As the author of Secrets of Successful Pharmaceutical Salespeople (Taylor Presentations, 2004) and the president of her own pharmaceutical sales training and motivation company, Sarah Taylor should probably be among the top industry experts to ask about the best-kept insider secrets for getting ahead quickly in the pharmaceutical sales field. Except that she’s not. She explains why:
"The title of my book is ironic because there really are no ‘secrets’ of the most successful pharma reps," she says. "These folks simply have an intense focus on what they are supposed to do, and they do it every day. They don’t make excuses, like saying ‘I don’t really need to sit down and target my messages to my doctors – I’ve been in this territory for years, and I know what products they are all writing prescriptions for.’ The best reps get eight details in a day – not just eight signatures or eight conversations about their kids – they plan their calls every morning, they target their messages, they maintain high ethics, they know their science inside and out, and they keep their relationships with the doctors more professional than personal. They don’t lower their standards or come up with sneaky ‘tricks’ to get in to see doctors. They just stay focused, and when they finally get access they make sure that they make a really great (and professional) impression. This impression (and the opinion it creates) will be what gets them in the door in the future."
While Taylor stresses the importance of such "fundamentals" to achieving long-term success in pharmaceutical sales, she acknowledges that some of the top reps she’s interviewed have often found unique and novel strategies – ways of going above and beyond the call of duty – for gaining access, helping patients or assisting physicians with some of the greatest challenges they face in their practices. She cites the example of one rep she interviewed who hit upon a terrific way to help patients and a targeted physician at the same time.
"One of the great ways you can help a doctor grow their practice is to help them do screenings – like cholesterol screenings and glaucoma screenings," she says. "I know a doctor who got his practice off the ground in an area of LA that has a very high African-American and Latino population. These are two groups that tend to have very high occurrences of glaucoma but very low rates of seeking medical attention. This rep went to churches in his community with low-income congregations and offered free glaucoma screenings. He went in on Sundays to help the doctor do the screenings. It worked out really well because it not only helped the doctor grow the practice but it also helped diagnose all these patients who never knew they had glaucoma and could have easily gone blind. This was a terrific way to accomplish those two tasks."
Not all innovative ideas require getting physicians out of the office, however. In fact, Taylor says, one creative approach she used to use in her tenure in the field was to take the traditional dinner program and transplant it into a clinic in her territory.
"This only works if you have a hotshot speaker from a local university in town," she says, "but if you also have a pretty big clinic with five or ten doctors in it, have that speaker come out to the clinic over lunch and do one of these dinner programs at lunchtime. This gives the physicians the chance to sit down and actually learn something, but they can do it in the comfort of their own offices and they don’t have to take time away from their families. It’s a way of saying, ‘Hey, we value your clinic so much and we want you to know this information. We want you to be able to ask this speaker intimate questions about your business and your practice and your patients, so we’re bringing this speaker here just to speak to you.
"It’s a great way to get doctors to come to your lunch program, but also to feel that you’ve really brought them some value. And since you don’t have to do it at a fancy restaurant, you actually save money. It’s always appreciated by the doctors and it really got us in the doors."
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