Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Ongoing Dilemma of Physician Access and Selling

The issue of physician access has always been present. In years past pharmaceutical companies employed thousand of representatives to “detail” their product message.  As the shift in healthcare has accelerated in the past couple of years, many representatives have found it increasingly difficult if not impossible to gain an audience with the physician.  A number of these operational challenges loom large in the future of pharmaceutical sales:
  1. Improving sales productivity per person
  2. Growing sales volume significantly
  3. Improving relationships with customers to create value
  4. Increasing sales force profitability
  5. Finding better ways to measure performance
  6. Improving customer service
  7. Retraining the sales force
The consultative selling approach is the biggest trend today, and pharmaceutical representatives are using it to redefine their roles. Consultative refers to a style of selling in which the pharmaceutical rep devotes more time to investigating and analyzing physician needs and less time in presenting products and service. The term comes from the consulting professions in which clients hire professionals to analyze problems and offer recommendations. It involves much more than asking good questions and listening to the answers although both are critical to successful consultation. This approach is generally yields more value according to physicians because the exchange of information is based a inherent trust in the relationship.

Consultative selling requires the sales person and/or company to bring expertise to the table. It demands high levels of knowledge, strategy, and skill all grounded in a thorough understanding of the pharmaceutical selling process. The physician's ever growing time and patient demands require company's to bring clear, concise and accurate information to every encounter.  We believe access remains an issue for those representatives who are not providing that value. Today’s successful reps are not only positioning themselves as a great resource but also delivering value that helps the physician in improving treatment outcomes.  

The next issue involves pharmaceutical marketing, which has not caught up with physician’s response to the 'demand' issues.  It is a proven fact that physicians are using online, digital channels and social media to stay abreast of information.  However, the pharmaceutical industry spends less than 5% of their budgets on online initiatives to reach them.  We believe marketing integration of alternative channels will lead companies to improved physician access. 

Physicians have continued to reflect the need for pharmaceutical sales rep information, including but not limited to promotional education, patient and disease state education material.  But healthcare professionals also need flexibility with which they get that information.

The companies that assertively integrate pharmaceutical reps with online programs provide a holistic approach to educating physicians about conditions, drug therapies, and patient treatment options.  This integration can also reinforce the role a representative can establish as a "trusted adviser" to the medical community.  This process accrues value to companies as trusted partners by build lasting relationships while growing product sales.

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