Sakinah slips a CD into her car player. Destiny's Child's "Be Happy" sends out a melodic pep talk before she walks into a client's office. Sakinah, 24, has her routine down. Her customers are specialists too--psychiatrists, pain doctors, neurologists, and gastroenterologists. On this day, she's visiting a pain doctor.
She digs into boxes of product literature, samples and marketing materials, neatly stacked in the trunk of her Ford Escape, and refills her bag.
In the Healthcare Center, Sakinah follows-up with the doctor, asking if he's used the product. "I try to get them to see the benefits of the product," she says. It's a sales process like all others--developing relationships over time--but with the added extra of knowing her products increase the quality of life of those who are suffering.
In 2003, Sakinah began work for Organon, a unit of the global Netherlands-based biotech firm, Akzo Nobel. "My dad works for the company and introduced me. I did my research on the industry early and grew a liking to it," Sakinah explains. "My mom wanted me to be a pharmacist, but chemistry was not my thing. This job gave me an opportunity to get into the industry but not do pharmaceuticals. I love people."
Even so, Sakinah's career choice did not come easy. "I wasn't one of those kids who came out of high school and knew what I wanted to do," says Sakinah. "The furthest thing from my mind was college. I didn't know what I was going to do when I got there. I went to college with a business mind. I considered investment banking." Finally, with a BA in economics from Atlanta's Spelman College, she was ready for sales.
Specialty pharmaceutical sales gives Sakinah the opportunity to be an entrepreneur within the company. "I'm able to see my progress by monitoring the monthly numbers and how doctors respond to me. I never looked at this before or how I could call a doctor a friend, but now I can. My office is out of my home, and I live in my territory. You have to be very disciplined, self-motivated and determined to be successful." She works for salary plus bonus.
Sakinah is out of the house by 8:30 every morning, seeing some of her roughly 230 customers, periodically concentrating on the 58 pain doctors who might buy her pain medicine. She also sees pharmacists to try to get them to permanently stock the meds. She approaches them as colleagues and potential friends, always with a winning smile. They give her feedback on the products she sells and sales prospects. "It's a team effort," she notes.