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Customers come, customers go

 Pf’s Industry Insider offers bereavement counselling on how to say goodbye to a valued customer, and nurture a new one.

Our customers can be very inconsiderate at times can’t they? We invest a huge amount of time visiting them, listening to them moan about their surgery partners and patients alike. We establish good relationships with them and if we’re lucky, manage to persuade them to prescribe a few scripts along the way. Then all of a sudden they’re gone, either through moving elsewhere, retirement, removal from the medical register for some form of misdemeanour or, heaven forbid, death. If they are good customers, and by Sod’s Law, they so often are, their disappearance from your territory can leave a gaping hole which needs filling with a like for like replacement ASAP.

Recently I have lost quite a few very good customers to retirement, doctors I have known for many years and customers I will genuinely miss visiting. Our job would be so easy if we were simply expected to manage the status quo in our respective accounts across our territories. But no, sales targets go up every quarter and the need to find new target customers is constantly with us.

The loss of any valued customers can be quite a poignant moment, but this sadness can be ameliorated when you hear, as I recently did, of a new Consultant appointment in one of my hospitals, especially as the person is someone I have known and nurtured since I first met him as a house officer around eight years ago. Whilst this person has moved around my territory and also further afield, I have always kept in touch and followed their career progression somewhat like a surrogate parent. I’ve shared the highs and lows of their good and bad interviews, exam passes/retakes, weeks of on-call and much more besides! Patience is a virtue and low and behold, 7-8 years on, said customer is now a Consultant and has reached the top of the medical greasy pole! I’ve shown my loyalty and I expect reciprocity, and in my experience, this generally happens.

What am I saying here? See the bigger, long-term picture. Today’s medical student, house officer or GP registrar is tomorrow’s Consultant or full blown GP partner in that surgery or hospital department you’ve never managed to get in to. Next time you are in a surgery or hospital out-patients department and there is a young fresh faced medic sitting in on the consultation, show an interest, ask who they are and where their medical interests lie. You never know when you may see them again and how they may be of use to you. Failure to nurture new medical talent in your accounts will make your job very difficult in years to come and I’ve always striven to widen my prescribing net regularly. I’m also motivated by more pressing, personal issues. This medical representative isn’t getting any younger and neither is my family and I want the best preferential medical treatment in years to come when I need it. That’s the return on my investment which really counts!

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