Navigate sales calls with a 'MAP'

October 1, 1997

Pharmaceutical Representative

Our most precious commodity - "face-to-face, one-on-one" selling time with physicians - continues to decline in both quantity and quality. While there are certainly those glorious times when "just a minute" turns into a 15-20 minute pride-of-the-training-class sales extravaganza, many, if not most of our sales encounters are of a less epic proportion.

Our most precious commodity - "face-to-face, one-on-one" selling time with physicians - continues to decline in both quantity and quality. While there are certainly those glorious times when "just a minute" turns into a 15-20 minute pride-of-the-training-class sales extravaganza, many, if not most of our sales encounters are of a less epic proportion.

While there is a time and place for the full presentation, I propose developing a MAP - a Minimum Acceptable Presentation. This MAP is the information you must convey during every sales call. You may get to cover a few side roads, but you must cover the MAP. Without it, the physician may get lost on the way to prescribing your product.

Consider your basic road map. While there are small, unobservable details, the dominant and most important features are prominently displayed. At a quick scan, these make for easy reference and help focus attention on a given area.

Your sales MAP should do exactly the same thing: focus your customers on the most important aspects of your product. Smaller, important (but not critical) details can be added later.

The four coordinates of the MAP are product name, indications, contraindications and proper dosage.

Product name

Any sales trainer can tell stories of sales presentation where the name of the product was hardly mentioned beyond the introductory remarks. This happens because we are often so busy trying to review the features/benefits, clinical data and efficacy rates that we assume we're mentioning the product name.

When it comes to sales presentations, remove the pronoun "it" from your vocabulary ("It works by…," "it's effective…"). Get into the habit of saying the product name early and often. Don't be obnoxious, but establish brand recognition in the physician's mind. Reinforce the auditory with the visual by pointing to the product name on whatever promotional item you are holding. If appropriate, give the physician something with the product name on it, such as a pen/pad, literature or novelty item.

Indications

Sometimes the name of the product will suggest its use, and in a perfect marketing world, that would always be the case. However, we've all seen product names that give no clue whatsoever to what the product does, or where and how it should be used.

Once the doctor knows the name of the product, the next logical question is, "What does it do?" or "When do I use it?" While all presentations usually contain some reference to the product's indications, such information is often disguised and obscured in features and benefit descriptions. Be prepared to give a concise but effective review of the approved indications relevant to this physician's practice. Try to create an associative link between the product name and indication.

While it is an old sales axiom to reflect your customer's manner of speech, that does not mean that you should try to impress the physician with your command of medical terminology. Just state the indications plainly, in a manner that is consistent with the rest of your presentation vocabulary, the customer, the setting and the product.

Contraindications

As salespeople, we want to position our products in the most favorable light. However, due to the nature of our products and the skeptical nature of the physicians who are our customers, we are obligated to point out the negative aspects of our products. In all cases, contraindications, life-threatening interactions and common side effects should be outlined. Discussing such issues does not take away from your product. Rather, it enhances it by giving the doctor valuable information that bolsters his or her confidence in using the product.

Failing to discuss contraindications is unethical and possibly negligent. There is nothing that will turn a physician faster from your product, your company, and you, than to be confronted with an unexpected, and potentially serious, negative outcome.

Proper dosage

Prescribing instructions are usually included somewhere on a product's packaging, but you can enhance your product's potential selection by reviewing the dosing schedule with the physician. Review the prescribing information in a way that helps the physician remember it and ensures that your product is dosed properly for a successful outcome.

When reviewing dosage, show the physician the sample package. A doctor is more likely to reach for a sample package he or she recognizes. Also, take out the actual product and allow the physician to see its size, shape, color and texture.

Of course, don't just educate the physician on how to distribute your samples. Ask him or her to provide the patient with an appropriate number of samples for an appropriate trial period, and to write a prescription for the remainder of the course of therapy. This not only helps generate scripts, but stresses to the physician the proper role of the samples, and helps to extend our ever-decreasing sample allocations to even more of the doctor's patients. PR

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