By: Renee Subaran

As a marketer, I speak with office administrators and physicians daily and when it comes to time management, most meetings must be scheduled during lunch. Dr. John G. Scott, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J., is examining the interaction between medical practices and company representatives.

“We found that some offices get breakfast and lunch every day,” said Dr. Scott, who calls lunch the “currency” that buys access to doctors’ offices for drug representatives. He also noted that some doctors were hard pressed to meet payrolls and that the lunches provided an added benefit for their employees.

“Essentially, we feel that most of what the pharmaceutical reps do works at an unconscious level,” Dr. Scott said. He said most doctors said they were not influenced by the food deliveries and other small gifts. But, he added, “They do influence prescribing.”

Pharmaceutical reps have tailored many techniques for getting pass the ‘gate-keepers’. But now, this method is seen as common practice across the board for all types of companies hoping to establish meetings with the physician. I personally schedule appointments and what I notice the most is the lack of time freedom between 8:00 a.m and 5:00 p.m. I usually start off the conversation with the managers now asking specifically to arrange a lunch meeting. Because the time window is already there and free food sounds good, most do not pass up the offer.

However, creating a schedule can be difficult as most of time I am prompted to initially send emails or fax which are usually overlooked.

It is important when meeting with a physician to compensate for their time because it is most valuable to them than anything else.

The pharmaceutical industry employs about 90,000 representatives. As we see, this is a vast number of people competing for the physician’s time. According to an article on ‘Home Care’, A lunch in a qualified office where the sales professional is prepared can be very valuable with an existing referral source. The key word here is "qualified." Providing lunch gives you the potential to build upon the existing relationship. Clearly, if you can qualify that the potential for a referral source is significant — before you make the appointment — then providing an in-service where food is present is totally fine. However, if you are already receiving significant business from a particular referral source and the main reason for this business is that you provide lunch, consider what this says about the referral source and what this says about your
sales ability.

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