Hail to the troops

Hail to the troops

As everyone gets set to enjoy a three-day weekend Diabetic Investor thought it would be a good idea to give a shout out to all the sales reps in diabetes land. Yes, this beleaguered group could use some love given their dwindling ranks and the crap they must put up with. These past few years have not been kind to reps as management has been downsizing sales forces in a never ending attempt to lower costs. Cost cuts which are necessary in large part by the poor decisions management has made.

Yes, we know that as a group reps love to complain about every decision management makes. That they believe management hasn’t a clue as to what they face in the field. Commissions are never high enough, car selections are never good enough, too many useless meetings combined with equally useless ride-a-longs. The way most reps see it management is the enemy preventing them from making a living.

On the flip side management sees sales reps as bunch of complaining children who are never happy. The way management sees it they could lay gold at the feet of reps and they would still find something to complain about. In their eyes reps are a bunch of lazy individuals who have a cherished life. To management sales forces are a necessary evil that they would like to eliminate entirely if they could.

Now the truth as always is somewhere in the middle. Or as Momma Kliff used to say about relationships; “There is his side, her side and then there is the truth.”  The reality is neither side truly understands the role the other plays and worse neither side trusts the other. Not exactly a scenario that makes for pleasant interactions between the two sides. Still some sales forces deserve special recognition.

Let’s start with the sales force for our wine dinking friends in France. This is one group that truly has a major beef with management. A management team that has come up with one failed strategy after another. A management team who fails to take ownership of their failed strategies and blames every failure on the sales force.

As sales of Lantus came under pressure and sales of Toujeo disappointed our good buddy Serge not only threw the sales force under the bus, he backed up the bus to make sure everyone knew that these people couldn’t sell. Then in classic fashion when it became obvious that it was managements fault he turns around and expects them to get excited about another me-too, late-to-market, copycat drug (which is now delayed).

Also in classic Sanofi (NYSE: SNY) fashion what do they do to boost morale, morale which is lower than whale dung, let’s throw a party. Let’s ship the sales team to sin city for a Kumbaya moment telling them things really aren’t as they appear. That it’s ok LixiLan is delayed, that it’s ok that Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO) will get to market first. As the song goes don’t worry be happy and oh by the way enjoy the buffet.

Seriously we have seen Sanofi do some seriously stupid things but this one is up there. Management seems to believe that they can make up for the past by throwing a party. That the sales team will hit the bar get so drunk that they will forget that management has consistently blamed them for every failure known to man. Sales reps are many things but stupid is not among them. They are not analysts who seem to eat up the corporate bullshit that management serves up. These people are on the front lines and see these failures each and every day.

Our second shout out goes to the sales team at Novo, a team which must be wondering what their future will look like with all the changes to management. Before these changes occurred Novo bucked conventional wisdom and instead of downsizing their sales force they added reps. Only recently has the company begun downsizing, a trend which we see the new team continuing. Unlike Sanofi, Novo knows what they are doing but they also see the handwriting on the wall. Handwriting which in bold letters says; LEAN AND MEAN IS THE ORDER OF THE DAY.  This does not bode well for the sales team.

The third shout goes to any insulin pump sales rep not because their management has been clueless, well sometimes they are. Rather this is the most demanding sales job in diabetes. Selling any diabetes device isn’t easy especially in today’s environment but insulin pumps sales bring along some very unique challenges. It is not uncommon for these reps to get calls in the middle of the night because the device they sold isn’t working properly. Calls that don’t come physicians or CDE’s but calls from the patient who is actually using the device, a device that is keeping them alive.

The fact is diabetes sales, be it a device or drug, isn’t easy. Besides the issues we have already outlined these people must deal with the Sunshine Act, physicians’ offices which limit access and the very real possibility that they will be laid off at any moment. Let’s face facts when things go wrong blaming the sales team is standard operating procedure. Unlike management who receives fat severance packages when they are laid off, sales people are told don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. Oh and make sure you return the car with a full tank of gas.

So this Labor Day is for everyone in diabetes sales, enjoy your three-day weekend use the extra time wisely and make sure your resumes are up to date.