Minnye Q. Driver jolts out of a deep sleep at 6am, thanks to the sonic blast of National Public Radio. Stumbling around her duplex to the caws of radio reporter Cokie Roberts, Minnye brews a pot of coffee for her early morning caffeine fix. After a couple of gulps, Minnie luxuriates in the caffeine hit and steels herself for the first call of the day. She sighs.
She is so sick of the daily conference call with the boss and the other pharmaceutical representatives about sales strategies for the company’s razzle-dazzle new anti-allergy drug. It has a long scientific name, but Minnye lovingly calls it “Sneeze No More.” If she exceeds her sales quota, it’ll be “Be Poor No More” for Minnye.
Not that she’s hurting for money, Minnye reminds herself. Ever since she signed on with her Big Pharma company as a pharma sales rep, her income has shot up by more than 100 percent: base salary + bonus + expense account = big $$$$$.
Sure beats working at the SPCA, Minnye thinks. No more desk jobs for this old girl. She is her own boss, that is, if you don’t count the conference calls and lunch and dinner company check-ins. Her den is her home office, and then there’s the office on wheels—the Lexus mini-van, courtesy of her employer that also picks up the tab for gas and meals on the road.
The boom of the “1812 Overture” interrupts Minnye’s thoughts. Love that ringtone, Minnye thinks, as she punches the phone keypad and shoves in the earbuds to join the conference call. Her boss, Tomas Cruze, is a droner. Sales targets for this year, 160 percent of last year, says Tomas, droning away, ticking off the key points of sales strategy. Every day, sell, sell, sell, Tomas bleats. Ram it in to these docs. This is the BEST. ALLERGY. FIGHTER. EVER.
“Yes” chime in the other sales reps on the line. Minnye is part of a team of five reps covering a sales territory of hundreds of square miles.
As Tomas goes on and on with his “sell sell sell” pep talk, Minnye is itching to hit the road.
Mercifully, the calls ends, and Minnye changes from her PJs to a sharp but tastefully conservative dress and jacket, designer flats, and “understated” earrings. Next item on the workday agenda is to check her routing schedule, where each doctor and other health care pro is assigned a number: high-numbered folks get more visits per year. Minnye’s schedule tells her it’s time to drop in on Dr. Reynard Gupta.
Minnye remembers her last brief encounter with Dr. Gupta. His eyes lingered long and hard on Minnye and not because he was captivated by her (she thought) excellent pitch on the wonders of an anti-flatulence drug. What’s worse, he took more than his fair share of samples and ended up not prescribing the drug to a single patient. Minnye ticks off the other names on the list. Dr. Napoleon Solo—nice fellow, very patient, listens to her pitches, and, best of all, he is that Holy Grail of the pharma rep, a High Prescriber. Have sample, will prescribe. Yes, yes, yes, way to go, Dr. Solo, whispers Minnye. But then, the list has Nurse Nelly Nation—ouch, the gatekeeper who hasn’t let Minnye into see “the doctor” once. “The doctor is extremely busy” the nurse would rasp as she slammed the door on Minnye. Hmm, and six others, Minnye says to herself. It’s shaping up to be a busy day.
Minnye packs herself, samples, promotional materials, and laptop into the Lexus and roars off to her first appointment, an 8:30am visit to Dr. Gupta. Twenty minutes later, Minnye pulls into the parking lot of a pastel-pink stucco office park, and stays in her car for a couple of minutes, reviewing her call objective; in other words, what the heck she planned to achieve with Dr. Gupta, pharmaceutically speaking, of course. Okay. Minnye practices her spiel. Sales Point 1: This anti-allergy drug has no side effects. Sales Point 2: It tastes good, like a rich, smooth piece of fudge. Sales Point 3: The competition’s copycat product sucks.
“Hmm, maybe that third point isn’t a winner,” Minnye tells herself. Five minutes later, Minnye is at the front desk and flashes her 10-zillion-watt smile at a bored-looking nurse. Minnye hasn’t met her before. Oh-oh, a newbie. Minnye introduces herself, and the nurse takes her card and squints at it.
“The doctor is busy. Leave your samples and come back. ” The five patients in the adjoining waiting room give Minnye nasty looks of the “wait-your-turn” variety.
Suddenly, a door swings open, and a leering-but-gleeful Dr. Gupta rushes out to meet Minnye.
“Oh, Ms. Driver, a pleasure. Please come in.” He smiles at his waiting patients as if to apologize for the delay.
In his office, Minnye dives into her spiel, not letting the liquid longing in the eyes of Dr. Gupta derail her. The pitch is pithy, funny and effective. Minnye piles drug samples on the huge oak desk, and she coos: “Dr. Gupta. May I have the honor of you prescribing this breakthrough anti-allergy drug to the first 10 allergy patients?” Minnye can’t believe it, but she actually bats her eyelashes.
Hey, it’s all in a day of sales. Dr. Gupta almost gushes as he says: “Yes, yes, YES!”
Minnye reminds herself that talk is cheap, though probably not as cheap as Dr. Gupta. Last time she swung by his office, he grabbed the samples, listened to her pitch. All well and good, yes, but her follow-up research told her that Gupta had not prescribed one single pill. Minnye knows that pharma sales operate on hope and good follow-up. A pharma rep’s track record rises and falls based on the number of “writes”—that is, doctors actually prescribing the drug Minnye’s pushing.
Minnye and Gupta shake hands—Gupta’s hand lingering a tad too long—and Minnye hops back into the driver’s seat and heads off to the next of several offices for a repeat performance (without the Don Juan subtext, Minnye hopes).
The next appointments go swimmingly. Dr. Solo comes through and snaps up everything. Nurse Nation, for the first time, lets Minnye in to see “the doctor” who hems and haws and grudgingly accepts some samples. Minnye thinks the competition has gotten to him and makes him her next “project.”
It’s been a good day, so Minnye lets herself take a non-working lunch, and she spends an hour or so at the surf-and-turf joint on the turnpike, chowing down on a Caesar salad and catching up on the newest thriller by David Baldacchi (a guilty pleasure, Minnye admits).
Next stop is the local pharmacy, where Minnye checks in with Don Drapette, the pharmacist, on the prescribing patterns of doctors in her districts. It’s kind of a scorecard for Minnye: She’ll get an idea of how convincing she’s been and what geographical areas she’ll have to pull out the big guns on.
“Hey, Don, what’s shakin’?” Minnye says as Don rushes up to meet her. Don is wearing a bright-blue beanie, a spot of color in his otherwise white uniform of a pharmacist. Minnye wondered by Don doesn’t invest in her company’s anti-balding medication, instead of making himself look ridiculous in his fruitless attempts to camouflage his bald spot. Oh well, she thinks, let’s save that spiel for another day.
“Minnye, always a pleasure, mademoiselle,” says Don, bowing slightly to kiss her hand. Oh those French ex-pats, she thinks.
Don gives her the 411. Prescriptions of her company’s anti-allergy drug are booming in half of the relevant region, but in the other half. ” Don trails off and lapses into silence. He raises his eyebrows in frustration.
Minnye knows what the deal is. Her competitors have carved other half with their—ahem—copycat drugs. Minnye is aware of the potential fight over patents, monopolizations, but for now, she’s steamed because their underhanded sales tactics are costing her and her company business.
Retrench and reload. That would be her plan. She bids Don farewell, and it’s off to the her office on wheels, where she’ll summarize the day’s calls and visits, and suss out her appointments for the next day.
Then a non-working dinner. And an evening of watching crime procedurals on TV. And bedtime. It’s all in a day’s work for Minnye, pharma rep par excellence.
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