Lilly's Connelly blasts reps mouthing off online

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Lilly USA president Deirdre Connelly yesterday took a swipe at online forums that attract disgruntled, venting sales reps, describing sites like CafePharma.com as “outlets for people who don't have the courage to speak out with their ideas” for improving their roles and the performance of their companies.

Connelly was addressing delegates at Pharmaceutical Executive's Marketing & Sales Summit in Philadelphia on the reevaluation and restructure of Lilly's sales operation. With the company already in the second year of a five-year plan, Connelly emphasized the need for sales reps to make a transition from merely delivering messages in the physician's office to actually solving problems for the physician.

“We need to have an expanded view of what sales training looks like, but without losing our focus,” she said. “You need to be certain that what you do is relevant.”

One approach Lilly will take is to build its specialty sales forces from within the organization. “On average, those reps promoted from primary care to specialty fields do better than those hired from the outside,” Connelly noted.

But while Connelly leveled charges of cowardice to the outspoken Web community, she is not lacking in courage herself. Connelly, once a rep in the 1980s, likes to go undercover every so often as a Lilly rep, just to keep her finger on the pulse of detailing. On a recent mission in northern Indianapolis, she described how one particular doctor walked past and ignored her three times before finally returning with pen, expecting to sign for samples.

When Connelly told the physician that she didn't have samples but just wanted to talk for a minute, he stepped back, seemingly offended, and asked her why she was there and where was his regular rep? Eventually, he asked to see Connelly's business card. “President, Lilly USA,” he read. “President? President of what?”

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