Don't be a 'roborep'

August 1, 2000
Brian Marisch

Pharmaceutical Representative

The art of consultative selling.

Pharmaceutical sales representatives are in a profession that is envied by many in the sales world. Maybe a good friend, your pharmacist or luck got you that first interview, but your resume, your experience and your professional abilities must have shown through at some time. Otherwise, you would not have been hired. Now the burden is on you to prove that your employer's judgement and confidence in your abilities was not misplaced. I'm sure the managers responsible for training have only the best of intentions for the companies' – and your – "bottom line." But what is being created by conventional training methods is a sales force that comprises "robo reps" – those reps whose sales techniques are canned and may have a minimum impact, at best, in influencing a physician to repeat prescriptions for your product.

The "lunch-bearer robo rep" always shows up at around the noon hour with food. A couple light stories are told, a couple jokes are shared, and this rep is gone. Maybe the scripts will come - maybe they won't.

The "sample dropper robo rep" clutters the drug closet with samples and promo items, but always with a smile and a pleading look for a signature and increased orders. By passing out a metric ton of company things each month, the bonuses have to come, don't they?

The "Quid Pro Quo robo rep" arranges countless speaking programs or preceptorships, with a view (and hope) of gaining a few quick scripts to boost the monthly numbers. Pump enough paws, pay for enough dinners, and the doc's will write for you. Shouldn't they?

The "pen pointer robo rep" has the company information memorized and can complement his rote, rhythmic presentation by pointing to multi-colored, company-prepared visuals to impress the physician - maybe. Unfortunately, our pen-pointing friend may have no practical understanding of the product. At month's end, numbers could be sorely lacking, and the rep has no idea why.

There is a way, through consultative selling, to break the "robo rep" syndrome, make a friend of your physicians and increase your personal bonus by becoming a "real rep."

THE WAY IT SHOULD BE.

The "real rep" is contrary to most of what a company may instruct. The following suggestions, proven by years of practical experience in the field, may just help you, in your pursuit toward excellence, "step out of the box," become a free thinker and become a real rep sales leader instead of a robo rep sales follower.

UNDERSTAND THE CLINICAL ASPECTS OF THE PRODUCTS YOU PROMOTE. Understanding the clinical approach does not mean knowing only the standard features and benefits of your product. A monkey could tell a doctor that a once-a-day drug promotes patient compliance. Your ability must be to sell the science behind your drug. Don't just know your drug's benefits , understand and be able to articulate what medical condition the drug addresses.

Knowing the disease state on the same level of your target physician immediately qualifies your professional credibility. If you learn about the technical data, as well as the demographics of the patient population, other compromising conditions the patients may have and the general physiology of the human body, you will have better-quality discussions with the physician.

Your presentations are aimed at physicians - people whose medical knowledge is vastly greater than yours. They will know in the first few minutes of your first introduction, the degree of your professional ability, and how much confidence they can place in you and your product. If you cannot convince the physician, how can he or she convince the patients?

EARN THE RIGHT TO BE IN THE PHYSICIAN'S OFFICE. Create value! Call it permission marketing, if you will. Being a "sample dropper robo rep" hardly impresses any of physicians on whom I have ever called on. You have to speak - and speak intelligently - about your product on the doctor's level.

A doctor's time is valuable. It cannot be spent on robo reps who are not prepared to meet his or her needs. If the doctor doesn't have time to talk, don't throw the one liner at him or her.

Just because you have to enter a detail when you input your calls in your laptop, is it worth being viewed as a robo rep or your efforts viewed as a waste of time? What's wrong with asking the doctor if you could come back at a better time? It will certainly help your relationship with the physician down the road and afford you additional time and attention from the physician.

Knowing your product and being able to answer the physician's questions honestly, directly and without hesitation, "earns" you the right to be in the physician's office to discuss the benefits of your product in common terms and on a medical level. Make the "total office call." If you help the staff and help the doctor, and you will ultimately help yourself.

LISTEN MORE THAN YOU SPEAK. You've learned just about everything there is to know about your product. You doctor-client has agreed to meet with you. You're ready to take on the world. But one more thing must become an integral part of your sales arsenal.

Physicians spend their days hearing about the aches and pains and problems of other people. They may appreciate someone, like yourself, coming to them, being a friend, and, if for no more than a couple minutes, listening to them talk about anything they may wish to discuss. Position yourself as a resource by gaining the physician's trust, eliminating some "unknowns" in his practice, and bringing the value of a true resource to him or her by listening.

The representative may also be able to uncover information on how and why the physician prescribes the way he or she does. Listen for the true concerns and/or issues the physician has before you break out the almighty detail binder. If you listen and learn, you will be successful.

PRACTICE CONSULTATIVE SELLING. Consultative selling is understanding your customer and placing their wants and needs before yours. You, as the rep, are with the physician as a resource and an information bearer. Listen to the underlying issues and concerns of the physician. Don't just sell your product, actually partner with the physician. Discuss with the physician disease management protocol, what may be the implications of treatment, the disease state, patient profiles, managed care/formulary issues and other information.

POSITION PRODUCTS APPROPRIATELY. Understand the competition. It's okay to speak favorably about the competing drugs. If you understand the clinical implications of prescribing one drug over another, and show the pros and cons of both, you will be considered as a resource to the physician. Don't be afraid to tell the physician where it is or isn't appropriate to use your company's drug.

For your first couple of visits, sit down with the doctor and just listen. Be a friend, a confidant - not a sales rep.

But don't ask for business at the first visit. Business may not come even after the second or third visit. But be patient, business will come. At some future time, the physician will give you his business - in a volume you never expected and without you even having to ask for it. For now, give a little to get a lot later.

Don't be a robo rep. Be genuine, be big and most importantly of all, be real. PR

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