Straight from the horse's mouth

February 1, 2001
Evonne Weinhaus

Pharmaceutical Representative

Closes that really work.

Recently, I had a rare opportunity – I had the privilege of being one of 50 outside facilitators that a huge pharmaceutical company hired to facilitate their training program. On the last day of training, they brought in doctors who were heavy writers for their competition's drug. The company's goal was to give the sales reps a chance to practice their newly acquired skills, but the situation also gave me the unique opportunity to speak with these key decision-makers.

My goal was simple: I wanted to learn from them. After the sales representatives detailed the doctors, I started to facilitate the discussion. The group was mostly silent until I read the following question provided in our trainer's workbook: Have these reps earned the right to close?

Suddenly, the doctors came alive; their hands shot up. One physician couldn't wait. He just started talking and said, "I hate that phrase. I'm immediately turned off when I hear 'earn the right.'" "Okay," I shot back, "teach me." I'd like to share with you what I learned straight from the horse's mouth that day, along with some of my observations.

Doctors' critiques

Usually I see sales reps falling into two different groups. The first group can't wait to get to the close. They know exactly what they want the doctor to do - start writing scripts for them - and they don't believe in wasting time to ask them. The second group is more timid. They are afraid to close; the doctors probably intimidate them. They spend their sacred few minutes talking about how they can help the physicians. They offer samples and are willing to do additional research.

Let's take a look at the comments of two doctors who were in my training class, and you will see how each of them described either the timid or the aggressive sales rep.

The first doctor said the following close is effective: "Doctor, if you need any more questions answered or resources, let me know and I will be happy to get them for you."

This is the soft close. Doctors, such as this one, want to know what the reps can do for them, but the reps don't seem to get anything in return.

The second doctor believes the following close is the most convincing: "I'd like to be part of your patient's treatment plan."

This is the typical close, but note that the doctors are now getting nothing in return.

My belief is you need to say both of these statements hand in hand. A very easy formula I teach to make sure the sales rep includes both of these kinds of comments is called the "I'm willing, I want" statement.

Here is an example of how to combine the above two closing statements and come up with an "I'm willing, I want" statement:

"I'd be willing to do more research for you, get the necessary resources or answer any questions you may have. I want to be part of your patient's treatment plan, and I think we need to get this additional information first."

Note that by using the "I'm willing, I want" statements, sales representatives position themselves as part of a team working together for the benefit of the patient.

The third doctor recommended the kind of statement that includes an "I'm willing, I want" message: "I'd like (willing) to bring you the science behind our product and I hope (want) you use this science in making your treatment choice."

Bottom line: Neither the approach of timid sales reps nor the approach of aggressive sales reps is wrong. Both statements can work together, so that reps can truly put themselves in the position of giving a little to get a little.

After I left this training, I kept asking myself why the phrase "earn the right" struck such a chord with these doctors. Think about it. The focus is solely on the sales reps. It is as if they have given a solo performance and want to know if the doctors are going to applaud for them and take the appropriate action. This kind of close leaves doctors out of the equation, so they are not seen as a team working together with reps to help their patients. By instead using the "I'm willing, I want" formula, sales representatives can begin to move to positive results for all parties – the doctors, the patients and themselves. PR