Unwrap the layers of selling

May 1, 1997
Vince Peters

Pharmaceutical Representative

Before a customer's need can be satisfied, there are various layers of selling activity that take place.

When people buy or decide to use a product of any kind, it is because they have a need that must be satisfied. But before this need can be satisfied, there are various layers of selling activity that take place.

The four layers of the selling process are as follows:

•Â Problem-solving.

•Â Transactional selling.

•Â Organizational consulting.

•Â Consensus building.

Let's take a look at these layers and see what is involved in each one.


Problem-solving is one of the most important areas in selling. All good salespeople see themselves as problem-solvers who provide solutions to their customers' problems.

Problem-solving can be very difficult for a variety of reasons. Many times, our customers are not always aware of their real needs and may be looking for help.

In some cases, doctors are not always aware of the needs of their patients. This type of problem can occur in the treatment of diabetes.

For example, many doctors will say that they don't see any patients with diabetic peripheral sensimotor neuropathy. Yet when asked if they treat diabetic foot ulcers or amputations, they will say "yes."

It's not uncommon to find out that doctors are not always aware of a complicated problem such as diabetic neuropathy. They cannot always judge because they do not know how to examine for neuropathy.

Doctors want to learn more about this disease entity through new information, education and third-party references. And it's up to representatives to provide that information.

Transactional selling

The next step that the rep needs to achieve with the doctor is transactional selling.

The rep needs to make the buying or prescribing decision quick and easy for the doctor. Representatives can do this by knowing the answers, demonstrating value and differentiating themselves from the competition.

In our case of diabetic peripheral sensimotor neuropathy, the rep should show the doctor that the disease causes foot ulcers that can lead to amputation if not treated properly. The rep should demonstrate value by providing the doctor with good information on testing for neuropathy, teaching patients about proper foot care and using an aldose reductase inhibitor to discourage diabetic neuropathy.

The education of the customer is so important. We need to educate doctors constantly in the areas of disease therapy. But educating the doctor is not always enough. We really need to tailor our solutions to solving specific problems. We can no longer sell products randomly as overall solutions, but we must specifically target and select the use of our products.

These steps work quite well in the normal selling situation. However, as selling situations become more complicated in the future, sales reps will need to get into consulting and consensus-building roles.

Organizational consulting

Consulting is going to become an even more important part of selling pharmaceuticals in the years to come.

Representatives should consult on a regular basis with all customers, especially when they have customers who are having a difficult time making a buying decision.

In consulting, we need to help the customer discover that there is a real need and urgent problem. Therefore, consulting requires a lot of customer education.

It is very important that we build many relationships with our customers. We have to show them that we have a sincere interest in their practices and their problems. We must also keep in mind that we have to show political sensitivity, especially when dealing with large organizations and buying groups. We don't want to embarrass anyone or step on a customer's toes.

An important factor in consulting is resolving conflicting needs. Let's say you get this response from one of your customers: "Yes, there is a real need for your product, but we also have a real need to keep the number of drugs limited on our formulary. And more importantly, we need to control costs." Handling this kind of situation requires you to act as a real business person and problem-solver.

Consensus building

The last part of the selling process is consensus building. In our new selling environment, there is a real need to convince many people on the value of our products.

To build a consensus, we will use the same steps with the groups that we use in one-on-one selling, primarily building relationships, showing political sensitivity and resolving conflicting needs.

While this is a long and lengthy process, we need to employ it to be more successful in today's complex environment.

Remember, the most successful salespeople are those who know the most about their customers' businesses! PR