What physicians don't want to hear

July 1, 2000

Pharmaceutical Representative

The top 10 things reps can do to irritate physicians.

Selling seminars – you've been there. We've all heard the words of trainers and managers telling us what to do and say when we get those precious few moments with a physician. But do these strategies work for you?

Two years ago I moved from consumer sales into pharmaceutical sales and spent my time in sales training. After completing the training, I decided to look back and analyze the times I had been successful in sales and the strategies I had used. Somehow, from the very beginning, I had instinctively known to trust customers and listen to their needs, so I decided as quickly as possible to find out what my physicians needed from pharmaceutical representatives. During the past two years I've asked a number of physicians the question, "What are the things you never want to hear from a pharmaceutical rep?" Here are the top ten no-nos from family care physicians:

10. Using highly technical terms, such as "metabolized by the cytochrome p 450 system." In other words, keep it simple. The physician probably has only 30 seconds to speak with you, so tell her or him the important stuff like adverse events, drug interactions and what patient specifically needs this drug.

9. Exaggerating the benefits of a drug. Physicians need to know the facts. Every drug has benefits and every drug has some adverse events, possible drug interactions and side effects. There may be specific patients that should not use the drug. No drug is perfect or meets every need. Give a fair, balanced presentation.

8. Asking questions that are too broad, such as "How do you treat your hypertension patients?" Is this a question the physician can answer in 60 seconds or less? No. Many reps ask questions that are too broad. Use statements that "paint the picture" of a specific patient type.

7. Giving a physician an article to read without reviewing areas of special interest. When will the physician read the entire article? In his or her spare time? That isn't going to happen. Physicians want to see approved clinical studies, but you need to give them a brief overview, highlighting specific, relevant information.

6. Asking a question with an obvious answer, such as "Do you think you can find a place in your practice for this medication?" If the physician practices medicine, and the patient comes in with a need for the medication, there will be a place in the practice for it.

5. Assuming the physician knows everything about a medication. I must confess this is one lesson that took me a few months to learn. One of the drugs I was promoting had been on the market for quite a while, so I wondered what information I could bring to the physician. I learned my lesson one day: While rather routinely going through drug indications, a physician said he was unaware of one of the drug's approved indications and wanted more information. Don't assume the physician knows everything. Take the 30 seconds and mention indications, interactions and side effects.

4. Asking for a specific number of prescriptions per week. This strategy changes the focus from the benefits of the medicine to a sales presentation.

3. Talking about the competitive product instead of the product you represent. Don't confuse the physician by mentioning products you don't represent. Recently, a physician said, "You know, 'Jane Doe' has been calling on me for about a year, and I just last month realized that she doesn't promote your product. She talks about your drug so much I thought she was a representative for your company." Remember, when a physician has only 30 seconds to listen, the only thing they may remember is the name of the product you mentioned the most.

2. Not introducing people who are accompanying you. It seems that pharmaceutical reps always have someone working with them. The physicians want to know who they are speaking with and what companies they represent.

And the number one statement a physician never wants to hear…

1. The competition is really worried about our new product. When a rep starts beating up and downgrading their competition, the physician loses focus on the product and respect for the representative. Our job is to educate the physician on the medicines we represent. They will be glad to see head-to-head clinical studies, but they don't want to hear negative comments. One physician said to me, "Some reps sound like little kids trying to tattle on each other." Not very professional.

What they like

Those are some things physicians don't need or find helpful. To look at the positive side, I asked the physicians, "What information is the most important to you when I only have 30 seconds of your time?" Their responses were:

1. New indication, review indications or special niche.

2. Cost – monthly.

3. Drug interactions.

4. Side effect profile.

5. Samples.

This information has helped me find success in the pharmaceutical industry. The rule of "listening to your customer" applies here as in all other areas of business. Remember, the physician you are talking with will tell you what they need - and don't need - if you only take the time to listen. PR