Eight Great Tips

By Malcolm Fleschner

With the level of extensive and exhaustive training that goes into preparing pharmaceutical sales professionals, it’s no wonder that new drug reps often hit the ground thinking they have all the tools necessary to compete and win immediately. Not so fast, says Christopher McCarthy, a St. Louis-based primary care internist who also teaches a course in marketing pharmaceuticals. As McCarthy explains, despite all that training there are still any number of learning lessons awaiting new reps. Here are a few he identifies in particular, some of which go directly against the traditional training orthodoxy.

1. Avoid the sin of commission.
Like most salespeople, pharmaceutical reps frequently conclude a call by asking for a commitment from the physician to prescribe certain drugs. The doctor, however, might not feel comfortable making such a commitment. Forcing a doctor into an uncomfortable position may harm the future relationship.

2. Don’t get in too deep.
Probing sales techniques too often allow physicians to take sales calls in different directions. Reps should maintain control of the call by presenting their information quickly and concisely. Don’t bother with roundabout methods for getting your point across about symptoms, side effects or pricing.

3. Don’t book ’em.
Too often reps like to drag out the Physicians Desk Reference (PDR) to nitpick and badmouth a competitor’s product. In addition to feeling that they’re already well informed, doctors don’t appreciate being lectured to. Only use the PDR when you have a clear point to make about the specific clinical differences of competing products.

4. Give just the facts.
Here are the critical pieces of information physicians need to know if they are going to prescribe your drug: efficacy, cost, side effects, drug interactions, monitoring, safety, dosages, formulary coverage and sample availability.

5. Hear it here first.
Damaging information might come out about your products. When this happens be sure you get to your doctors first to break the news. You don’t want them hearing it initially from their patients.

6. End the junk, already!
Pharmaceutical companies love to put the names of their drugs on every piece of junk imaginable and then hand the stuff out to doctors. Here’s a short list of such items that might be of interest: pens, pads and anatomical models.

7. Know your stuff.
Drug reps who don’t know everything about their products won’t get far. Be voracious in finding out everything about your drugs as well as the diseases they treat. Read everything available about your products as well as the commonly read medical journals. You should never have to get back to a physician with an answer.

8. Forget the mind games.
Traditional manipulative sales tricks, for the most part, do not work on physicians. Instead of going for a hokey close, keep the conversation on the level of two professionals having a discussion and the physician will respect you, perhapseven enough to follow your advice on prescribing.