Physicians and other healthcare providers have less time and more prescribing options than ever before. Studies show that as few as eight out of every 100 sales calls end with the physician meeting the rep and remembering what was said. How can you be one of those eight memorable reps?
If you want to change prescribing behavior on every call you need to CREATE sales presentations that are Clear, Relevant, Engaging, Accurate, Timely and Enthusiastic.
One of the first lessons in journalism school is "Don't bury the lead." If readers don't find something interesting in the first few sentences of an article, they move on. Maybe to another article, maybe to another newspaper. The same rule applies to your sales presentations. You have only seven to ten seconds to gain your customer's attention or they will mentally move on to something else. With that in mind, how will you use the first seven seconds of your next sales presentation?
Start strong by clearly answering the three unasked questions in the forefront of your customer's mind: Why are you here? Why should I care? What do you want from me? For example, "I'm here with Build-a-Bone, a new oral option for your osteoporosis patients that has been shown to increase patient compliance and reduce fracture risk. Do you have three minutes for a demonstration?" Seven to ten seconds of clarity that orients the prescriber to your sales presentation.
Stay strong by staying on message throughout your presentation. Plan ahead of time which approved promotional materials you will use to support your core selling message. Apply the "less is more" philosophy, and resist the urge to start flinging information if you think you're not gaining prescriber support. You will accomplish more with a clear message and meaningful questions than with a flurry of disjointed sound bites.
Close strong with a clear action plan. Ask the prescriber if they need any other information, then ask them for a specific action, tell them exactly what you're going to do, and set a clear time line. "Dr. Lawson, is there anything else you need to know in order to prescribe Build-a-Bone for your osteoporosis patients who want an alternative to injectable agents? I'll leave three starter kits with you if you will use them to start three of your patients this month. I will stop in again in two weeks to answer any questions you have and to hear about your patients' success."
Ensuring relevance seems to be one of the easiest steps in developing a compelling sales presentation. You paint a patient picture, draw a corollary to the prescriber's own patients, and segue into a mutual agreement about product efficacy, right? In theory, yes. In practice, often no.
Painting a patient picture can be an effective way to gain agreement about product efficacy, but unless you demonstrate relevance to the prescriber - not just to a patient type or disease state - you will not advance the sale. Your sales presentations may be relevant to patient demographics and prescriber specialty, but are they relevant enough to change prescribing behavior?
One way to make the benefits of your product real is to focus on the total office call. Be an active listener in your conversations with office staff. If you ask a nurse how she's doing and her response is that she's tired of giving nebulizer treatments in a too-small exam room, point out that your nebulizer unit has the smallest footprint on the market, or that your COPD treatment nebs in half the time of the generic equivalent, which means spending less time in a cramped exam room.
Another way to make your sales messaging relevant is to attend Grand Rounds at the hospitals in your territory. Notice which of your prescriber customers are there and follow up with them in their office within two days. Ask a follow up question that ties into your product, or ask if they would be interested in attending a round table discussion with the speaker if you can arrange it.
If you call on medical residents, ask them about their rotation schedules. Your presentation on a lipid-lowering agent will have more impact at the beginning of their CV rotation than at the end of it.
Keep in mind that theoretical agreement doesn't necessarily translate into action. In order to gain new business you need to demonstrate how your product can improve a prescriber's life today and tomorrow and all of the tomorrows to come. That's what's relevant to your customers.
People retain more information if they are engaged in the process of acquiring it. To truly capture a prescriber's interest you have to bring them to their senses. All five of them - sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
Let's start with your most important visual aid - yourself. Physicians and other prescribers are trained observers. The first thing they notice about your presentation is how you present yourself. A neat, professional appearance shows respect for your job and theirs and signals that you are an authority on your product. Avoid visual distractions like dangling earrings or an overgrown mustache, which can break their attention during your presentation. Are you a compulsive key jangler or pen clicker? Do you constantly shift your weight from one foot to the other? Check yourself for fidgety habits and then check them at the door, because anything that distracts from your presentation detracts from your success.
Engage a prescriber's sense of touch with organ models and tactile product demonstrations. When you talk about dosing, open a sample bottle and place a tablet in their hand. Comment on the small pill size or say, "That's one orange tablet with breakfast", or whatever it is you need them to remember. If you design a presentation that encourages a prescriber to poke and prod your products, it will be easier for you to poke their memory and prod them into prescribing action.
Do you sell allergy products? Bring fresh flowers. Are you talking about bladder control? Bring some bottled water. Sing a product message jingle. Play product trivia during a Lunch and Learn. Whatever is in your portfolio, if you create ways to fully engage your customers in your sales calls you will make your message memorable.
There is no excuse for factual inaccuracy. When in doubt, leave it out.
If you're going to present a clinical trial, be prepared to discuss it in detail. Know the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Know the number needed to treat and know why it matters. Make sure you understand the primary and secondary endpoints, especially composite endpoints. How do the results of the trial fit with AHA or NHLBI guidelines? How does this affect clinical algorithms? How is any of this relevant to the prescriber?
If you don't know the answer to a question, say that you'll find it; then do so as quickly as possible. Never punt. Your customers may well know the answers to the questions they ask. They may be asking to see if you know.
The most successful sales representatives understand that information is time-sensitive. To achieve more with your presentations stay abreast of medical conferences and workshops in your area. Whenever possible, sponsor or attend, or at least get a copy of the agenda and speakers list. Follow up with your prescriber customers and link conference topics to your product messaging.
Pay attention to mainstream media. Subscribe to electronic newsletters from the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute of Health, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, or whatever organizations influence your prescriber customers. A report on emergency department response rates may help open a prescriber's mind to the benefits of your anti-thrombotic agent.
Be sensitive to prescriber schedules. If you know that Dr. Lawson attends Grand Rounds every Tuesday morning and teaches at the medical center every Tuesday afternoon, don't expect to get a lot of time if you show up at his office on a Tuesday. Anticipate potential conflicts when you schedule a Lunch and Learn.
Make sure your presentations are time-limited. You should be able to deliver a solid product message and call to action within thirty seconds. Not enough time? Check yourself for clarity and relevance and try it again.
Your customers know at a glance how you feel about them, your job and your products, because it's written all over your face. Whether you're new and nervous or experienced and unflappable, prescribers appreciate genuine enthusiasm. Your enthusiasm signals that you're confident in your product, and that confidence can be contagious.
Enthusiasm makes your customers glad to see you. Imagine if everyone you talked to today wanted you to inspect some part of their body that was bloated or scabbing or oozing a funky discharge. You may be the only healthy person a prescriber talks to today! Let them see that you're having fun and that you're glad to be talking with them. Then make them glad too.
When you CREATE sales presentations that are Clear, Relevant, Engaging, Accurate, Timely and Enthusiastic, you demonstrate that you are a professional who respects and understands your customers. You set the stage for an open, mutually beneficial dialogue that allows you to make a difference on every call. Isn't that why you do what you do every day?
Originally published in the January 2007 issue of Pharmaceutical Representative magazine. Copyright 2007 Sally Bacchetta. All rights reserved.
Sally Bacchetta is an award-winning freelance writer and sales trainer. She has published articles on a variety of topics, including sales training and motivation, pharmaceutical sales and emerging technologies. Read her latest articles on her freelance writer website.