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Archive for March, 2011

About this time of year, folks in pharma/biotech/med device sales training departments are deciding whether or not they should attend the annual SPBT (Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers) conference.

The answer is Yes! How’s that for making it simple?

I’ve attended for about 15 years, through all the recent industry ups and downs, and I believe that this conference provides unique value. Here’s why:

  • We all need cross-pollination. Believe it or not, your company is not (and cannot be) on the leading-edge of everything, including training best practices, technology, and new approaches. At SPBT, you get an eyeful of what else is being done in the industry.
  • We all need broader networks. The people you meet at the SPBT conference may very well play a major role in your next job, or your next hire. There is no better concentration of colleagues than at SPBT.
  • We all need to step away. One of the most valuable aspects of conferences for me is the chance to put aside the day-to-day, and think about things from a more creative and strategic perspective. I’ll bet you have the same experience.
  • We all need to see what’s new in the marketplace. The vendor/partners are there to show you what is possible, and if there’s one word I think you should have front-and-center in your mind this year, it’s this: iPad.
  • Face time. That’s pretty much woven throughout all of the points above. Since my role is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agent, that’s the huge deal – meeting with people, introducing people to each other, bringing vendors and clients together – there’s no other place like it.

So, GO. Here’s the link to register. And, there’s a new bonus this year – the last day of the conference has special full-day deep-dive sessions on concentrated topics (I’m leading one of the workshops, on Vendor/Project Success). Don’t miss signing up for one of these, and especially think about them for your mid-level or junior-level staffers.

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Despising the Big D

Today, I saw one of my sons blithely dipping a chip into salsa, happily munching away while multi-tasking at something else – not a care in the world about his food.

It brought a smile to my face – but there was a touch of sadness with it.

You see, my work has brought me into contact with a number of PWDs (People With Diabetes) who are active on-line. And as I’ve read their blogs and tweets, talked to a number of them personally, and done my research, I’ve come to the same conclusion that they all have.

Diabetes sucks.

I don’t suffer from diabetes, nor does anyone in my extended family. But as I see how diabetes can essentially take over one’s life – the incessant measuring, and managing, and planning, and adjusting, all because a pancreas goes out on permanent strike (Type 1) and blood sugar levels run riot – it’s obvious that for many, diabetes is a 24/7 companion. Like having been at the altar in a shotgun wedding, where you never chose to say “I do.”

Instead, diabetes said, “You will. Deal with me.”

Some of the diabetes bloggers have kindly educated me about the disease and helped me understand – as much as is possible – what a crazy and wearying ride it is every day, just to stay on top of it. The endlessness of it. The disease guilt. The survivors’ guilt. The constant fear of the future as diabetes takes its ongoing toll on health. The fear about having children. The elusive cure which never seems to get closer.

The supplies, the equipment, the insulin, the hassles with insurance. The inability, ever, to just sit down and enjoy a meal without thinking about carbs and sugars and highs and lows and bolused insulin and “will people despise me if I eat this cupcake?”

Yes, add in the lack of understanding from society at large.

I honestly don’t know how some of these friends – including parents with children who have this condition – get through the day. I can’t imagine there’s ever 20 minutes that goes by without having to think about something diabetes-related.

Tonight, we will go to a dinner with some other families, and I won’t have to think about what I’m eating, or what my blood sugar level is – I am blessed beyond measure to have a pancreas that just works. But for thousands, that is not the case and it never will be.  PWDs are blessed with amazing technology and medicines that help them live. And I’m thankful to have a chance to get to know these folks. Nonetheless, this much is abundantly clear.

Diabetes sucks.

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You know those Powerpoint slides loaded with text, bullet points, statistics?

That’s not communication. That’s content delivery.

That dense, fine print product information that accompanies prescription medications?

Content delivery. Definitely not communication.

Sales brochures so loaded with information that they are just plain hard work (and, you just put them aside for “later,” like I do…right?)

Content delivery. Not communication.

If it’s all up on the slide, then we don’t need you, the speaker. And, in fact, we don’t need Powerpoint, which is a lousy content delivery device. Just write it up and forward it.

A PI/ISI is a CYA device only. Everyone knows it. Communicating relevant product information to patients (and even physicians) requires a whole different method.

And if your sales brochure doesn’t give me the main point in 10 seconds – doesn’t spark interest because I see the WIIFM – then you’ve just wasted all that money putting content together.

If the task is to impart content from one location/person to another, that’s fine – call it what it is. It’s a handoff. But if you’re actually seeking to communicate – you’ve got a lot more work to do. The good thing is – most of your competition isn’t willing to do it.

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Pay-for-Fail

Finally, after a long (and at times contentious) set of turns around the dance floor, Sanofi and Genzyme have agreed to merge.

The big winner? Henri Termeer, who presided over the decline and now sale of Genzyme. A nice $160 million reward for…..what? Certainly not success.

I’m an unabashed capitalist. But this is yet another in a long string of Board-of-Director-abdications-of-responsibility that give pharmaceutical companies (and plenty of companies in other industries) a bad name.

Nobody should get a package anything like this. And, if a top leader does earn (note the word: EARN) a rich payout at the end of his/her tenure, it should be tied to metrics of growth that have clearly rewarded the shareholders, employees, and patients first. If you run a company into the ground, you should be run out on a rail, not driven out in a stretch limo with a bursting bank account.

It’s enough to make you need an anti-emetic.

Yes, the pharmaceutical industry has a P.R. problem. But this type of fiscal irresponsibility is a self-inflicted wound. I can hardly blame a CEO for taking the money and running. But shareholders need to revolt against directors who approve packages like this, and put them out to pasture ASAP. It’s an embarrassment and a travesty.

Pay-for-Performance – let’s start right at the top and then work our way down, shall we??

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