Archive for June, 2007

20070629203500.jpgA moment of insight from blogger Andrew Sullivan, on the effect of euro-style socialism on pharmaceutical innovation. Not a pretty picture…

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A Toe in the Blog Water

Fellow blogger Toby Bloomberg over at Diva Marketing writes a review of two pharma companies who are beginning to explore the blogosphere. GSK’s effort is focused on just-released OTC product ALLI; J&J’s blog is more general. Check out Toby’s summary and the links provided.

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Random Interesting Stuff

I come across a lot of items on the web that aren’t necessarily related at all to pharma-world, but some of it sure can be downright interesting! So here is a potpourri of recent finds:

How many of your favorite comic strips came to be born (from Neatorama, where others of these links were found).

Ever seen a Zorse before? I didn’t think so…

Anyone ever tossed something your way that you just couldn’t swallow? Probably wasn’t near as bad as this fellow had it…

Scroll down a bit to see some of the coolest jet contrail photos ever.

Ever wonder about all those ancient-looking wooden water towers on NYC buildings? Wonder no more.

The wonderful looking Flatiron building in Manhattan, from the horse and buggy days.

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Time was, corporate misdeeds could be pretty effectively covered up. Sure, some scandals would leak out and make headlines, but information could often be contained, insiders constrained, or ignorance feigned.

transparent2.jpgNo more. We’re in a time of new transparency.

It’s getting very difficult to keep the lid on wrongdoing, and I, for one, think that is a good thing. What has changed? In a word, electronic communications.

Damning information is leaking out all over nowadays. In our industry, there has been a significant uptick in corporate e-mails, Powerpoint slides, documents, and other documentation of wrongdoing flowing out and becoming public. Much of this has occurred through the emerging pharma blogger community (most notably, Peter Rost over at Question Authority; but now others, such as Ed Silverman at Pharmalot, are being given such info).

Of course, a lot of “after the fact” electronic information gets exposed during trials, as archived e-mails and other documents are unearthed. But now, we no longer have to wait for the discovery process of trials. We’ve seen information leaked, exposure occur, investigations begun, and people fired within weeks – because blogs suddenly make it possible to publicize information almost immediately. Including pictures and videos (far more ubiquitous nowadays).

This has its dangers, of course. Most bloggers are not trained journalists. Sometimes due diligence has not occurred. Rushes to judgment can occur. But when clear electronic evidence is brought to light…well, a refusal to take action suddenly becomes less of an option.

This forced transparency can have a salutary effect. Ethical behavior may be forced on those who otherwise would blur the lines. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. But if you’re playing games, the likelihood now is far greater that you’ll pay the price. Very publicly.

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Some robust pipelines: Glaxo Oncology, and J&J.

Cephalon moving more rapidly on oncology candidate Treanda.

Glaxo’s cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix looking good.

Byetta, a diabetes drug from Amylin and Lilly, shows solid results after 3 years of usage.

More good press for Actos, Takeda’s competitor to Avandia.

Cholesterol agents acting against diabetic nerve pain?

Two-pronged approach to treating diabetes – the DPP-4 inhibitor plus metformin combination.

Bayer pursuing the hope of selling a low-dose statin OTC.

Merck will get a speedy review for a new class of HIV drug. Also, hopeful preliminary results for a migraine drug candidate.

Pfizer hits snags with experimental cancer and HIV treatments.

Pfizer’s Lyrica gets clearance for Fibromyalgia indication. Question – where did the 1 in 50 statistic come from??

Novartis’ growing high blood pressure franchise. Now featuring ExForge.

From the scandal sheet – BMS, Schering, AZ lose Massachusetts suit over drug pricing. Here is a more detailed analysis of the AWP issue. And, Pfizer’s growing headaches with possible internal violations on HIV (Viracept) marketing.

How to schmooze any doc, from a former Zyprexa rep. Not really news to anyone involved in sales training, but it’s just one more check mark on the “looks bad to the public” tally sheet.

Some thoughts on patient adherence/compliance, from the ever-thoughtful Jane Chin.

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Last week, I was sitting in a workshop where the theme was a customer-focused selling program.

Now I’m all for customer focus in every aspect of business. That’s what it’s all about. But something was sticking in my craw as I sat through this session (which had to do with a customer-focused selling methodology in the pharmaceutical industry).

Here’s what it boils down to: is this “customer-focused” approach an end in itself? Or is it just a means to an end?

Let me explain. A pharmaceutical sales representative succeeds by promoting the usage (hopefully, by promoting the properly defined usage) of his/her company’s products. Fair enough. But how is success actually MEASURED? Is it customer satisfaction?

Actually, a few of the key tangible measures of success by which a sales rep is held accountable are the following:

    1. Increased prescription business
    2. Number of calls made per day
    3. Promotional actions correctly taken (samples delivered, dinner meetings set up, etc., etc.)

These are company-centric, quota-centric, performance-centric measures. And, in fact, these more tangible, objective activities and outcomes are more easily measured than something such as customer satisfaction.

I’m not saying that any of these are unimportant, or shouldn’t be tracked. What makes me uncomfortable is that the real goal ends up being what is measured. Teachers “teach to the test.” And reps perform to the yardstick to which they are accountable.

All of which makes a “customer-focused” selling program seem like a means to an end, not an end in itself. There is the whiff of hypocrisy that seems to hover over the whole thing. Are companies rolling out these programs because of a core belief in being customer-centered? Or because they “work” better toward the real end, which is better numbers? Is it, ultimately, just another form of manipulation, albeit based on good selling principles?

Is it a core commitment? Or just another technique? You see, I absolutely believe in customer focus. I practice a consultative approach, as everyone knows who knows me. What I’m driving at is belief and motivation. Do I/we do it because it is right? Or just because it works?

customer-focus.jpgI should conclude this post by saying that I have been in sales – in one form or another – for 20+ years. The times when I have been most uncomfortable as a salesman are when I’ve seriously questioned, in my own heart and conscience, whether what I was offering was really the best choice for the customer. Does slathering a “customer-focused” technique over that cognitive dissonance make one a better salesperson? Or just another peddlar, trying to make a buck any way possible?

Or am I just being too cynical?

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I’ve been on a slow boil for months over bloggers who abuse basic rules of grammar and spelling. This morning, a Drugwonks post put me over the edge (Drugwonks, fyi, is a pro-industry blog). Robert Goldberg writes a post taking Peter Rost to task for some revelations about Viracept marketing. Here is an excerpt that would make any English teacher cry:

    Pfizer, according to Rost, was quick to launch marketing materials regarding Viracept. It’s materials were not issued and released INTERNALLY consisted with it’s own guidelines and the release was shut down. Therefore Rost cannot contain his glee at the expense of the former employe whom he drew a no-show salary from to the tune of over $600K a year while suing them.

school-marm.jpgIf you want to be taken seriously, why would you undermine your credibility by packing so many errors into one paragraph? It’s/its. Consisted/consistent. Employe/employer. The second sentence defies all attempts at logical interpretation. And the construction of that last sentence should lead to an arrest for grammatical abuse.

I have a suggestion, not only for Drugwonks, but for all bloggers. Read your post before you publish. Then, read it again on the site after you publish (I’ve caught many of my own errors this way simply because of the format change). And learn the rules of basic English spelling and grammar. Then your message might actually get through, instead of getting lost due to eroded credibility…

There, I feel better now. Sorry, DW, that you had to be in the way with that post when the lid blew. Now, do yourselves a favor and invest a few minutes in a re-write, will you?

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Like many around the world, I have been taken up by the wonderful, unfolding saga of Paul Potts, unassuming mobile phone salesman who suddenly burst on the scene like a supernova of singing ability on Britain’s Got Talent. I have three separate posts on this blog; thought it would be easiest (for pass-along purposes) to consolidate them into one post…

If you haven’t seen the sequence of videos from this stirring event, here they are, in order:

First Audition:

Semi-final Performance:

Final Performance:

Winner Announced, and Encore:

Why has Paul Potts captured the imagination of so many? And, what makes up the core of Brand Paul?

It’s the story. There are many good tenors in the world. But here’s a Joe Nobody, with crooked teeth, unimpressive bearing, and a humble heart. He’s been bullied growing up, lacks confidence, seems to be going nowhere…but hidden under all of that is a wonderful talent. It’s irresistible. You have to be utterly heartless not to be rooting for a guy like this.

paul_potts.jpgNormally, a somewhat overweight, nondescript fellow with a shy smile and a clear discomfort in the spotlight would not be chosen as a brand icon. But it’s that very thing – the humble packaging – that makes Brand Paul compelling. Some strapping Italian lothario belting out operatic notes on-stage – so what? But Nobody/Everyman Paul? – hey, maybe there’s hope for all the rest of us!

I hope he remains Paul Potts, Everyman, and chooses to spend his days inspiring others. There are millions beaten down by the (literal and figurative) bullies of life, and we need the Paul Pottses of the world to remind us that it’s worth taking the risk to bring forth whatever gifts we have, and who cares about the naysayers. Go Paul!

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Trade Show Branding

I recently had a post published on the Small Business Branding blog, my 10th post on that site thus far.

It is on the theme of Branding at a Trade Show – a theme fresh on my mind, having just returned from a conference with an exhibit hall last week.

All of my posts on the SBB site can be accessed here.

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It’s Friday morning, and I had no intention of writing a blog post or putting out a Friday Collection newsletter this week. Usually, at the end of a conference, I am so physically and emotionally drained that I turn into a zombie for a day or so.

Strangely, however, after a few days of the most intensive (and enjoyable) networking that I’ve ever done, I am thoroughly energized and ready to roll. So, while it’s all still fresh, here are my impressions…

I did a prior post on Monday night about first impressions of the hotel, and the opening networking event. Suffice it to say, by way of summary, that I thought the location was a great choice. Although, on that particular “strip” of Route A1A in Hollywood, FL, there is not much to “walk” to – the surrounding area is a bunch of hotels and not much else. My wife and I did bump into a few enterprising souls from the Takeda training team who ran on up to the boardwalk area, however, and who caught us in a little cafe having cheap pizza and beer, which we were in the mood for – well, the pizza and beer part, anyway. The cheap part was not so great…

Keynotes – Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics, was very interesting. A good choice overall, and an effective speaker/storyteller from the more intellectual side of the tracks. His self-deprecating account of how he became an economist, and his bizarre story about the economic deliberations of a high-end prostitute, kept the audience engaged. I missed Marshall Goldsmith’s talk, but I heard someone later on talk about how he was weird, so I expect that it was probably entertaining and thought-provoking. Charlotte Roberts was, overall, a fairly effective speaker, and had good things to say, but I think (and others I spoke to agreed) that her talk was mis-aimed – it was geared toward a corporate strata where most of the audience does not live and breathe. On the last day of a conference, as one my colleagues put it, you need to be entertaining or highly practical. Theory about vision and mission isn’t the right stuff for this crowd, esp. on Thursday morning.

Logistics – there seemed to be some problems on this front. The conference “backpacks” came in late. There were other cases where booth materials seem to show up at the last minute. And folks coming from Philadelphia had severe problems on Monday getting flights in – some didn’t make it until Tuesday. We had our own issues trying to get out of Newark Monday morning – Mr. Experienced Traveler thought that it would be a breeze waltzing through Newark Airport at 5:00 am for a 6:15 flight. The place was an absolute zoo when we got there – it took seemingly forever to get checked in and to shuffle through the maze leading into the security area, and then we had to sprint to our gate (located at the far end of the terminal, course) to make our flight. Nothing a few hours by the pool couldn’t cure, however…

Workshops – I was only able to make it to a handful, of course, and the ones I attended were pretty well done. The most helpful one for me was a workshop on Partnering with Vendors (Carl Hyman from Drury Design Dynamics, Jennifer Zinn from Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, Steven Just from Pedagogue, Nick Recchioni from Endo Pharmaceuticals). In particular, Jennifer’s perspectives on developing a true partnering relationship were incredibly valuable. Anecdotally, I heard from others what I have heard every year – some of the workshops were very helpful, and others seemed to inspire an irrepressible urge to fake a sudden cell phone call so that you could appear to have an excuse to walk out.

Business Development – I was there to spend valuable face time with both vendors and clients, introducing my services as a consultant and as a recommendation agent – helping clients find ideal vendor partners for their immediate and long-term needs. I view the exhibit hall as one big speed-dating session, whereas I try to serve as more of a living, thinking matchmaker – facilitating ideal matches by helping clients define their needs (applying my own brand of analysis and creativity to that process), and then utilizing my extensive knowledge of the vendor community to create winning business relationships. The current models in use – either just throwing work to a handful of “known” vendors who may or may not be ideal for the purpose, or inviting a bunch of suppliers in for “Dating Game” capabilities presentations and then hoping to pick a good one based on subjective impressions – can lead to a risk of failure, or less-than-optimal outcomes.

Because this is a new business model, I have found that I need about 1-2 minutes of face time or phone time to help both clients and vendors initially “get” how I bring value, and so I was really looking forward to this conference as a great format for explaining the value I bring. Since launching the business last July, I’ve been able to make some great “matches,” and deepen solid and productive relationships with both proven vendor/partners and some clients, but I’ve been a bit discouraged trying to help my client audience of sales training professionals understand that this recommendation service (which is free to the client) can save quite a bit of time and trouble in selecting optimal vendors and creating win-win partnerships.

In that respect, the show was a great success. And some folks really have grasped what I do – for example, I shut up and let Mani explain Impactiviti to a few others on the shuttle bus back to the airport, and he did an admirable job. And I should not neglect to thank one of my valued partners, Informa Training Partners, who helped with the logistics of registering for and attending the conference. They’re a great group to work with (and that is an unabashed plug!).

Finally, it was great to see old friends on both sides of the aisle: Mark, John, Mitch, Susan, Sean, Jim, Pete, Arlene, Eileen, Jill, Rick, Pam, Gary, Sarah, Joyce, Cheri, Jim, Michelle, Sharon, Wendy, Tom, Patrick, Eric, Sheri, Fred, Steven, Becca, Joe, Bruce, David, Kelly, Tim, the Informa team, Philip, Jim, Sue, Vicki, Mani, Suzy, Steve, Mack, Matt, Pam, Abby, John (actually, there’s a few of them!), George, Howard, Jennifer, Rebecca, Stuart, Shabnam, Bill, Linda (great news for year-end!!), Pete, Jim, Catherine, Vera, Frank, Andy, Nick, Don, Kim, Mark, Charlie, Robert, Michael, Matt, Jeff, Kimberly, Carol, David, Jim, Bob, Brian, Laura, Carl…and I think I just hit memory overload. There were plenty more!

And, it was great to meet a bunch of new folks: Angela, Bob, Jerry, Mark, Ann, Erin, Greg, Lisa, Scott, Steve, Freddy, Paul, David, Stan, Stephanie, Ron, Tim, Sam, Glen, Sue, Erin, Robyn, Michelle, Nathan, David, Ruth, Philip, and a bunch of others met quickly in passing in workshops or on the exhibit floor. Thanks for making it a great networking time!

As always, kudos to the SPBT management team, and Premier Resources, for pulling the whole event together. And John Constantine continues to do a fine job leading the organization as President.

And congratulations to Greg Sapnar (BMS) for being named Member of the Year! If you want to know about Metrics and Measurements, Greg is your guy…

So, what inspired you? What did you find helpful, or in need of improvement? Feel free to share in the Comments…

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