicken baked into the car's upholstery on a hot summer day.

I once did a lunch with a large office on a Friday. I was surprised that, when I called to confirm, they requested pizza and very helpfully offered to call in the order for me. As I waited for physicians to come in and talk to me, I began to notice that some of nurses would sort through the stacks of pizzas and identify them – 'This one's mine, this one is Kathy's’ – and would grab an entire pizza and a 2-liter of soda and leave. The mystery was solved when I asked one of the nurses why the physicians hadn't stopped in yet, and she told me that none of them were in the office that afternoon. I suddenly realized that, not only were no prescribers there, but the nurses and staff had used me to provide Friday night dinner for their kids. That was why they were leaving the room with whole pizzas. So I gathered up all the unopened pizzas and beverages, packed them into my car, and left. I had no idea what to do with all that pizza until I saw a man holding a 'will work for food’ sign. I stopped and told him that I had just come from a business lunch and had several unopened pizzas, and that he could have them if he had a way to get them home. The man began to cry and told me that his kids hadn't had pizza in two years. He assured me that he had a ride and a freezer, so I left all those untouched pizzas with him. I felt a bit better knowing that the pizza would be enjoyed by kids who probably had very little to enjoy any more.

I took lunch once to a two-physician practice in a one-dog town. Everyone was getting their food and chatting before getting down to business, and I said to one of the nurses, 'Well, believe me…’ and followed it with some comment that had nothing to do with medicine. We were discussing a TV show or shopping or something equally trivial. One of the doctors interrupted, saying with a sneer, 'Don't ever ask anyone to believe you. You're a drug rep.’ Everyone froze for a moment as I gave him the one-raised-eyebrow look and kept chatting with the nurse. After lunch, as I was cleaning up, the office manager came back in and apologized for the doctor's behavior. She said, 'You handled him beautifully. You're the first one who hasn't cried.’

My territory had shifted a bit, and I picked up a city I had never called on before. At the end of two terrible days of calling on offices where the staff were downright mean, I stopped to try my luck at a family practice office. It was a solo practice, and the doctor couldn't have been nicer. He was an unusual man, with a crazy mop of wild gray hair, jeans, and a cast on his arm (he broke it fixing his motorcycle in his kitchen). He invited me in, we had a nice talk, and he told me to come back any time. The next time I was in town, I brought him a batch of homemade cookies to express my appreciation. He had tears in his eyes as he told me that no one had ever made him cookies before. On my third visit to his office, I was greeted in the waiting room by the FBI and interrogated – why was I there, where was the doctor, and so on. I still don't know what he had done, but apparently he skipped town just ahead of the feds.

A friend of mine in another state used to call on a physician who insisted on eating only foods that don't have a smell. She never really did figure out what she could feed him.

Some lunch lunacies that have driven me...well, loony:

Doctors who complain that lunches drive up the cost of meds...while they're eating the lunch I brought.

Office staff who deliberately inflate the headcount because they're afraid I don't have good enough sense or manners to make sure there's more than enough food. As though I don't routinely add a few to the headcount anyway.

People who don't bother to thank me for bringing them $500 worth of lunch.

Office staff who deliberately inflate the headcount so they can take leftovers home and have a ready-made free dinner for the family.

People who come to my lunch and say, loudly enough for me to hear, that they don't like this caterer...or there's nothing here they'll eat...or they just had this yesterday. Or they don't say anything, just make a face and make a big production out of having leftovers from yesterday's lunch that was brought by that wonderful rep who always brings such wonderful food. Unlike SOME people we know.

Doctors who RSVP that they will attend a dinner program, and also reaffirm when I double-check on it the day of the program, and then don't show up. It's humiliating sitting in a private room at a restaurant that demanded that a guarantee of a certain number of dinners, and it's just you and the speaker who flew in at great expense.

Doctors who instruct their receptionist to refuse invitations to dinner programs because they're offended that we can no longer include their spouses in the invitation. And yet they never came to programs anyway even when we could invite spouses.

Offices where they actually hand out a memo outlining what they will and won't eat.

Offices where they hand you a memo that says they only want boxed lunches and individual drinks (for a headcount of 40-50) in order to cut down on waste. And then they complain that they're tired of sandwiches. What exactly do they think is in a boxed lunch?

Offices that don't hand you a memo, but expect you to remember that they have eight people doing South Beach and six counting points...but two of those aren't very religious about it, and a few more decided to start today...and eight people on Atkins but in different stages of the diet, so they don't all eat the same way yet...and one who's lactose-intolerant, two who are diabetic, five who insist on low-fat, low-cholesterol (and four of those are already included in one of the aforementioned diets), one vegan, one who can't have gluten, one with an alleged allergy to onions and garlic, two who get reflux from tomato products, one who swears she is allergic to mushrooms but everyone thinks she's just being a pain, and three who don't like much of anything. But we're not picky. We like pretty much anything. Just surprise us.

 
 
  Author: Catwoman
 
    Re: Lunch and Lunacy   Log In to Report Post
 
   This article was dead-on. In 18 years of medical sales, I have had many of the same experiences. The concept is after all "Lunch and Learn" and that needs to be stressed with the office staff. It makes me really angry to be used; on the other hand, doing "lunch and learn" in the OR setting has been wildly successful for me. Those doctors and nurses are grateful for the food, and I have managed to squeeze in a little creativity in the process. I provided a luau at the end of the day for the cardiologists and nurses in a cardiac cath lab in one hospital. It was fun, and I managed to get a commitment from the doctors to use my products. Two days later, I got a huge order from this hospital.So, my advice on L and L's is to use them judiciously, and establish ground rules at the start.
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader
 
    Re: Lunch and Lunacy   Log In to Report Post
 
   That was a great, you summed that up very well!!!!
 
 
 
  Author: MommyofTwins
 
    Re: Lunch and Lunacy   Log In to Report Post
 
   PharmaVet
I LOVE that you shared your lunch stories. I was a rep for about a year before I had twins and got displaced before I was off maternity leave. In the short time I was repping I ran into some of these lunch situations so reading this made my chuckle becuase your stories give a pretty good view of the lunch run-around in offices for those looking to get into the industry. Thank you!!
 
 
 
  Author: PharmaVet
 
    Re: Lunch and Lunacy   Log In to Report Post
 
  

I don't know anything specific about Sepracor's interviewing m.o. However, in general, with any pharma interview you should be prepared to answer questions in STAR format. Even if the interview is not specified as STAR, it's a very good way to answer interview questions. It gives you not just an answer, but an answer that is supported by a story.

The lack of a brag book WILL hurt you. What you need to understand, though, is that a brag book doesn't contain only sales rankings or awards from a previous job. It can contain anything that is evidence that you're an achiever, a doer, a winner. College transcripts, certificates showing that you've completed something, anything that proves your fabulosity should go in your brag book. If you scroll up this page you'll find a link on the left to my article on brag books.

 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader
 
    PSSSEPRACOR INTERVIEWS   Log In to Report Post
 
   I will be interviewing for SEPRACOR pharma. Will anyone please give me any feedback on their interview techniques, please ? This will be a 1 year contract position to possibly permanent. I have no awards to show for or rankings because my previous company was not offering them.
What is this company looking for in an individual ? Will the lack of a brag book hurt me ? Any helpful interviewing tips from anyone will be greatly appreciated. THANK YOU!!!
 

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