The Power of Purpose

"People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it". - Simon Sinek

We had just dropped off our rental car at the Phoenix airport and were making our way to the terminal. Who would have thought that my daughters would receive a valuable life lesson from our bus driver!

“Thank you for being on my bus! You are an amazing group of people!” boomed his voice over the loud speaker. And then he gave us proof “The fact that you are travelling by plane today, means you are ambitious. You organized and made this trip happen. I drive this bus for my retirement fun and feel so fortunate to meet great, inspiring people like you every day.”

I looked around to see smirks on everyone’s face. Normally glum, subdued passengers,became delighted travelers.

I knew it had NOTHING to do with his company’s mission or direction for him. In fact, we had experienced very poor service from management of this rental company earlier on our trip. Johnny behaved this way DESPITE his management.

After we gathered our luggage, I asked Johnny Johnson, what inspired him to be so positive each day… Johnny had a choice to make. This wise man with his master’s degree could have groaned his way through each day to earn money to sustain himself and his family or he could love it. Because he chose the latter, he is making a difference each day. By focusing on serving others, he not only puts a smile on their face, he has a permanent smile on his own!

He realized his job wasn’t really to get luggage and bodies from point A to B. It had the potential to be much more than that!

“I do it because I get to make people smile every day,” he said.

“I bet you make more tips than the others!” I commented.

“Oh sure!” he said! “I make about $100 in tips a day!” he said proudly.

“How much to the others make?” I asked him curiously.

“Oh, about 40 bucks. One day, on my birthday, I made $500!” he added. “But you know why?” he said. “Because it’s coming from my heart. People are smart you know, they will know when it’s not sincere.”

So Johnny more than doubled his tips and was significantly happier – why? Because he chose to serve others. Johnny chose to make people feel good and smile every day. As a pharma person, you have that choice too – and even more. You have the opportunity to improve lives every day – to help hcps help patients. How can you be a bit more like Johnny and focus on the good you can bring to others; focus on your purpose?

And like Johnny, you don’t have to wait for your boss, or your company. You can enjoy your job despite them! And like Johnny you will experience greater rewards as a result.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” P. 8 Start With Why, by Simon Sinek

Our industry is working toward this. We have decided that patient centricity is where the puck is going in pharma. But now what? How do we skate to it?

Becoming aware that we need to be patient focused has been a slow process. Moving from awareness to action needs to be faster.The trouble is, if coming up with the idea is 5 percent of the effort, spreading the idea and implementing it is 95 percent!

One challenge is that pharma people mistakenly equate patient centricity with charity. While our industry is pouring millions of dollars into programs for patients, we are missing the opportunity to create growth through patient centricity.

A few leaders have figured it out. They know that when we focus on the patient, business will follow. So… how are they doing it? How are they empowering their people to serve differently? How are they shifting their focus from the product to the patient? This column shares some actionable ideas for you to try and an example of what one company did.

Helping your people start with ‘why’ may be the single biggest thing you should do to transform your outcomes. It will likely turn your approach upside down in order to turn you right side up! And you will love it. It will simply feel better and the results you get will prove it is better.

If you aren’t one of the millions of people who watched Simon Sinek’s now-famous TED talk, entitled ‘Start with Why’, get on it! Click the image below to watch it now.

Simon explains how great leaders and organizations think and communicate differently from everyone else. They all start with ‘why’. What does this mean? Most people communicate almost exclusively their ‘What’ – what they do and ‘How’ – how they do it. But great influencers start with their ‘Why’ – why they do what they do. They are in touch with their purpose. Most pharma people however, when they introduce themselves might say:

Pharma rep A) “I work for X pharma company as a specialty rep.”(yawn)

Simon says (I couldn’t resist that one) that the most influential reps would start with why and say instead:

Pharma rep B) “Everything I do is focused on improving the lives of patients who suffer from diabetes. I do that by helping health care professionals learn how to diagnose, treat, educate and follow up with patients. I am a specialty rep with X pharma company.”

Which pharma rep would you rather work with, or be? Communicating this way has many advantages. It builds trust, engages you and the other person and helps keep you focused on the patient.

Do you and your people jump out of bed each day – excited about the contribution you are going to make?

I was dismayed to hear the story of a product launch meeting in which the patient wasn’t even mentioned until 45 minutes into the presentation. What a miss! I have sat through too many sales presentations from senior leaders who project numbers and market share growth targets.  The people are left less than motivated, far from inspired and the leaders wonder why. Imagine a VP on the stage announcing:

 “Next year our goal is to see a 4 percent growth in market share!”(yawn)

I love seeing the difference in the audience when a VP says instead:

 “Next year our goal is to help 10,000 more people who are suffering from this debilitating condition.”

Focusing on serving patients requires us to make simple adjustments in how we think and communicate and has incredible repercussions.

Here’s one little idea that LEO Canada is doing. In their lobby they have recreated the old living room from one of their patients. When this patient started using the new psoriasis treatment, she was able to get rid of her couch that had brown, embarrassing stains from the product she was previously using. Seeing this scene when employees walk into work each day reminds them of the difference they are making for others.

Think about it. Why do you work in pharma? Why did you choose pharma above all other industries? Sure, it may have been the lifestyle, or the car, but when you dig deeper, does it give you satisfaction that your work contributes to improving lives?

It's this purpose that aligns objectives across pharma.

It’s this purpose that will build back our trustworthiness and open doors.

It's this purpose that will allow pharma to attract and retain the cream of the crop talent.

It’s this purpose that will turn patient centricity into a growth strategy!

It's this purpose that will ensure pharma puts the correct resources in place around the correct measures, not detailing but listening… not pushing but learning… not product but patient.

When we do good we do well!

Ready to make a subtle tweak to how you communicate? Just complete this template.


Why do I do what I do?

What is the ultimate outcome of my effort?

How do I impact patients?


How do I serve?

What do I do with whom?


What am I?

At the end of one of my “Power of Purpose” workshops a student raised her hand to say she just had an “ah-ha”. She said that she remembers when she first started as a rep feeling really conflicted after a ‘work-with’. Her manager advised her to look in the mirror at the end of each day and ask herself:

 “Did I sell drugs today?”

She tried that but it felt flat. She always thought that there was something wrong with her. Maybe she wasn’t competitive enough? In our workshop she realized that her manager should have shifted his comment slightly and advised her to look in the mirror and ask herself:

“Did I help improve patients’ lives today?”

Then she would have been on fire each day. We all want to serve. We all want to make a difference. A simple shift in how we approach our work; by focusing on the impact we can have on patients will do that for you. You will feel better, and you will have greater influence and more impact. And guess what, if you’re not hearing it from your boss, it can start with you. Try it! Everyone will win! 

Jill Donahue and John Elliott are on a mission to help lift pharma - to build sales faster in a patient-focused way. They are the creators of the award-winning program EngageRx: The 3 Keys to Patient-focused Growth for pharma professionals. If you’re curious about EngageRx, you can receive their free teaching videos or connect with Jill and John on Linkedin or Jill on Twitter.

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Patient Summit USA 2015

Oct 19, 2015 - Oct 20, 2015, Philadelphia

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