In pharmaceutical sales today there is a lot going on that influences who will be your manager. Mergers and acquisitions have been fairly prevalent of late and smaller companies are bringing new products to market and throwing together sales teams quickly or utilizing contract sales whom are as busy as ever. Managed Care is and has become a tremendous burden to selling and more and more private offices are shutting reps out making access impossible. As a result of all of these happenings some Pharma professionals are getting laid off and yet others promoted. There is never a perfect science to it all, and likely many of the companies out there think of personnel strategies mainly from a legal perspective not from a tactical perspective because they want to cover their asses. I get it, if you owned a business you too would want to cover your ass legally. But in many cases, there are young professionals that are getting thrown into the position of manager when they simply are not ready.
The Pharma professional today, even the Territory Representative is a smart individual. They are able to see right through someone who lacks experience and I have seen many territory professionals test these types of managers to see what they can get away with and what they cannot. Many times these managers are overwhelmed and in over their heads but think about it, if you were thrown into a situation where you were able to become a manager yet you lacked the experience that can make you successful, would you not take it? Would you not go for the big increase in base salary and increased incentive compensation plan? Some wouldn’t, but let’s be honest the large majority would and they would “fake it till they make it” so to speak.
But what actually are the traits of a manager who lacks experience? How can you spot a manager who was thrown into the mix too quickly. Here are some behaviors that I have seen from the manager who just isn’t ready to be a manager:
Asks you to do everything like him/her: When it comes to selling there is never a one size fits all and the best managers realize that different people bring different qualities to the table. As a manager you can never expect a salesperson that you manage to sell like you. It would be setting them up for failure and you will be a huge disappointment as a manager. The idea is to teach the purpose behind why you may want to incorporate certain components of a sales call. For example the purpose of “checking in” or “trail closing” is to gauge if whether or not what you are saying is resonating or making impact. Or the purpose of a discussing a problem that a physician may be facing is that your product could potentially solve that problem. But managers who aren’t ready many times ask the rep to “do it like this”. This is a very difficult thing to do and 9 times out of 10 is a complete failure!
Has a conference call every week at the same time despite the fact that nothing new is being discussed: As a manager I only had a conference call when I had something to discuss…an initiative brought down from above or a pressing issue. Those managers that have a conference call just to have one are showing their inexperience. Additionally, the reps are human beings that you are speaking to. They can tell you have nothing new to discuss. This behavior creates animosity and in the long run leads to a chipping away of the respect that reps have for their manager. My reps always loved the fact that I was straight with them and even went so far as to promise them that I would never have useless conference calls just because. They appreciated it and fought harder for me because of it. But if you are the rep and you have a manager who does this, don’t look at the surface….it may be a directive from above that the manager must have weekly conference calls. If this is the case, you have to feel sorry for the manager as he/she is in a difficult place.
The “young gun” out to prove something: Hey look I get it…I was the young gun once before. These managers that seem to have a chip on their shoulder because they are out to prove their worth. They were likely excellent salespeople and now they want to show that they were hired and placed in the management position correctly and sometimes are too forward in their approach. This type manager also offers too much in the way of coaching. They want so badly to influence things that they fail to realize that sometimes you are a better influence when you hold back, listen and observe more so than speaking and injecting yourself into a situation. I was guilty of this as a new manager. I wanted to so badly to influence results that I didn’t allow my reps to spread their wings and grow naturally. I would inject myself into the call way too much. I learned quickly that I couldn’t be everywhere at once and that I was better off allowing and assisting in the growth of these young professionals than trying to do it for them.
Outward Appearance of Overconfidence: Because these young professionals are thrust into a position that they may not be ready for, they want to at least “act the role”. They feel like if they walk like a manager and talk like a manager, that they are a manager. Sometimes this comes off as overconfidence when in fact they are nervous inside. Anyone who is in this position might do the same. Do you want to see your manager uneasy, nervous, unknowing, unable to find answers?? Of course not…you want a competent and capable manager and they know it, so they play the role of what they believe a manger should be and act like. As a manager in pharmaceutical sales, you learn very quickly that there is absolutely no way to have every answer and it is okay to say “I don’t know the answer to that, but give me a day and I will find the answer for you”.