Get Into Character

By Malcolm Fleschner

There are few traits that can be ascribed to virtually all physicians, with the possible exception of horrible penmanship. Some are friendly and engaging; others are more tight-lipped and distant. Some are glad to spend a few minutes chatting with drug reps while others act as though they’d rather be coated with suet and tossed into an alligator pit.

For salespeople working in the pharmaceutical field, success often depends on being able to assess individual physicians’ personalities and then adjust their selling approach accordingly. In Professional Pharmaceutical Selling (Principle Publications, 2005), author Jane Williams ( suggests physicians are likely to exhibit a combination of four specific personality styles, which, she says, drug reps should learn to recognize quickly.

1. Thinkers.
Most physicians, simply by dint of their career choice, are thinkers. When stressed, thinkers tend to seem aloof and act in an impersonal manner. When selling to thinkers be thorough, detailed and logical. Do your homework so you know your stuff backwards and forwards. Thinkers are decidedly unimpressed by reps who do not understand the facts surrounding the information they’re presenting.

2. Feelers.
These physicians tend to be more emotional and unpredictable than their peers. Pediatricians and family practitioners often tend to be feelers. From a sales standpoint, reps need to be warm and friendly, maintain eye contact and express a genuine interest in them. Emphasize how your products improve patients’ lives and share opinions you’ve heard from other physicians.

3. Sensors.
Unlike feelers, sensors tend to be put off by open demonstrations of emotion. These are serious folks. They tend to be punctual and expect to hear everything – the good and the bad – about your product. Specialties, such as neurology, cardiology and surgery tend to attract sensors. To sell to sensors, take a direct approach. Be concise and confident. Be assertive but not pushy. Do not vacillate. When you express an opinion, make it sound like a fact.

4. Intuitors.
The more innovative thinkers in your territory will tend to be intuitors. They will focus more on the future than others. Physicians who work at teaching institutions often are intuitors. To earn their trust you should position your product as the latest, greatest new approach. Use metaphors to paint a picture. Intuitors will appreciate the enthusiasm you demonstrate for your product.