PETER ROST: PHARMA MARKETING EXPERT WITNESS. AWP, MEDICAL DEVICE EXPERT.: Life as a Lilly sales rep: Screwed no matter what you do.

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Life as a Lilly sales rep: Screwed no matter what you do.

Below is the real-life story of a Lilly rep who was recently terminated (names have been changed). Those of you who have read "Hard Sell" by Jamie Ready will recognize much in this tale:

Samantha was my District Manager from January 2005 through November 15, 2007. Samantha was a brand new manager when she took over the Camden District in 05', which was a new team all-together. Let me also state, Samantha never hired me, nor was she my original manager on September 19, 2005 when I began employment with Lilly. I was hired by the Northeast Area Director, as a Senior Sales Representative. This would be a point of contention with Samantha in the future, as she did not believe I could be leveled as such. The sales force was realigned for 2006 and Samantha became my District Manager.

During most of 2006, Samantha and I had a decent working relationship and I grew my sales number to the best of my ability. We didn't have any significant conflicts, but we were not always on the same page as far as how to make the sale to a physician. We had even talked about the possibilities of me moving to the corporate headquarters to become an associate and then a DM. She had me participate in a teleconference for perspective home office employees to hear all about the opportunity.

We agreed that September of 2007 would be the target date for the move. On an October field ride (a day in the field with your manager) I expressed I was anxious about how fast one of our products was increasing share in the territory and I was bothered and frustrated by this. I felt I could share my concerns with my manager, but this would soon be used against me. Unbeknownst to me, during 2006, LT was constantly tormenting an executive rep on our team about her sales style and abilities, which I would learn later in 2007. There was a pattern developing and would progressively get worse.

Before I continue with my story I want to point out another aspect to her poor ability to keep and promote quality, tenured reps. During Samantha's time as the DM, seven reps left her team, six with significant tenure in the industry. The first two left almost immediately when she began, one to another company, the other to another district upon her request. This particular rep would later say Samantha made racist comments. Specifically, "I can't move to Voorhees, there are too many Jews." This was when Samantha was deciding where to live when she moved from New York. The rep I am referring to is Jewish.

Two others moved different districts and three were fired, including myself. One was let go based on performance and was probably valid, yet Samantha made little attempt to coach and motivate to this persons strengths. The other one is more important to the events that led to my termination.

My colleague Alexis was a rep with Lilly for six years and an important part of our district. She was an excellent rep and her sales numbers over the years reflected this. Alexis was seen as the unofficial DM within our district and a real leader. This intimidated Samantha. Alexis went on maternity leave in December 2006. She arrived back on a Monday in early May and was terminated by Samantha that Friday. Alexis did make a product samples error back in 06' and she had contacted samples accountability before she went on maternity leave to address the error. Sampling mistakes are common and although serious, probation is usually the first warning.

On the Friday of the event, Samantha called Alexis to come to a hotel to meet about the error and HR would be on the phone. During their meeting, HR told Alexis her sampling mistake would cost her six months probation and supported this with documentation. After which, Samantha asked Alexis leave the room, a few minutes later she called her in to the room and told her she was terminated based on the sampling error and other information Samantha had collected, such as expense reports Alexis had submitted months earlier and other minor infractions that were never previously addressed to her. Samantha had spent months putting this together and it turns out to be very similar to how I went down as well. Alexis has a four year old and an infant, obviously Samantha was aware of the effects this would have on Alexis's family... yet put a plan in place while Alexis was out to have her fired. The worst part is she waited until the baby was born, instead of when she was pregnant. I'm sure for fear there could be a suit against Lilly for firing a pregnant woman.

After Alexis was fired, she set her sights on me, but let's go back to January of 2007. We had a district meeting at a diner. The meeting surrounded the team being more open and excited during our regional meetings, where often times the Northeast director or other higher-ups would attend our classroom sessions. Samantha wanted us to be like some other teams. When she asked what can be done about this, no one really would answer. I have heard from several colleagues who state that this was the real turning point in our relationship. I stated we took a queue from her. She acted very tight, not loose and overly business like when these people were in attendance. I said if she were more relaxed, so would we. That was it. From that day forward it was all down hill.

Two weeks later we rode together in the field. I told Samantha about an office where the physician was upset about my asking him why he chose another drug instead of mine. So again I was confiding in her about what to do and my frustrations with some physician habits to use generics or an older competitor, again this would come back to haunt me. On a call later that day, I told her exactly what my plan was for the call to a physician. His wife was on the medication we sold and I was going to ask him how she was doing. Long story short, she was uncomfortable during the call (I have a field note describing what she felt about the situation) and proceeded to yell and scream at me later before another call. That Friday, I was given a verbal warning (which was actually in writing) expressing that I was not being professional and overly aggressive with my doctors and I had a bad attitude with them. None of which is anywhere near the truth and I could go to any office right now and the physician would say I was pleasant, helpful and one of their best reps. This warning was just the beginning.

In any event, as the year progressed, my interactions with her became worse. My field visit notes were inconsistent. One time I was doing what she asked, the next I wasn't, the next I was and then the next I never had done anything she requested. She would say my sales skills were holding me back, yet I was the number one primary care territory every quarter that she was my boss. It got to a point where my peers were wondering why she never acknowledged any of my accomplishments and how mean and nasty she was to me at all times. How she was verbally aggressive and how anything I said was completely dismissed by her, or corrected. She frequently spoke negatively about me to my peers. This was also a pattern of hers. She always had negative things to say about another particular rep from the Atlantic City territory.
Finally, we rode together on Monday October 22, 2007. Again I told her my intentions for the day and proceeded with my plan. I actually felt it was a productive day considering a Monday with your manager type of day.

Physicians are not usually happy to see a lot of reps and Mondays is typically the worst day to be with your manager. Of course these were the only days Samantha usually wanted to ride with me. I thought things were going better with her as well until we stopped. She proceeded to tell me I needed to back to sales school, my sales ability was not good and we have never been on the same page about anything. After collecting some info from my peers about what she had said about me in the past and feeling worried that she was out to have me fired I contacted Lilly HR on Friday October 26, 2007.

I spoke with HR. I told them that I was afraid for my job and my manager was discriminating against me and wanted me fired. I recounted the pattern of her behavior, how she fired Alexis based on her tenure, any reps with tenure would leave, she wouldn't hire any tenured industry reps to replace them because as she told Alexis's old counterpart, "They were uncoachable." I talked about her erratic behavior and yelling screaming outbursts. How she offended some of my doctors and many told me never to bring her back. My team was also told the same thing. I explained some of her racist comments and how anyone with tenure always had issues with her. I told her how she talked about me negatively to my peers about me and some of the things she said were degrading and completely unprofessional. She would often swear when talking about me. One time in particular I was standing up for our team again and said that all of us (District mates) didn't have to worry about a particular metric the company was evaluating us on because we were all strong sales people. She told David, from the Camden team, "What the FUCK kind of comment was that and who the FUCK did I think I was! To Dave's credit , he defended me as to say I was just trying to keep our spirits up.

I told HR that my fate would be like Alexis's if she did not help. HR's advice was to work things out with her and sit down to talk about it. I never got the opportunity to do that. For the next two weeks, Samantha would not return my phone calls, or if she did, there would be some reason we could not meet. I even left her a message extending an olive branch in hopes to make amends and start fresh. I was conceding all power back to her. Finally on Monday October 11, 2007 she left me a voicemail saying we would meet at a particular hotel to discuss some things. The next morning I received another v-mail stating I should bring my lap top and HR would be on the phone with us at the hotel. I knew it was the kiss of death. I called HR that morning and begged for their protection. I reiterated the fact that I knew she wanted me gone and she would find any reason to do so. HR said she would pass on everything we talked about to the HR person who would be on the phone, but she never did.

The reason I was fired is this... I falsified calls to physicians, or I had too many detail only calls. I say this next part without hesitation, yes I did fake calls to some physicians on my call list to meet a frequency requirement of the company. So many calls to certain docs per quarter, whether you can see them or not. We were told by Samantha, "Make frequency work for you", WINK, WINK. We all new what that meant. Our district was always floundering in second to last place and she was on the hot seat with our Regional Director. SHE TOLD US TO LIE TO MAKE HERSELF LOOK BETTER.

She said "In order for us to look good, lets control what we can control by meeting frequency and calls per day." It is standard in this industry to have detail only calls and if I was fired for doing, so should 99.9% of the reps in the company and everyone in my district... especially if they had all of their calls scrutinized and Samantha knows this. Even though it is known by everyone in the industry and everyone in my District did it because we had talked about it... she found a way to fire me for it. The company required 30% samples to detail only calls, I made at least 7 to 8 sample calls per day out of the nine calls overall we were required to make. Basically, Samantha took the time to go back in my call history, knew which docs were "no see" and called their offices to learn if I was there on a certain day I recorded as a call back in the summer. She had about nine or ten different doctors she questioned me on.

My point is, if I wasn't being targeted to be terminated, why didn't she look at everyone's records. I know for a fact that everyone on our team puts in detail only calls when they don't see a doctor, so they can keep up with frequency and hopefully keep the manager off their back. I did not throw anyone under the bus during the meeting and would not say who else did this as well. It wasn't like I was forging signatures, or selling my samples. My territory went from 508 out of 510 in November 05' to as low as 275 out of 510 in January 07'. Coincidentally, that same month my product Cymbalta was 118% of goal and yet somehow I was upsetting all my doctors and I needed a verbal warning. No one on my team ever reached that number,... EVER!!! I have plenty of other documentation to support my success as a rep in the territory. My peers would also support me as a great rep and an asset to the company.

So they took my car and all my stuff from me on the spot and my pregnant wife and 4 year old twins had to pick me up, one week before Thanksgiving. I had a conversation with the HR person who was on the phone with us and he said there would be a formal investigation into Samantha as a manager. I have yet to receive a letter regarding the outcome and according to my friends from my old team, she is as nasty as ever. Nothing has or will happen to her.

My manager very, very aware that I was the sole provider for my family, that I struggled to make ends-meat and I was always worried about money. She knew my wife was pregnant and I had 4 year old twins..., yet she still had her number one primary care sales rep fired on a technicality based solely on her own insecurity. It was not performance..., it was personal.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is pretty much the way things go in a nutshell. The data about the made-up calls is on target as well. There is not a rep in Lilly or any other that does not make up calls on a daily basis. We are threatened with our jobs if we lie about calls and threatened with our jobs if we are not able to see physicians that will not let you in the front door. It is the most idiotic business model on the planet. Many, many Lilly managers are just as described.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not surprised, but I'm sure it is the same way at any other company - not just pharma. When they want you gone, you will be gone. Remember HR is there to protect the company, not the employees. Sometimes they can do both at the same time (like helping an employee who has been discriminated against - and might sue) but usually they have so much time and $$ wrapped up in a DM that there is no way they are going to bounce them. She also did the company a favor by ousting highly paid tenured reps with cheap kids out of college. Win-Win-Lose situation.

Anonymous He knows 4 sure. said...

Yes this is as nasty way to get thrown out as it gets.I feel for the person. However, there is a way to prevent getting screwed but you must work on it just as management is working on it before you are done.
Remember, any but especially BigPharmafia corporation (nowdays) ain't your friend. They like you and treat you well till you get into their crosshair. That usually means your days are numbered. To prevent this or at least to hit them back, you must get prepaired in advance. It is simple. You, I and everyone else knows that the wise guys in any BP co use all kinds of illegal and unethical means of doing their business. Peter knows and it is as common as common cold. They do it in such a way that it has become an art form. They cover it up well and change their methods the moment it is no longer useful or exposed. Your job is the watch them, see the misconduct and collect the evidence. Even if you are ordered to do it yourself, you still collect that evidence and file it. Everything and anything illegal, unethical or criminal is gold for you. By now you got the message. One day you may use this evidence either to initiate your own attack (sue them) by doing the right thing exposing the crooks or use it to defend yourself once they target you. It works like a charm. I know it from a personal experience with one of the biggest pharmafia companies. The only regret I have that I did not have the great info available nowdays, here on Peter's blog and eleswhere. If I had it at my time of conflict I would have walked away with a deal worth multiple millions. Believe it.
Remeber, the day you start HR and your bosses collect evidence on you, good, bad or ugly and wait till they need it. You may as well do it on them too and use it just as they use it against you.


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