Access Approved

By Malcolm Fleschner

Want to know a sure-fire, silver bullet strategy for getting in to meet with even the most inaccessible physicians every single time? Of course you would—what drug rep wouldn’t? Unfortunately, no such strategy exists. But what you can do is learn from and adopt the approaches that have proven effective for the most successful reps in the industry. Sales consultant and author of The 7 Powers of Questions (Perigee Books, 2000), Dorothy Leeds surveyed some of the top sales reps, managers and trainers in the pharmaceutical industry and asked for their best practices for gaining access. She distilled the answers down to seven key tips.

1. Grab their attention.
To physicians, drug rep visits are a lot like commercials during a TV show—something only worth paying attention to if there’s entertainment value or compelling information. In return for taking some of a physician’s precious time, you should commit to presenting something the doctor wants and needs to hear. Your presentation must have medical value, but it also should be creative and interesting and you should be personable.

2. Persistence pays off.
Even the best reps get rejected and rebuffed over and over, perhaps even more than average performers. Commit to going back every week or every few weeks at the same time. This demonstrates that you are a professional and won’t be put off so easily.

3. Establish ground rules.When you take a physician to lunch, make it clear that you expect something in return, whether it’s 10 minutes right after the meal or a commitment for a 10-minute meeting in the office later on. There’s nothing wrong with being blunt about a quid pro quo for the effort you’ve put forth.

4. Get out of the box.
It can be difficult to come up with creative approaches, but there’s usually a payoff. Each time you return to a physician’s office, ask yourself: What did I tell this doctor last time? How can I build on that? What do I have to offer that is new? Being creative also means that when you get in for the meeting you can’t just read to the physician from an article. That’s insulting. Summarize a few key points and then leave a copy behind.

5. Mail it in.Even the most difficult-to-reach physicians agree to see some trusted drug reps. So, how do you join that club? One way is to break the ice with a personal note. Write a note saying: I know your time is valuable and you don’t want to waste any of it. I’m asking for just 5 minutes. If those 5 minutes aren’t valuable to you and your practice, I promise I won’t ask again. Then follow up aggressively.

6. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.
Use every successful call to set the stage for the next call. At the conclusion of the presentation, say: Based on our conversation today, may I follow up with you in a few weeks?

7. Focus on relationships.
Being a pharmaceutical rep isn’t about bombarding physicians with information. It’s about building relationships. Always concentrate on getting to know the physicians and their practices. Your integrity and sincerity will do more to sway a doctor than a whole stack of studies and statistics.

For more information, contact Dorothy Leeds at or call 212-864-2424.