Pharma Sales: The 90-Second Rule

I have just spent the better part of two weeks involved in the training of a new 50-strong sales team. Most of the team were experienced sales people but very inexperienced in pharmaceutical sales. They had a proven record in B2B sales, but only 30 percent of the team had previously sold pharmaceutical or medical device products to health care professionals (HCPs). Clearly, after the logistical and bureaucratic aspects of the training had been completed, most of the time was spent training the team on the medical background, disease state, product specifics and treatment landscape/competitor products.

Preparing the team for all eventualities and every possible question/objection they may get from HCPs was key to making sure that on the day of product launch they would be competent to go out into their new territories and speak with any potential customer. With particular reference to this product it was equally important for the team to be in a position to speak with doctor, nurse and pharmacist.

The last part of the training was to certify each of the sales professionals and make sure that they not only delivered the key messages but that they could also answer most of the questions HCPs would fire at them. In order to do this the sales professionals were allowed 10 minutes to deliver their presentation to trainers, managers and medical personal. The assessors were randomly assigned questions/objections to be addressed during the presentation.

The question remains, “does this really prepare the sales person for that first interaction with a doctor or other HCP?” Experience tells us that most HCPs are busy people and they allow little or no time for pharmaceutical sales professionals in their working day. The 90 seconds that a sales professional gets with most of their potential customers is not a pre-fixed amount. Remember, doctors are used to getting the information they need to make clinical decisions by asking the questions they need answers to in order to make a decision that will beneficially affect their patient(s). So, starting the interaction with an open question is quite simply the worst thing to do, as most doctors will take this opportunity to back out and say they do not have time.

The trick is to get the doctor to ask the first question (that is what they spend their lives doing and they are good at it) and within the first 10-15 seconds. Making a statement that shows you understand their needs and have something beneficial to tell them is the way you will get “mental access.” Once the doctor is engaged in a discussion, the 90-second call will quickly extend to 3+ minutes. Gaining “mental access” is showing the doctor that you have a solution to a problem they have in their clinical practice and that you have the necessary evidence to support your key message/solution. This has to be done in a way that the doctor will see a potential benefit for, most importantly, their patients. In order to do this the sales professional needs to really understand the clinical practice of the person that they are seeing (i.e. done their pre-call planning) and have the materials available to instantly support their message/solution.

The digital visual aid is singularly the best means of providing this supporting information/data, as whatever direction the sales professional needs to go in should be accessible in 1-2 touches of the screen. Knowing how to navigate through the digital sales aid is essential as this is where the HCP is engaged or finding a reason to move on.

What questions do you have? Agree or disagree?