Differentiation is key to access

November 1, 1998
Dustin Grainger

,
Tom Stovall

Pharmaceutical Representative

While tactical direction and the pursuant activity that results is indeed an important component of successful pharmaceutical selling, the problem remains that none of this differentiates one company from another.

While tactical direction and the pursuant activity that results is indeed an important component of successful pharmaceutical selling, the problem remains that none of this differentiates one company from another.

The challenge then becomes: What can reps do to differentiate themselves? The answer, in one word, is introspection.

There are 10 introspective questions reps should ask themselves to determine, beyond tactical activities, how effective they are with their customers.


• Do I understand the critical success factors for each essential customer - the two or three things they consider most important to their professional and personal success?


• Do I plan a sales approach for each customer using materials that address his or her stated and unstated clinical and business needs?


• Do I spend time during each sales call ensuring that the right steps are taken to expand my role as the customer's business partner?


• Do I dedicate time each week to research all the issues that may impact the business of each essential account and my individual customers?


• Do my customers seek my advice and input on business issues outside of our product specialty?


• Am I able to use account profile information to clearly communicate my sales strategy for individual products with each essential account?


• Is the primary focus of my sales strategy and tactics to build long-term customer partnerships?


• Can I identify and communicate the one factor of our product or service, which gives us the best chance to win in a competitive situation?


• Do my customers generally allow me the time I need to accomplish all sales call objectives?


• Do I qualify all accounts based on the business impact we can have on them, as well as the impact they can have on our territory strategies?

Reps who answer 'rarely' or 'inconsistently' to these questions have the opportunity to become more strategic and consultative in their approach with customers.

Sun Tzu's classic treatise on strategy, "The Art of War," taught that before one can develop strategy, a clear understanding of oneself, the competition and the terrain must occur. Usually, representatives possess an acceptable level of knowledge of their product and organizational attributes versus their defined competition. The lacking component tends to be a clear understanding of their terrain.

Terrain, in the context of pharmaceutical sales and marketing strategy, is defined as the issues, trends and business challenges faced by health care providers. A strategist will understand the current national issues that are affecting local providers, or those that will be in the not-too-distant future.

Representatives who possess this knowledge can then focus their sales message strategy, time and resources in ways that make more clinical and business sense to their customers. The strategic pharmaceutical professional will use this knowledge to gain greater access to customers.

Customers are looking for business partnerships with their suppliers. And as clichéd as it may sound, they are serious about these partnerships. Sales people who understand the clinical and business issues that their customers face, and include this knowledge in their customer interactions, will always have access to key influencers even when time is of the essence. PR

Dustin Grainger and Tom Stovall are training consultants specializing in the pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and surgical product industries. For more information, they can be reached at (703) 631-3570.

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