Excerpt from Sold Out: Stress agents. The endogenous type.
Very early on in my sales career, right after I moved out from Boston to Ignorance, Arizona and found a place on the corner of Terror and Panic, I learned some very valuable lessons in the art of human interaction. Meaning, of course, money. We had a pharmacologic stress agent newly approved by the FDA and a week of product training in San Antonio, just as the first Gulf war was kicking off. Needless to say, it was a blur, and all the training I got is probably still in Texas.
One of the first places I started calling on was a clinic about five miles from my house. In Arizona, five miles means “down the street.” I went there quite a bit because it was the only place I could get home from without getting lost.
Marketing did a great job deluging us with every sales tool and gimmick you could think of, which gave me more legit reasons to visit accounts. The hospitals and clinics were plastered with dosing charts, pens, pads, pamphlets and jars of candy. Those were the days. There was an older widowed nurse at this particular clinic who took quite a shining to me and a male physician’s assistant who kept promising to get me into sexual positions Houdini couldn’t get out of. Yikes!
After a while, with the help of my two new friends, I was able to get in to see the cardiologist, hand him some brochures and pray he could read, because I wasn’t going to be much help. After a few minutes, he stood up and walked over to me, his heavy boots making him seem even more ominous as he towered over me. He had on jeans, a bolo tie and a big, smelly, nasty, chunk of Skoals ‘tween the cheek and gum.
He asked me what the reimbursement was for this Persantine stuff. I told him it hadn’t been announced yet. Then he said “Son, I don’t care if this shit cures cancer, if I ain’t makin’ no money off it, I ain’t usin’ it.” Well, I must say I appreciated his candor. He also taught me a new slang term for heart catheterization, “Paying for the Porsche.”
Well, weeks later, the day finally came and my phone rang first thing in the morning. They were going to do their first I.V.Persantine and asked me if I could make it. I said “hell yeah” and did what I had been diligently, professionally trained to do in these situations, I bought doughnuts.
I couldn’t contain my glee. My first real sell. Wasn’t I something? I called my boss, my friends, the Syncor lab and anyone else who would listen on the way over. Little did I know what was waiting for me.
When I showed up with my doughnuts and my enthusiasm, I was ushered into a room where there was a patient laying there with an IV and all sorts of other stuff hanging out of him. He looked serene and comfortable and trusting with the whole situation. When my nurse friend told him that I was the “expert” from Dupont who was going to walk everyone through this new procedure, I knew I would never wear the same underwear again.
I was thinking, “why don’t we all have a doughnut and talk this over.” Too late, this guy was ready and so was the team. Luckily for me, they had one of those protocol charts I had provided but never read, on the wall over his head so I could grab a word or phrase to make it sound like I had a clue. What I didn’t know at the time, was that these folks do stuff like this all the time and they just wanted me there for assurance. It all went off without a hitch but I was never the same.
When I got home I called my boss, Sully, and asked him if we were covered by malpractice insurance. Then I ate a doughnut and went back to bed.