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MS&D RECEIVED 28,000 APPLICATIONS FOR 480 DETAIL FORCE POSITIONS

Executive Summary

MS&D RECEIVED 28,000 APPLICATIONS FOR 480 DETAIL FORCE POSITIONS added in the most recent round of Merck sales force hiring, according to John Rieg, Merck Sharp & Dohme's executive director for field operations. "In its most recent hiring cycle," Reig said, "Merck reviewed 28,00 applications and conducted interviews with 4,900 candidates over a five-week period before hiring 480 sales trainees." Reig discussed MS&D's sales representative hiring and training practices at the National Wholesale Druggist Association (NWDA) annual meeting in Maui, Hawaii. Merck uses physician "mentors" in sales training, Reig explained. "Each representative is assigned a physician mentor," he said. "These physicians specialize in rheumatology, cardiology, orthopedics, surgery, gastroenterology and other specialties." Sales reps spend a half day per quarter at the doctor's practice site, Reig added, "where they receive hands-on training," including use of "patient instructors who are afflicted with a given disease." The "mentor" concept is part of Merck's "obsession with training" its sales force, Rieg said. The first phase of training starts immediately after hiring with a nine-week course designed as a "primer in medicine", with lectures on anatomy, physiology and disease states. Trainees undergo 20 exams in which they are required to score consistently at the 90%-level or better to remain in the program, he said. Intensive pre-employment screening has maintained only a 1%-2% failure rate during phase one, he added. The second phase of training involves a three-week stint at Merck headquarters in which trainees develop communications skills and learn the legal aspects of medical detailing. Trainees are also briefed by the company's medical and marketing departments about disease entities and product information, Rieg continued. At the conclusion of this phase, trainees are assigned a sales territory under the supervision of a district manager, he said. They also begin a home study course in which they are tested on two products each quarter, Rieg continued. Trainees ate required to maintain a 90% scoring record on those exams as well. After three to six months in the field, trainees spend a week at a medical school where they attend lectures by physicians "who are the foremost authorities in their fields," Rieg maintained. Trainees return to corporate headquarters at the end of the first year for an additional two weeks of training, he added. "They receive an update on medical knowledge" and use computer-simulations for territory sales planning and analysis. Sales reps also attend a half-day seminar on business ethics, he added. Sales training continues throughout representatives' careers, Rieg said. One-week refresher courses are required every two years, he explained, and hospital-based training is required before a sales representative is allowed to operate in that market. "We believe that because of this intense training, physicians rely upon our professional representatives as do our other customers."
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