Buying styles

April 1, 2002
Robert Rohm

Robert Rohm is the executive director of Personality Insights.

K. C. Warner
K. C. Warner

K.C. Warner is a market impact specialist who works with pharmaceutical sales training departments to increase market share and management performance. She can be reached at Warner Development at (800) 845-6108 or via e-mail at KCWarner@

Pharmaceutical Representative

Examining the way physicians make prescribing decisions.

Do these situations sound familiar? Scenario 1: You unexpectedly run across a physician who's in a hurry. She looks at you and asks, "What do you have for me today?"

Scenario 2: You've worked for months to get this appointment. It's with one of the most influential physicians in your territory. His support could change your numbers significantly. As you begin, he quickly determines that you do not have anything "new" and proceeds to tell jokes for the rest of the call.

Scenario 3: You are sitting across from a physician who could be holding the winning lotto ticket and you would never know it. His face is without a trace of expression.

Scenario 4: You have scheduled a lunch appointment. The first part of lunch has been dedicated to serving the staff. You try to begin your call, but the physician you have been working with for quite some time only wants to share stories about the family vacation.

If you've been in your territory for a while, you know these situations well. Even though the scenarios are different, they have one common denominator – the physicians want to buy. It may not seem like it, but they do want to buy. They want to use products that are appropriate for their needs. It's your job to uncover how each physician prefers to buy.

Continual research and study have shown that there are four buying styles – four common reasons that our physicians buy. When we match our product benefits with each physician's buying style, we will increase our success rate in terms of both access and number of scripts.

Identifying a customer's buying style is one key to success. How do we do it? By observing the physician's actions and analyzing the words he or she uses. Buying styles are closely linked to behavior styles, and it is up to us to determine what each individual's buying style is.

The four buying styles

While many variables determine the way people think and behave, there are four main styles of human behavior. Because behavior is predictable, when we are able to determine what each behavior style requires, we can then adjust our approach to fit that style.

Style 1: Wants control and choice. These physicians are drivers, and tend to be directive, to-the-point and fast-moving. They are outgoing and task-oriented, and focus on the bottom line. Matching your products' benefits to this buying style means using statements like "Doctor, with this product, you have a choice of titration schedules," or "Doctor, the bottom line is that you have the power to overcome the challenges of patient compliance by using this product." These physicians are self-reliant and like a challenge, so appeal to their sense of individual accomplishment. Show how choosing your product will benefit them.

Style 2: Responds to attention and approval. These physicians are spontaneous and people-oriented. Physicians who exhibit this style want to connect with us and their patients. They tend to be more expressive and want to inspire and influence others. Matching your products' benefits to this buying style means using statements like "Doctors who use this product are typically trendsetters because they recognize how hard it is to find a product they can use in cutting-edge ways," or "Doctor, you have a premier practice because your patients know you are innovative in your approach to healthcare." These physicians buy because they will stand out from the crowd, and their sense of popularity and position will be fulfilled.

Style 3: Needs facts and figures to determine product quality and perceived correctness. These physicians are logical and analytical, and tend to be cautious. Matching your products' benefits to this buying style means using statements like "Because of this product's efficacy, it is the right prescription for your patients," or "Doctor, after analyzing all of the available research, I'm sure you'll find that this product is the correct choice for your patients." These physicians buy because they are assured of the product's excellence as a result of a rep's accuracy and accountability.

Style 4: Motivated by safety and security. These physicians are steady and supportive. Physicians who exhibit this style want things to stay the same, and they know what they like. Of all of the buying styles, this one is the most resistant to change. Matching your products' benefits to this buying style means using statements like "Doctor, I'm sure you are well-aware of the shortcomings of traditional therapies. Because you need to be assured of this product's safety record, let me provide you with the results of a four-year study that proves this product's safety and effectiveness," or "Doctor, it is never easy to change anything, let alone a treatment plan. However, this product's ability to arrest the progression of the disease state will benefit patients over time." When these physicians do decide to write, they will be loyal.

Knowing and being able to quickly recognize these buying styles will help representatives to more effectively plan sales calls and allocate resources for maximum impact. When we understand what motivates physicians to buy, and can tailor our calls, we will quickly become a valuable resource to all of our physicians, regardless of their styles! PR

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