The 30-second representative

January 1, 1997
Pharmaceutical Representative

Knowing what you want, who can give it to you and how to get it are the three basic principles of the 30-second message.

Read the following aloud: "Doctor, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that because of the increasing size of the aging baby boomer generation, you're going to be seeing more patients with [vivid symptom or diagnosis]. The good news is that [my product] can help solve the problem by [succinct product feature], which means [succinct benefit to the doctor/patient]. Can you think of any patients [specific patient type] in your practice who can bene-fit from [my product?]"

Stop! You have just read a 30-second message.

Thirty seconds may not seem like a long time, but it's long enough to say what you want to say.

When the doctor informs the sales rep that he or she has only a few seconds to spare, there are two compelling reasons why 30 seconds is the ideal length of time in which to get your sales message across.

The first is time constraint. The 15 minutes of the past is the 30 seconds of today. In order to survive and move forward, you must be able to get your point across swiftly and succinctly in 30 seconds or less.

The second reason why 30 seconds is the ideal length of time to get your message across is that even when a person has time to listen to you, his or her mind can accept a limited amount of information in one steady flow. The attention span of the average individual is 30 seconds. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the field of radio and television commercials.

Basic principles

The first basic principle is to have a clear-cut objective, or purpose, for your 30-second sales call. Once your objective is clear, you can begin to formulate your message. Your objective may range from providing follow-up information the doctor requested during the previous call to setting up a future appointment to obtain feedback regarding clinical trial outcomes.

The second basic principle of the 30-second message is to know what the doctor wants from you and what will elicit a favorable reaction from him or her. Identify the doctor's hot buttons, hobbies, practice profile and managed care impact. Discussing these topics will help capture the doctor's attention.

The third basic principle is a well-formulated approach, or strategy. Of course, your objective will influence the approach you take. Your knowledge of the needs and interests of the doctor will also affect your approach.

Knowing what you want, who can give it to you and how to get it are the three basic principles of the 30-second message.

However, a truly effective 30-second message contains something more than just three basic ingredients. In order to make the message interesting, complete and successful, you need to fish for what captivates the doctor's attention (the hook), know your subject (the line) and ask for action (the close or sinker).

A hook is a statement or an object used specifically to get your customer's attention. If you do not engage the doctor's attention immediately, even a 30-second message will be lost. Your hook should relate to your objective, your listener and your approach. A hook can be a question or a statement. It can be dramatic, humorous or visual.

The subject, or line, is what your 30-second message is all about. It should explain, reinforce and prove the point you are there to make.

At the end of each 30-second message, you must ask for what you want. There are two types of closes for a 30-second message: an action close and a reaction close.

An action close requests a specific action with a specific time frame. The reaction close is a soft sell approach that uses the power of suggestion or the power of example to get the desired results. The reaction close is the strategy to use when your best chance is to ask indirectly. For example, "Doctor, how do you feel about using [my product] for [a particular indication?]"

Strategy is very important when it comes to choosing your close. The two operative rules are: Know your objective and know your listener.

Unique situations

Obviously, all of your sales calls won't be only 30 seconds long. Some calls require more time, especially if the doctor has questions or issues that must be addressed.

Sometimes a 30-second sales call can buy more selling time because the doctor becomes interested and willingly involved. But remember, doctors are not obligated to see sales reps. If the doctor needs you to be quick and concise, do it.

The 30-second message is an effective way to get your point across. Use it. PR