Tuesday, November 29, 2005

SeRx appeal: Cheerleading as career path 

The New York Times published a hilarious article yesterday about the pharmaceutical industry's recruitment of former -- and sometimes current -- cheerleaders to work as sales reps. Certain schools, including perennial cheerleading powerhouse University of Kentucky, count more than a few pom-pom alumnae in the ranks of drug industry salesforces.

The article contains some choice bits. One theory holds that the rise of cheerleader sales reps is an unintended consequence of the prosecutorial blowback against other pharmaceutical sales practices:
Some industry critics view wholesomely sexy drug representatives as a variation on the seductive inducements like dinners, golf outings and speaking fees that pharmaceutical companies have dangled to sway doctors to their brands.

But now that federal crackdowns and the industry's self-policing have curtailed those gifts, simple one-on-one human rapport, with all its potentially uncomfortable consequences, has become more important.

One-on-one human rapport? Potentially uncomfortable consequences? I didn't call it blowback for nuttin'.

There are those who claim that it isn't just that hotties move the scrips -- it is also that they are naturally good at sales:
But many cheerleaders, and their proponents, say they bring attributes besides good looks to the job - so much so that their success has led to a recruiting pipeline that fuels the country's pharmaceutical sales force. T. Lynn Williamson, Ms. Napier's cheering adviser at Kentucky, says he regularly gets calls from recruiters looking for talent, mainly from pharmaceutical companies. "They watch to see who's graduating," he said.

"They don't ask what the major is," Mr. Williamson said. Proven cheerleading skills suffice. "Exaggerated motions, exaggerated smiles, exaggerated enthusiasm - they learn those things, and they can get people to do what they want."

I daresay.

And then there is rank cheerleader-triumphalism:
"The cheerleaders now are the top people in universities; these are really capable and high-profile people," said Gregory C. Webb, who is also a principal in a company that runs cheerleading camps and employs former cheerleaders. He started Spirited Sales Leaders about 18 months ago because so many cheerleaders were going into drug sales. He said he knew several hundred former cheerleaders who had become drug representatives.

That's strange. I thought the "top people in universities" were quarterbacks.

It only really gets good, though, when the pharmaceutical companies tell you that it has nothing to do with looks:
But pharmaceutical companies deny that sex appeal has any bearing on hiring. "Obviously, people hired for the work have to be extroverts, a good conversationalist, a pleasant person to talk to; but that has nothing to do with looks, it's the personality," said Lamberto Andreotti, the president of worldwide pharmaceuticals for Bristol-Myers Squibb.

You know the world is all topsy-turvy when people claim that it's the cheerleaders who have the "good personality." What's left for the ugly people?


By Blogger Chris Lawrence, at Tue Nov 29, 02:08:00 AM:

I've noticed a similar phenomenon among college textbook sales reps, though I can't prove anything.  

By Blogger viking kaj, at Tue Nov 29, 03:21:00 AM:

Since I have also noticed a trend for increased sales and marketing emphasis at the expense of R & D at big pharma one has to wonder where these two trends will converge? Lot's of pep with no pills? You can do it, can do it, if you put your mind to it?

Personally I come from the generation where we believed in better living through chemistry. And I am talking Pfizer and Merck, not the Medelin cartel. If big pharma wants to get the share price up I suggest they invent something for a change.

BTW, is it just me, or do all tv drug commericials really suck big time? Purple pill indeed...  

By Blogger viking kaj, at Tue Nov 29, 03:28:00 AM:

Just so we don't get banned from the blog and for additional clarity's sake our reference in that last post was intended to be Merck, Inc. and not Merck KGaA. Ask TH if you don't know the difference, he'll explain it to you.

And speaking of Merck, Inc. anybody else notice that they announced the layoff of 7,000 employees in the wake of the Vioxx recall yesterday? Not good news for the Garden State we are certain.  

By Blogger viking kaj, at Tue Nov 29, 03:34:00 AM:

Given Bristol's pipeline it doesn't surprise me that they would be in the forefront of this one. Perhaps this development can bring new life to the old pharm rep's sales tool, the infamous "pump and run". Can't wait to see how the FDA cracks down on this version.

Sorry I keep posting here but I just can't seem to let this one go...  

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