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Doctor's Advice (True Story)

This true story happened in 1986 when I was working as a medical representative. I used to meet at least 300 different doctors and about 100 medical stores and at least 100 hospitals every month to advertise the medicines of our company. And this Doctor's advice on medical business, skyrocketed my business sales figures through the roof, way beyond my wildest dreams.

Doctor's Stethoscope
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The Doctor looked at me and said, “Do you know, it is neither your doctor, nor the medicines which the doctor prescribes that cures you.”

I was puzzled to hear that and asked, “Doctor, I did not quite understand what you actually mean with that sentence.”

Before we proceed any further, here a short background of this true story that opened my eyes.

I was absolutely new to this job of a Medical Representative whose job is to go with a pamphlet in which has all the benefits and very few side effects one medicine manufactured by that company on each page.

When I started the job as a fresher, no one gave me directions how to go about convincing the doctors. So, mostly it was the doctors who would give education to me about the side effects of the medicines I was trying to make him prescribe to his patiends.

I had three full districts under me almost 100 km apart from each other and all the places in between and I am expected to visit each of my over 300 doctors at least once a quarter if not more.

To make things more uncomfortable for the medical representative, the medicine company even demands a quarterly visit plan with my 300 doctors with date, time and the doctor’s address and send it to the company before the quarter commences.

Once the quarterly plan has been sent to the company, the medical representative will have to stick to my plan because a senior may do a surprise check to see if the medical representative is following his own plan or not, by landing up at one of the doctor’s address or a hospital on the date and time the medical representative has sent to the company.

Visit Doctor on a Money Train

The job involved a lot of travelling daily. The company pays First Class railway fare for travelling to all places when going to meet doctors at any place and no train tickets are to be forwarded to the company for train travel. Obviously, the medicine company pays all my expenses if proper bills are submitted for the travel expenses.

Once I sent my expense statement and my senior sent it back saying that I have to travel only by train in First Class to all places. I called him up and told him, “Sir, those few places are not connected by a railway line at all. So, I took a bus to see those doctors.”

My senior on the other end said, “Son, don’t worry, your predecessor has already laid a railway line years ago and they have been travelling by train in First Class ticket to see the doctors. Please put First Class train fare to those places instead of the bus fare you have indicated and send your expense statement back to me. I will approve it.”

I was always sincere and did not want to do a fraud. But, the company never asks for any travel tickets by train. So, I too started travelling to places where no railway line existed, by train on the railway tracks which were virtually created in the expense statement by my predecessors, and that too on a first class ticket. Expenses are tax free. Thus to those places I was travelling on a money train.

Doctor or Medicine Cures a Patient?

Doctor's Stethoscope
It is neither the doctor, nor the medicines that cure a patients disease. I learned this from a high profile doctor. All the doctor’s clinic and hospitals I visited had 80% - 90% of very poor farmers as patients in that place. Getting my costly medicines prescribed to such patients was very difficult. I had at least 5 medical representative friends also whose companies were also making the same medicine chemical compound as my company, under different brand names at entirely different price ranges.

Then, there were generic medicines with the chemists, which were the same chemical compounds which were dirt cheap. These generic medicines neither had any glittering wrappers on them nor did they undergo any quality check. In fact, they did not have even an expiry date.

I always wanted to know how the doctor decides on which brand of medicine to prescribe to which patient. That day I was visiting a doctor whose private clinic had rich, high profile patients visiting very frequently. It was my turn to go in.

I went in and shook hands with the doctor. He asked me to sit as usual. I took out my Medicine Pamphlet, reminded him of all our drugs for his specialisation that he can prescribe and increase my company medicine sales.

Then, I asked, “Doctor, I have a doubt. How do you decide to give which medicine to give to a patient. I came now with medicine A, B, C and D. The medical representative will request you to prescribe his company medicines A, D, E and F. So many medical representatives come to you everyday requesting your to prescribe medicines some of which have common compounds in them like in this case, medicines A and D are same. How do you decide which which medicine and in that which brand to prescribe to patient?”

The doctor was impressed with my question. The doctor said, “Son, when a patient comes to me with an ailment, I already know which medicine to give. But, in that medicine which brand to prescribe depends on the patient.”

I looked at him with a blank space and said, “I didn’t quite understand that statement. How can a patient ask you which brand of medicine do they want. Do they have any knowledge of medicines?”

The doctor replied, “When a poor patient comes to me and I prescribe your medium priced medicine, the patient will either not buy that medicine because he doesn’t have that much money with him. Even if he has, he will buy one day’s medicine against the five days I prescribe.”

“Now imagine, a middle class patient comes with an ailment and write a high cost brand of medicine which costs four times the price of your brand, do you think he will buy that brand? He will find it difficult to afford the high cost brand. The patient will ask the chemist what to do and the smart chemist will replace that high cost brand with your medium priced brand.”

“Now imagine that the patient is rich and I prescribe him your medium priced medicine. Do you think the rich patient will buy the medicine?”

I thought for a while and said, “Doctor, I don’t find any reason why should he not buy that medicine.”

The doctor smiled and said, “There is something called patient psychology. A rich patient came to me because I am popular and I have a good reputation as a doctor. Secondly, when he looks at the medicine price, he would feel that he won’t get will with this low cost medicine. He might think poor of me. He has a lot of money and wants to spend money.”

The doctor continued after a pause, “Often I have experienced during my career, that rich patients feel, that they cannot get well with low priced medicine. They need to take medicines whose cost is proportionate to their riches. So, he might go to another doctor, who might prescribe a very high priced brand of the same medicine, which I had prescribed. And they get well.”

I sat there looking at him amazed with the new knowledge I had gained.

The doctor said without looking at me, “I hope you got your answer and I also hope you will use it to your advantage because this is a universal truth that applies to anything and everything you sell under the sun to any human being. Believe it.”

I thanked the doctor and left his room thinking over what I had leared that day.

That night, I sat and carefully categorised and prioritized my hospital list, chemist list and my doctors list based on their locations (cities, villages or remote areas), because that decides whether they are getting rich patients, middle class or poor farmers which in turn will affect the sales of my company medicines.

I also started spending more time sitting with every medical store close to each of my potential doctors to ensure that my medicine brand prescribed by the doctor does not get replaced by the chemist with another brand.

My area monthly sales figures started sky rocketing from the very next month onwards, like a miracle.