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The key to success is to become a value-added resource, a rep that delivers tangible benefits to physicians.
There has been much discussion regarding the increase in the number of pharmaceutical sales representatives over the past five years. One estimate states that while the number of physicians has stayed level, the number of representatives calling on them has doubled. Couple that with increased demands on a physician's time, and it's easy to see how quality time with a physician can be drastically decreased, if not eliminated totally. Given that, how can representatives effectively deliver the messages our companies expect of us? The key is to become a value-added resource, a rep that delivers tangible benefits to physicians. Several initiatives that my two teammates (Lynn Wing and Theresa Bushman) and I have begun in the past year or so have generated dramatic results that show what can be achieved when the focus shifts from what physicians can do for us to what we can do for them.
All representatives are under increased pressure to do outside events to get our message across to physicians. We've done what many other representatives have and cultivated local speakers. But we haven't stopped there. In addition, we've helped the speakers prepare their talks, going as far as to make the PowerPoint or slide presentations when necessary. We've also suggested additional source material that speakers may want to utilize to further the message. This additional material is never product-specific; it's generally along the lines of proving the severity or impact of the disease state in question. We provide technical support as necessary and do what we can to make the speaker look good and make the presentation go smoothly. We make the difference in allowing the speaker not to be a walking, talking advertisement for our products, but instead an advocate of more aggressive diagnosis and treatment of the disease state. Lynn, Theresa and I carry the weight regarding product discussion - we let our speakers stay above the fray and non-promotional, in addition to enabling them to give the best presentation possible.
Recently, a primary care physician in our territory took over the practice of an allergist who had retired. Lynn took the initiative to build inroads with this physician, a person who was never easy to see. She arranged for discussions between this physician and various allergists in our territory so that he could be as up-to-date as possible, and also helped him by telling physicians in his area that he was available for asthma and allergy-related problems. I just received a thank-you card from him today regarding a slide presentation I made for him (I haven't gotten him switched over to PowerPoint just yet - small steps). He's still a hard doctor to see - for other reps; he'll stop what he's doing when Lynn calls on him, because he's seen that she's an asset.
In another instance, a physician in our territory was looking to add a partner. Theresa took the lead in finding information on candidates he was interviewing and forwarding items that aren't necessarily listed on a curriculum vitae. Again, this physician isn't an easy doctor to see for other reps; for Theresa, his staff goes so far as to pull him out of a room to talk to her. That's because he recognizes the value she brings.
Theresa has been involved in asthma for 12 years with three different companies, and has a real ability to organize community outreach programs. She has built a program called the Pulmonary Symposium, where we bring in national speakers on the latest treatments, and has developed it into a twice-a-year program. She is currently working on an asthma awareness program that we'd like to roll out in the fall. Her efforts with this second program are extraordinary in that she was able to involve a hospital that traditionally has not been rep-friendly and the medical director of a physician group who likewise has never been receptive to reps. These programs benefit physicians, since greater community awareness of the disease creates increased demand for services, and become a true win-win-win when the physician sees increased business, patients get better treatment and we get increased utilization of our products. Again, we take the non-promotional approach to the extent that the audience, be it physicians or patients, isn't hit over the head with a blatant commercial for our products, but instead a balanced presentation of the benefits of treatment.
Similarly, we're starting to work with the family practice residency program in our town. We've always called on them, knowing full well that half of the residents will end up practicing in our territory. We've set up special programs for them with the specialists in the area, not only to educate them, but also to get them accustomed to the practice habits of these specialists. Of course, the residents do rotations with them anyway, but we do these programs to get residents in tune with the doctors' protocols and idiosyncrasies, since they're going to be referring to these specialists in the future. I can't tell how successful this has been yet - we've just started â but since shares for our products with recent residents are already above our territory share, programs like these will likely drive it higher.
I'm lucky in two respects - I work for a company that doesn't force me to do things alone, and I have two great teammates. All representatives work off similar target lists and know who the big prescribers are. The secret is in becoming an asset, a person who is recognized as one bringing value to the physician instead of one bringing the "best drug at the lowest cost." The three areas I mentioned are only the start - I have no doubt there are limitless ways that we can bring value to physicians. The trick is figuring out what those are, and delivering. Do that, and you will have developed a friend â and friends like to help friends out. PR