There was once a time, in days of yore, when an announcement made by your Sales Director about the next sales conference venue would be akin to revealing the winning city for an Olympic bid and have the entire sales force rummage for their passport and the sun cream as they look forward to the annual corporate jolly!
Attending your first pharmaceutical sales conference was always somewhat of an industry rite of passage and historically it would involve a short or long haul flight to some 5-star venue recently featured on a TV travel show – and this would constitute 4-5 days of work?
Taking your ‘most valuable asset’ (how often have you heard that cliché on conference?) abroad for a few days of corporate indoctrination, motivation and inebriation, but not always in that order, became something that senior pharma sales and marketing executives would treat as something of a personal ego trip, not forgetting a point of reference for their annual performance review.
This year, however, things appear to be changing as the industry continues its drive to be more politically correct, manage its public image better and avoid public or media opprobrium by keeping its sales forces on home shores for the forthcoming conference season. A recent and very unscientific straw poll conducted by yours truly, confirmed that most major pharma firms are indeed staying in the UK.
Dubai, Barcelona, Montego Bay and assorted Mediterranean resorts now become Heathrow, Brighton and Manchester, so quite a sea change there! I was always told by agency staff charged with the job of organising these events that overseas sojourns were often far less expensive than a domestic trip, so the reasons for this strategic change are ostensibly other than economic, although without doubt in the current austere climate, coupled with dwindling product pipelines, cost savings are an issue.
The sales conference season is traditionally formulaic. Whether you are holed up in that glitzy hotel for a few days to launch a product, licence extension, do some role plays and refine your slick selling patter or simply hear how well your company is doing compared to your arch rivals, one generally knows what the week will entail.
I am certainly detecting a lot less corporate hubris and a bit more humility and reality at events I’ve attended for the last 2-3 years or so and would predict that this mood music will continue as our industry gets used to a very different selling environment when compared to the heady 80s and 90s when profligacy at the annual sales jamboree was celebrated and excess encouraged!
So wherever you are taken this conference season, put your cynicism aside, enjoy yourself and remember, whether you are looking out of your hotel at a runway or motorway flyover rather than a sun-drenched pool-side cocktail bar, that your week at conference constitutes ‘work’ and it’s at your employers expense so many of your friends in other industries would happily swap places with you! Enjoy…………….!!!