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The importance of pre-call planning


Pharmaceutical Representative

Pre-call planning is a necessity if you're going to move your physicians and your productivity to another level.

For veteran reps who see their top-presribing physicians on a regular basis, it may seem unnecessary to plan every call beforehand. After all, your products most likely have not changed since you last spoke with your customers a week or two ago. You've been calling on the same offices for years now, and you know what the doctor is going to say before she opens her mouth. When you don't have a plan in place before you go in, the call can turn out to be very predictable. You haven't moved out of your comfort zone, and neither has the physician. Everything is status, quo, including her prescribing habits. That can be very bad if it's not your drug she's prescribing.

Pre-call planning is a necessity if you're going to move your physicians and your productivity to another level. When you have a clear path laid out, a plan that's properly designed, the right scenarios to anticipate and a definite endpoint to reach, you can lead the call wherever you want it to go.

You can glean valuable information from your doctors by changing your probing questions and uncover the true objections by delving deeper. But you need to know how you're going to get there. What question will you begin with? If the doctor answers one way, how will you respond? If the doctor answers another way, how will you change your direction?

On two recent occasions, I heard motivational speakers (one a famed athlete, the other a college president) stand before audiences of more than a thousand people and admit that they didn't have a written speech.

Well, by the end of their talks, it was obvious. Their messages were not well thought-out, focused or informative. They also tended to speak too long because they hadn't formed a conclusion to their speech. If they had created an outline, scripted some bullet points and chosen a specific subject, the audience would have benefited from their messages. The problem was that they didn't have any goals. And that's what came across clearest to us in the audience. I didn't learn anything new, and I wasn't any further motivated. Actually, the opposite effect occurred.

It's easy to get caught up in making the designated number of calls each day, and neglect to take the time to plan between each call. Pre-call planning can make the difference between getting the next prescription or not. Determining who our most valuable customers are and working to distinguish ourselves more favorably in their minds will help us to manage our territories and our days better.

Pre-call planning can help us waste less time on low-volume doctors and propel big increases through high-volume doctors. Thus we free up time to make more worthwhile and valuable calls. Fewer calls with higher returns reduce stress, overwork, poor results and stagnant performance.

Pre-call planning tips

Here are a few helpful hints to make pre-call planning less of a hassle and more of a help:

•Â Do it the day before. A half-hour before the end of your day, plan your calls for the following day. When you go out in the morning, you'll already be prepared and won't have to take the time to do it between calls. That time can be reserved to make post-call notes.

•Â Jot down concise plans with no more than three bullet points to accomplish on a call. That's more than enough for the limited time we have in front of doctors anyway.

•Â Devise at least three new probes that can be used with almost any physician, nurse or pharmacist. You may only get the opportunity to ask one, but it's good to have a couple more in reserve.

•Â Anticipate the answers so that you'll know where to go next. You can lead the call that way and stay in control. Your customers won't be able to get you off track if you know where you want to take them.

•Â Be brand new. Approach your customers as if seeing them for the first time. Try to uncover as much information about the practice as you can so that you will know how to meet their needs and not just your own.

•Â Keep your plans in a visible place so that you will be able to glance at them in written form before each call. Use a small notebook, print out any plans you keep on your computer (since you may not have time to boot up to see them) or use an electronic record keeper (like a Palm Pilot).

Try these suggestions and enhance the preparation time in your day. Make them a habit and surprise your doctor by deviating from the usual, predictable and trite conversation. Get a thesaurus, expand your vocabulary and add a refreshing spin to your communication. Watch your market share, prescriptions and productivity grow! Look at the results as more fruit of your labor. Eat and enjoy. PR

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