Pharma sales has never been an easy job and in more recent years it seems to have got tougher than ever to gain access to customers and reach your sales targets.
In the days before the internet, a Medical Sales Representative’s job was to inform the doctor about their product and share the latest clinical research. However nowadays if someone is interested in a drug or disease area the first thing they’re likely to do is look online to find out as much as they can. This means that your primary challenge is to provide information that the doctor doesn’t already know or can’t readily find themselves.
However like in any walk of like it’s important to think about the wider picture in terms of what will make the difference between those who are successful or not. This will involve;
- Being very clear about what direction you’re headed
- Being even clearer about what’s required to get there
- Working relentlessly to a routine to hit miles stones
- Communicating progress to key stakeholders to get feedback and course correct as needed
So let’s take a look at each of these in more detail;
Being very clear about what direction you’re headed
First of all it’s important to establish what’s important to you as a person (beyond your career).
This will probably be influenced by your stage of life and career progression to date. For newer Medical Sales Representatives at the start of their career this is likely to be focussed on establishing yourself as a medical sales person, gaining promotions and pay rises and generally setting the broad foundations for later in life.
If you are a more experienced Representative, you may well have different priorities. Do you want to stay as a Representative or do you want to try different roles?
So whatever your situation, make time to get clear on the direction you want to be headed so you know what you’re working towards. To make this really powerful you should also get clear about the reasons why this is important to you. So make sure you write it all down and refer to it regularly.
Being even clearer about what’s required to get there
We all know direction without a plan is just a dream, so once you’re clear on your direction this is where some discipline is required.
Not only do you need to know what’s required to work towards a bigger goal, you also need to know what the barriers are to getting there and proactively think about contingencies and back-up solutions so you’re always prepared.
As a Medical Sales Representative this might include things like;
- Getting clear on the high potential geographies to prioritise
- Finding out who the key decision makers are
- Gaining access to them on a regular basis
- Understanding their needs and goals
- Having the right clinical data to share and discuss with them
- Convincing them to prescribe your product
- Keeping well organised systems and notes so you can refer back to things in future
- Having time with a coach / manager to give you feedback on where you can improve
- Keeping belief and momentum going, even if things don’t at first go your way
Working relentlessly to a routine to hit milestones
Once you have your plan, then success becomes an outcome of your routines and mentality on a day by day, week by week basis.
It’s important to review your sales target and other goals either at the end of the working day or first thing in the morning.
Start with the big picture then go through the rest of your goals and then plan the day. Make sure you consider the whole week to ensure you have your priorities in the right order. From there you can plan your day with confidence you are doing the right things.
When you get to a Friday set time to review the week just gone to see how well you have done verses your goals. You can then review what’s coming up, make course corrections to get back on track and from there you can set goals and actions for the next week. If you find you missed your activity goals by 10% then find a way to claw this back over the next week or two.
If you make these simple steps a permanent fixture in your working life you’ll find that everything flows into place as you’ll have a very high level of awareness regarding what you need to do, where you are right now and the direction you’re heading.
Based on market research findings from speaking to almost 500 companies, The Top-Performing Sales Organization Benchmark Report, (published by RAIN Group, a global sales consulting and sales training company), shows there were a number of areas that were found to contribute to higher win rates that will help you beat your sales goals. Most of these were related to the mentality of the sales representative and here are just a few that you may want to consider building into your daily and weekly routines;
1) Set challenging goals for yourself (and be true to yourself about hitting them); given you’ve taken the time to plan, making sure your goals are going to stretch you is meaningless without the personal discipline and honesty to hold yourself accountable to them. If you fall behind on your activity targets or fail to plan your pre-call objectives during a week then pull yourself up on this and make up the lost difference. If on the other hand you find you’re always falling behind then you also need to be honest with yourself. Have you set goals that are too ambitious? Do you need some additional support from your company? This is where you need to have a really positive relationship with your manager to help you stay on track, but it starts with discipline and being true to yourself.
2) Get close to your customers; don’t think that by just telling your doctors about your product they will understand and use it when the opportunity presents itself. You need to get close to them by seeing them regularly, asking questions, showing an interest in how they make decisions and most importantly of all providing them with something of value in every interaction you have with them. Their time is precious – find out how you can help them and make time with you worth their while.
3) Focus on value; of you, your time and the product benefits; whilst your customers’ time is precious, so is yours. Make sure you get what you need out of the sales interactions you have. Create pre call objectives that focus on moving forward. These might be to find out further information about the customer’s concerns, finding a patient with them to trial your product with or simply going through some clinical data to make sure they know how to get the most out of your product. Always agree to following up with a ‘next step’ at the end of every call and see to it that you do this with rigour. Always keeping the promises you’ve made.
4) Give less away; this feeds into the value of you. Giving away your time to doctors who aren’t prepared to trial your drug or share information with you probably means you need to walk away at some point and find other doctors who are more receptive to your way of working. The secret is to know when to walk away. This needs to be judged on a case by case basis as all customers operate in different ways. Don’t judge someone on the first meeting. Take your time and be diplomatic. If after 3-4 sales calls you’re still having the same discussions then it’s probably time to take a step back. The same logic applies for anything you have to give; your time, budget, patient materials, anything. Invest wisely, your resources are limited.
5) Maximise sales to existing customers (by communicating the value you’re adding and finding new areas to generate further value (and revenue)); after you’ve sold your product you need to make time to sell the value of the outcome you’ve helped your customer achieve. In Pharma sales you can do this by gaining feedback from the doctor and showing an interest in what happens beyond the sale by asking them;
- What results have they seen from using your product?
- What has this done for their patients’ quality of life?
- How does this help your customer as a doctor?
- How can you build on this to keep supporting the doctor(s) or patient(s) across the community?
By showing you’re interested in the outcomes and not just the sale you’ll find a whole wave of other opportunities that will present themselves to keep adding value on a much wider scale.
6) Invest in sales training; this will usually be part of most Pharma companies strategic development planning. However even if it isn’t you should be constantly undergoing some form of training and development related to your work. Speak to your manager or even research the internet to learn about the different sales training courses there are out there. Never stop learning and sharpening your skills.
Communicating progress to key stakeholders to get feedback and course correct as needed
You should regularly share your goals, plans and outcomes with your manager or coach at least every month to get their feedback and input. That way they’re aware of what’s going on and more importantly, as two brains are better than one, they can help you constantly improve your planning and delivery.
It’s highly unlikely things will always go smoothly, so your manager will also be there for you to discuss challenges and issues so you know you’re not alone when the going gets tough, which it inevitably will from time to time.
Remember, you are responsible for your results. Be true to yourself and open with your manager. They are there to help you. By sharing things with them you will find a strong ally who will help you sail the course to achieving the success you’re seeking.