Stop! Don't tell me about another study!

May 1, 1998
Michael Kessler
Michael Kessler

Michael Kessler is a physician and is president and CEO of the Atlanta-based Medical Communications Center. He conducts beginning, intermediate and advanced sales training workshops for the pharmaceutical, medical product and device industries. He can be reached at MKessler@repsuccess.net or (404) 257-1251.

Pharmaceutical Representative

Have you been hearing this from doctors? "Stop, I don't want to hear about your study!" If so, you're not alone.

Have you been hearing this from doctors? "Stop, I don't want to hear about your study!" If so, you're not alone.

In sales training workshops I've conducted during the past two years, many sales reps have asked what they can do about it.

I tell them that before I can show them how to overcome this, they must understand why doctors are saying this.

Published clinical studies or trials are the most important and credible pieces of educational material to doctors. But many pharmaceutical companies make the big mistake of training - or at least encouraging - reps to use these studies as sales aids, rather than as sources of continuing medical education.

These clinical studies are the most important piece of collateral material that reps have, but many doctors are tired of seeing reps use universal sales techniques and sales "lingo" to present these studies.

Sales reps need to understand that these clinical or scientific studies, not "clinicals," are the backbone of all doctors' continuing medical education. They are the principle means by which doctors keep up with the latest information. They can help doctors defend themselves if they are being sued for malpractice. Doctors have relied on these scientific studies since they were in medical school.

With that in mind, imagine how a doctor feels when rep after rep comes into his or her office waving one of these studies and saying, "Doctor, I have a new clinical/article/study that I want to show you."

They proceed to take out their pens, point and try to make doctors pay attention while they use selling presentation skills that all salespeople have been taught. Most point out bits of information or charts. Others take information out of context and just skip to the favorable information about their product while they disregard the rest of the information. Many don't know any more about the content than what the slimmed-down version their marketing department has prepared says.

These techniques may work with 60% to 70% of the doctors out there. But as I have learned from my colleagues, they are getting tired of these presentations.

And here's what the remaining 30% to 40% of doctors in your territory are saying: "Excuse me! We doctors have been reading these articles daily for more than 20 years. We are very capable of understanding the information and deciding what is important without being treated like a graduate school student."

We are taught, practice and constantly use the case-study presentation method our whole professional lives. One example of the way doctors communicate is the S.O.A.P. (subjective, objective, assessment and plan) case presentation. We give the facts as they are presented in the clinical study. We have an eye-to-eye discussion. We don't push the article in our colleagues' faces and point to the charts. We simply give the facts and address the pros and the cons. We allow the other doctors to question the results and the validity of the data. We allow them to choose for themselves whether or not they should change their clinical behavior based on the data in the article.

I think that the most basic axiom in sales has been forgotten: The better you know your customer and the more you are able to speak their language and give information to them the way that they like it, the more successful you'll be.

The following suggestions will help you deal more effectively and be seen as a valuable resource with those doctors who are turned off to hearing about your studies.

First, it's a clinical research study, not a "clinical" or "study."

Second, when you are discussing the study, switch to the third person singular or plural (he, she, it, they, them) instead of the first person (I, me, we, us). When you use the first person, your message is perceived as subjective and it opens you to personal attack. Using the third person ("the authors say" as opposed to "we found") makes the information objective.

Third, you should be able to present all the information from the study in less than 90 seconds. All you need to do is cite verbatim the abstract or summary at the beginning of the article.

Four, the more you let the study speak for itself without adding sales lingo or your own opinion, the more credible and objective the information becomes.

Five, don't use the study as a visual aid. Just look the doctor in the eye and give out the information.

Six, leave a copy of the study with the doctor after discussing it.

Seven, understand and be able to discuss the whole study, not just the key points.

These suggestions will work. Why? Because it's the way that doctors have been taught to discuss clinical research studies, the way we do it a hundred times a day, every day of our lives. It's the familiar way, and it's the way we want and need the information. PR

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