Pharmaceutical Sales: How to Stand Out

One of the toughest sales jobs in business today is that of the pharmaceutical sales representative. There are so many barriers to the traditional process of selling…limited access, managed care, limited resources and generic drugs in a time when every patient and physician is hyper-sensitive to costs. According to SK&A Associates, a leading provider of healthcare information and research basedin Irvine CA, the number of practices that no longer see reps has increased to 38.5%

Add to that the fact that a pharmaceutical sales rep rarely gets to see the “sale” at the point of the prescribing decision – that moment is rightfully reserved for the examining room – and you can see why the pharma sales job in an increasingly demanding position. It is really an “influencing job” rather than a more tactical selling approach.

A primary care physician (who gives access) sees an average of 35 reps per week and spends less than 90 seconds with each rep on average. What can reasonably be accomplished in 90 seconds in terms of effective selling? Most reps use the time to do a quick detail of the product they are promoting and than try to engage the Doctor for additional time by asking questions about disease states, personal interests and patient feedback on their product. The Doctor usually gives the rep an “auto-response”, in effect telling the rep what they believe the rep wants to hear for the singular purpose of getting the rep to leave their samples and then leave the office.

This equates to a tremendous waste of time for both the rep and the physician.

We suggest that a pharmaceutical rep has to differentiate their approach in order to effectively capture a physician’s attention. We have been working with reps to develop what we call a “Doc Stopper” questioning approach. The rep grabs the attention to the physician by asking a question that defies the “auto-response” and promotes a more open and honest conversation….it does not necessarily add time to the average sales call but garners a deeper, more thoughtful response.

One rep was constantly being told by a physician that any drug in their class would work for patients presenting a particular disease state. Since there are five drugs indicated for that disease state, the rep grabbed their attention by asking “Would you agree that it makes the most sense to spread your prescribing more equally among all five products to create competition and drive down the average sales price?

The Doctor stopped for a moment, considered the question and replied that economically it made sense, but admitted that there were partcular clinical circumstances that affected her decision on which product to write for a specific patient. The Doctor went on to explain her thought process.

By asking the “Doc Stopper” question, the rep was able to move past the usual interaction and learn:

  • How the physican was actually differentiating the five drugs in the class.
  • That the presence of samples had an impact on prescribing decisions in some cases but not others.
  • That the economics of the drugs in the class had limited, if any, impact on the prescribing decision with this physician.

Pretty valuable information from a 90 second interaction, and certainly more useful than the usual message – personal connection – signature routine.

Other Doc Stopper Questions

  • How has the influx of “urgent care” facilities in the area affected your practice?
  • What are your thoughts about the changes in how we market our products?
  • How much will it cost your practice to convert your medical records to electronic files (if it becomes law)?
  • Do you find that your patients are waiting longer to come in for office visits in this economy?
  • What is your biggest business challenge today?
  • What are your thoughts on “boutique” practices?
  • How do you attract new patients to your practice? What differentiates you?

For more information on how this approach and other influencing techniques can help you make the most from every sales call, please call us at 410-662-4764.

Scroll to Top