Focus on the customer to find success

March 1, 2000
Dan Mariani

Dan Mariani has been in field pharma-ceutical sales for Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co. since 1988. He has served as both field sales trainer and technology trainer in the cardiovascular arena and is now focused on women’s health products. He earned an M.B.A. from Adelphi University and is currently pursuing a disease management certificate from the Roanoke, VA-based CMR Institute. He can be reached for comment at mariani.dj@pg.com.

Pharmaceutical Representative

Reps need to spend time planning, account targeting and learning about new managed care tools that drive today's operations as well as prepare us for tomorrow's growth businesses.

The challenges of completing a quality call require more preplanning and post-call analyses than most account managers are accustomed to. And for those of us who have enjoyed success in the field for many years and are comfortable with our own selling styles, this becomes a bitter pill to swallow. Though we'd prefer to spend all of our time in the field offering customers solutions while building our business, we must recognize that in building for the future, we need to spend time planning, account targeting and learning about new managed care tools that drive today's operations as well as prepare us for tomorrow's growth businesses.

Think of the "CUSTOMER"

is for Customer. The customer is the heart of this system. Get to know your customer beyond just a superficial relationship. Spend time doing a needs assessment of your key customers. In our business, this also means working extra hard to exceed your customers' expectations by delivering value on every call. At a higher level in the value chain, this could involve forming relationships with your customers in ways that are more consultative in nature, which will set you apart from the competition.

Customer focusing also seeks to provide solutions to identified needs. Of course, the needs and wants of accounts vary. In the instance of a fully developed account, this might be as simple as answering a need for more product samples. For a growth account, it could involve providing informal advice on ways to grow a practice, ultimately creating a greater demand for your products in the process.

is for Understand. Understand the dynamics of the healthcare industry, and, more specifically, understand the unique needs of each customer.

Be a patient listener, not a teller. Many times in revealing their needs, the account will present an opportunity for us to provide a solution to their problem for with one of our products or services. Seize this opportunity!

is for Sincerity. Sincerity is a key element in establishing credibility. Customer surveys show time and again that a pharmaceutical representative's credibility is a crucial factor in decision-making. The positive or negative way an account perceives a salesperson can be a pivotal reason why a working business relationship does or does not develop.

Remember to deliver on all promises, and don't make promises you are not in a position or don't intend to keep.

is for Timing. Timing means being in the right place at the right time presenting the right message about the right product to the right person. It is the result of your proactive behaviors plus a well-executed game plan. This means carefully profiling your customers and screening them, knowing the best times to meet with your accounts, understanding their needs and providing solutions that build their businesses and yours.

Skillful timing also requires you to develop a road map of your accounts' articulated and unarticulated needs, and how best to meet them. Timing is not a matter of blind luck, it is a matter of creating your own luck.

is for creating Opportunities. Driven saleswork entails looking for new opportunities, both with more established and immature accounts. Sales literature often discusses how easy it is to fall into routines. At times like these, we need to put forth our best efforts and become more persistent and creative in the way we approach accounts. High-performing reps are driven to consistently out-hustle the competition and uncover hidden opportunities where others have already looked. Too often we never ask the probing questions that can bring us to this next level.

is for Manage. Manage accounts as if you are running your own business. Take ownership seriously. Determine the best targets based on return on investment. Put your best resources against the accounts that will contribute most to volume objectives.

Time management is also very crucial. With our shortened presentation time, the information given should be data-rich and very targeted to specific patient types. Frequency of contact with our accounts should be calibrated to an account's volume potential plus current usage.

is for Evaluate. Improving one's overall performance requires self-critique and self-coaching. Compare your present performance to past performances. Don't be afraid to ask your customers: "How am I doing?" Identify your success factors, duplicate them on future calls, and fine-tune your presentation based on customer feedback.

is for Recognition/Rewards. Part of the value of a job well done is to be recognized by your peers and by your organization. Beyond this, perhaps, the greatest rewards and most flattering compliments come from the customers themselves, who receive the benefits of truly outstanding customer-focused performance.

A "CUSTOMER"-based selling platform requires not just a change in selling tactics, but also a fundamental shift in the way we strategically organize ourselves around our customers. As the healthcare industry matures, you can gain momentum and sustain competitive advantage by aligning with your customers to enhance your day-to-day selling efforts in the workplace of today and tomorrow. PR