Winning The 30-Second Race

By Malcolm Fleschner

In the film Gone in Sixty Seconds, Nicolas Cage plays a car thief who can break into and make off with an exotic vehicle, no matter what the security system, in less than a minute. No doubt this feat was supposed to impress audience members, but any pharmaceutical sales reps watching likely had the opposite reaction: A whole 60 seconds they might have muttered, incredulous. In my job I get half that much time to talk doctors into prescribing my products.

Admittedly, the 30-second call poses a real challenge for drug reps looking to establish any sort of meaningful relationship with their physicians. But as Cannon Flake, a sales representative for the New York-based Forest Laboratories notes in a recent Pharmaceutical Representative Magazine article, even a brief message – when properly executed – can have a powerful impact. He offers the following six tips.

1. Get up for the call. When you interrupt a busy doctor’s day, the least you owe him or her is enthusiasm. Take a moment beforehand to compose yourself, smile and look delighted to be speaking with the physician.

2. Say: I’ll be brief. Open by telling physicians that you know their time is short, so you will only take a moment. This will put doctors at ease, and they won’t spend the time you have together wondering: How am I going to get away from this person?

3. Consider what’s in a name. Physicians receive calls from dozens, sometimes hundreds, of drug reps, so why should they remember your name? Because you make it easy for them. If you have an uncommon name, spell it out and repeat it a few times during the call. Or come up with a memorable tag line, such as: I’m Dan, the hypertension man. Also, hold any visual aids you use close to your name tag so the physician can surreptitiously sneak a peak while talking to you.

4. Develop a strong opening. Begin the conversation with the most significant aspect of your presentation. One way is to launch into a competitive advantage by saying: One great reason to prescribe [product name] for those anemia patients who experience is…and then share one clear product advantage. Another strategy is to provide new information, such as a recent study or indication, remembering to comment on the pertinent benefit to a specific patient type. Or you might try building on whatever you and the physician talked about during your previous visit: Dr. Smith, last time we talked about some of the compliance issues you face with your patients with high blood pressure. Another reason to use [product name] relates to that issue… .

5. Narrow your focus. Don’t make the mistake of trying to turn your 30-second call into a dissertation on your product and the state of healthcare in the United States. Instead, pick a single point to make about your product and then make it clearly. That point might relate to tolerability, efficacy, fast onset of action, low cost, good formulary coverage, clean drug-to-drug interaction profile or ease of use. Save the other points for future visits.

6. Put on a trial. Always wrap up the conversation with a trial close or buy-in question that revolves around patients. Flake suggests: Dr. Brown, based on [product name]’s clean drug interaction profile, can you see how it would be the best choice, especially for your elderly patients who are likely on multiple medications?