In April, just weeks into the coronavirus-prompted shutdowns, Kevin Bordelon, a sales representative for drug giant Sanofi, looked up from a video call with a dermatologist to spot a redheaded blur in the background. It was his 3-year-old toddler, racing in with “nothing but underwear on and peanut butter all over his face,” he recalls, laughing. “And there’s just nothing you can do at that point to stop it, you know? You just kind of let it happen.”
Bordelon’s toddler disruptions while working from home are a far cry from the iconic image of a polished pharmaceutical sales rep barging into a doctor’s office with briefcase and a spread of drug samples in hand—think Jake Gyllenhaal peddling Viagra pills in the 2010 romantic comedy Love & Other Drugs. But the pandemic has changed things, even in the world of sales. The 40-year-old Bordelon used to spend his workdays traveling across the U.S., meeting with doctors and other medical providers. Lately, though, he’s swapped the fieldwork for a home-office setup, virtual meetings, and some rowdy new co-workers: his 3-yearold and 6-year-old sons.
Plenty of professionals around the world have made the shift to telework during the pandemic, but it’s an especially big change for America’s 65,000 pharmaceutical salespeople, who have long relied on personal office visits and events. Stuck at home like everyone else, they’ve turned to emails and virtual meetings. But the new formats have left sales reps struggling, more limited in how many clients they can meet in a day and navigating other fresh obstacles.
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