Here's my FREE advice on probably your most important relationship in pharmaceutical sales!

If you are a medical representative your relationship with your immediate boss is likely to hugely affect the job satisfaction you are experiencing right now. Remember though, whoever you are and whatever you do, you are likely to have someone to report to.  Even the Chairman has her shareholders to please.

And while it is rarely mentioned in job competency frameworks or “skillsets”, your ability to manage your boss (or bosses) will prove to be critical to your career success and happiness.

These skills could be the most important you learn…

While some regional sales managers are rather one-dimensional (in a charming way!) and simply delivering above target sales keeps them happy, many demand more subtle boss-pleasing skills to maximise their support.

Looking back on my career leads me to suggest that you should not so much do as I did – instead do as I suggest here. I got it wrong from time to time and this article is the product of my lessons learnt!

“Keeping you Boss Happy” is not (necessarily) about sucking up to him. It is simply developing the skills to help the relationship function as smoothly as possible.

Firstly, Take responsibility – if you are not getting on with your boss or feel she doesn’t like you, it is your problem. It’s not your fault per se – but it is certainly your problem and your responsibility to get it sorted.  And as there is likely to only be one loser (i.e. you) if nothing is done about it, you have got to get working on the solution

Little Things

Energy – develop an energetic demeanour.  This doesn’t mean bouncing round like Tigger on acid but it does mean putting a bit of zip in to what you say and what you do. As they say in the army: “Look lively!”

Energize others – we have all been to team meetings where one participant has decided to have a bad day (or year – you know who you are!). They sit there sighing, yawning, tapping their pen and rolling there eyes. If you catch their gaze they shake their head in a dismissive way. Their only contributions seem negative.  Now while critical and forensic analysis of the new detail aid can be helpful in the right context these “mood Hoovers” are downright irritating.

Instead you should seek to boost the energy of your colleagues. A friendly comment here, an encouraging remark there, and of course keep up that positive body language. If you hear that a colleague has done something successfully send them a congratulations email – carbon copying in your boss. Your boss will notice.

From time to time you will get an external speaker or trainer in to talk to your team (someone like me!) – you are immensely naive if you think your boss won’t ask (and respect) the opinion of this “expert” about their team. Be sure to be the one the external consultant says “Well there was one person who I thought was a total star…”

Smile – come on, how hard is that!?!

Don’t sulk – get over it. Don’t dwell on past mistakes or reprimands. Come to think of it …

Don’t dwell on past successes either – your boss will have moved on to tomorrow’s challenges. You should too.

Compliment her – if your boss did a good (or reasonable) job giving that conference speech or running that team meeting let her know how good you thought it was and why. We all have egos.

Personal Stuff

Ask about his wife and kids – though not too often!

Take a passing interest in her hobbies - or favourite TV shows or whatever.

Compliment him – while you may think his new Daffy Duck tie is ludicrous let some other hapless colleague give him the feedback. But be first to notice and admire his new Rolex.

Work Practices

Visual stuff – much of what you do in the field goes unseen. Make sure that the stuff that is seen is immaculate. This means always have a clean car whenever your boss may see it. Got a field visit? Stock up your boot with the latest literature. Always have your paperwork up to date and accurate – that means, in particular, your expenses and call reports. Format your weekly report with thought and care. It is simple and you are daft if you don’t do it.

Unseen stuff – keep your boss posted on all the wonderful work you are doing that may go unnoticed. Heard from a chemist that that big 6 handed GP practice has moved over to your drug? Let your boss know. Don’t give him “War and Peace” but do send a punchy 2 line email.

Get stuff done quickly – your boss hates chasing or reminding you to send her stuff.  Very often this stuff is for her boss.

Help your boss handle her boss – if the project you have been asked to work on will be seen by your boss’s boss, take extra care and be extra prompt.

Admit mistakes early on – this is always the best policy. If you get found out later it is so much worse. Even better admit it and say what you learnt from it. Bosses love that!

Limit bad news – don’t bring more than one item of bad news to your boss’s attention at any one time. Consider sandwiching a piece of bad news between 2 pieces of good news - bosses do this sort of thing when giving you feedback

Accept feedback graciously – your boss gives you corrective feedback to help you get on and improve. While you may not agree entirely with his comments, he is entitled to his opinion and he quite possibly has a point. Accept his feedback with a “thank you” and realise that getting better will involve you being open to new ideas.

Make stuff happen – get things done rather than talking about it. The pharmaceutical industry has plenty of “know alls” – it’s less about what you know and more about what you do. Bosses love a doer.

Choice of solutions – offer your boss a choice of solutions rather than problems. Make it easy for her to make decisions. You should have done the legwork – it’s what you are paid for.

Test drive a solution – bosses love it if you gave one or more of your possible solutions a try first.

For example a great solution to struggling to get in to see a key customer would be…ahem… to recommend a training workshop by me and my team at Fully Equipped!

Oh, and lastly... GET THE SALES IN!