The Longest Elevator Ride, Ever.
For years, parents have told their children not to pick their noses, it’s gross, it’s lacking in manners, it’s unhealthy— so imagine when you tell your parents that you’re getting paid, to pick someone else’s nose, for a living. Now when you see a little one with their finger wedged so far up their nose; and, at risk of doing brain damage, don’t scold-mold, into and ENT or ENT sales rep.
More accurately, my job was to train surgeons on how to pick other people’s noses, with a new device. I’ve always referred to rep training as mini-medicalschool. We were taken into the cadaver* lab; not my first, but my first, with a disembodied head, sitting on a table. I’m not sure which was more shocking, the sight or the smell. It was a start-up, costs were cut, when needed, and ‘fresh heads’ were a luxury the Company could not afford for rep training.
The trainer told us that these were left over from the European Course, they had just taught, 12 days before**. I will try not to be too graphic, since many of you have never had a desire to know what a cadaver is much less have intimate knowledge of one. The heads, come packed in dry ice and completely wrapped in blue surgical paper and plastic. The best analogy I can provide is if you’ve ever ordered a fresh turkey. I know, some of you are telling me to fuck off, since I ruined your thanksgivings—sorry. While our specimens had been refrigerated during that time, a certain amount of, natural decomposition takes place.
I was the only female rep in the training class, so there was no way I was going to be the one who passed out or threw up. I remembered reading somewhere that if something smelled badly, take the deepest breathe possible, and you won’t sell the smell anymore. Essentially, to temporarily burn out the olfactory nerves (responsible for the sense of smell). I breathed in so hard, I saw stars. Imagine my disappointment, when the only thing that happened, was I was light headed. Upside, I was so focused on not falling over, the smell became a secondary concern.
Training consisted of, poking around in cadaver heads and listening to people, who like to hear themselves talk, on a rinse and repeat cycle, for two weeks. I understand the importance of providing reps with a consistent and factual overview of the products, but this Company, took it to an entirely different, and narcissistic level. We were often given scripts or ‘talk tracks’, that were to be memorized verbatim, and later we were tested on our ability to word puke it all back in ‘Role Play’. “No, Melayna, it’s ‘a’ there and not ‘the’,” I kid you not, that was an actual criticism. If that’s the only thing I screwed up, kindly go fuck yourself, without lube, please.
And that was before we got to the ‘elevator pitch.’ An elevator pitch, is a short, quick, talk track that highlights the feature and benefits of your product. This quick pitch was to be used to engage a surgeon in a conversation while you were stuck on an elevator together. (Surgeons, see it as trapped).
Seriously, I have had some really uncomfortable elevator rides. The surgeon, knows who you are, what you represent, and will not make eye contact with you. They will look at a speck of dirt on the floor, like it’s the key to the meaning of life, just to avoid engaging you in conversation. And, when the elevator starts to open, they run out before the doors are even fully open, not caring that they may have just knocked an elderly person to the floor. Yes, some are that desperate, to get 30 seconds peace in an elevator and avoid being sold to. I, honestly, can’t say that I blame them. Remember, you’re not really a good rep, until you get your first restraining order.
On the second day of training, the class, about six of us, were handed a single spaced, document, completely filled with text. We were instructed to learn the document, for the next day, and be able to recite the elevator pitch verbatim, to an Area Director (above our Managers). We all looked at each other like, he better mount that dinosaur he rode to work today and get the fuck out of here.
Wow, this guy not only needed an edit button when speaking, (his average story was about 2 hours, and never reached a point), he seriously needed to edit his elevator Manifesto, replete with editorializing about the grandeur of the company (doctors love that, by the way-said no one ever). I’ll paraphrase one concept (probably close to 25 lines in actual totality), that stated, surgeons should basically feel ‘lucky’ to work with such an advanced company, and grateful that we’d consider training them.
Our scrubs didn’t come with protective cups, but that would have been needed, if we were forced to read any of that. To speak that way to a surgeon was not only disrespectful, it was suicidal.
Ted Kaczynski, wrote more articulately and lucidly, and he was the Unabomber. Without thinking, (seriously, do I even need to say it anymore, it’s pretty much a given), I said, “ I’m not sure what elevators you’ve ridden in a hospital, but most OR’s are in the basement or on first or second floor. And, as fast as I talk, I couldn’t get through this drivel, if I were riding an elevator at the Empire State Building.”
The next day, when we were supposed to have committed the manifesto to memory, and just before we were supposed to drink the Kool-Aid laced with cyanide, the instructor asked if I was ready. I told him I sure was, handed him the paper filled with gibberish words and had about 25 words circled. He asked, “What’s this?”
I responded, “This is my elevator pitch, edited, concise, factual, void of company propaganda. You’d stand a better chance having one of the disembodied cadaver heads reading what you wrote, than you ever will, getting any me to read that arrogant, incoherent drivel, to my surgeons.”
Harvard Business Review, agrees, an elevator pitch should be 30 seconds (not 30 minutes and require the assistance of an oxygen tank) and is an articulate concise way of conveying the following*:
- Have a compelling reason for why you are there
- Know what it is that uniquely qualifies your product for the procedure so that you can answer the how, as in “how did the product come about.”
- Be able to explain what ties together past and current experiences in a way that is compelling and makes sense — what is the glue that holds the story together?
*cadaver-human body used to study and train for medical purposes.
**when we trained surgeons at the courses, all the cadavers were ‘fresh.’ I was told, that many of the bodies were from nursing home patients, who would donate their bodies (all parts are sent out to appropriate learning centers) and sent back within two weeks to be properly cremated and sent on to their family members.
More on refining your message: http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/02/the-art-of-crafting-a-15-word-strategy-statement/