Medical sales training and development teams need to manage through tremendous change, and the consolidation among buying groups is making it far less common for physicians to make independent buying decisions.
Medical buying decisions are now addressed by a combination of decision makers, with varying degrees of knowledge and influence. Add new multi-channel engagement models, compliance mandates and legislative uncertainty, and the medical sales environment is extremely complex for pharma companies. As a result, pharma reps need a significantly expanded skill set to effectively engage and build trust with health care professionals (HCPs) and buying groups, while ultimately putting patient outcomes first.
This topic was the focus of a webcast recently hosted by Qstream and eyeforpharma. Industry leaders from GSK, Roche, Aurora Project and Qstream came together to discuss the shift to a patient-centric selling model while improving overall business outcomes.
It takes a village
The pharma rep, their managers, medical science liaisons (MSLs) all play a critical role in the patient-centric model. All are required to be highly ethical, compliant, skilled, and knowledgeable, with a united focus on patient benefit. To be truly patient-centric, reps needs to know their material inside and out and communicate all details with 100% accuracy to HCPs and buying groups within a very limited time.
Ultimately, the HCP must rely on the pharma rep as a trusted and primary source of medical knowledge, in addition to their own academic study or peer consultation. Reps need to understand, communicate, and educate the HCP on patient outcomes, handle objections and answer any question with conviction and precision. A highly adaptive and consultative selling approach is a must.
But what kind of support are reps given to achieve this mastery of complex information, particularly when a patient-centric approach is often at odds with how reps are measured and compensated.
Making the shift to patient-centricity
Let’s examine the issues involving patient-centricity and the pharma business model. In a global benchmark survey of pharma leaders by the Aurora Project in conjunction with eyeforpharma it was found that:
- 86% of respondents rank the importance of delivering patient-centricity as very high
- 93% believe a patient-focused strategy improves overall business outcomes
- 79% were not very confident their company could deliver on this approach
- 39% believe that adequate training is given to pharma to act on their patient-centric mandates
These findings were reflected in an audience poll during the Qstream webinar with 43% of webinar participants voting that embracing a top-down patient centric culture is a barrier to adopting a truly patient-centric business model and 54% stating that competing commercial and patient-centric KPIs are at odds. More than half (54%) of the audience indicated that managers need to see demonstrated and observed selling behaviors to know their reps are showing the right behaviors in the field. Below is a breakdown of the issues facing the key players in the patient-centric model and how to solve them.
How front-line managers can support reps
How can front-line managers support reps in transitioning to a new approach and know who, what and when to coach? They, too, need to be upskilled to coach effectively, whether it is shaping a patient-centric sales engagement, assisting with technical knowledge transfer, or observing and enhancing rep behaviors through video and scenario-based reinforcement. The ability to correlate proficiency metrics with CRM data to get a full understanding of individual and team capabilities is necessary to measure and track knowledge gaps, and consequently take action where improvements are most needed.
The critical role of the MSL
MSLs play a vital role in shaping sometimes very complex engagements on complicated medical cases. This level of engagement requires highly technical medical knowledge. Pharma management must have measurable, objective insight into their MSLs’ ability to apply critical information at the right time with the HCP, and provide tailored, data-driven coaching where there are gaps. But how can they gather such information? In the case of Avanir, a data-driven, science-based approach to knowledge reinforcement and coaching of MSLs is proving successful.
Helping HCPs educate patients on all treatment options
There are new pressures from patients, who can find many alternative treatments from varying sources on the internet, some clinically validated and many which are not. Increasingly, patients are coming to HCPs with new, and sometimes ill-informed, questions on the options available to treat their condition. HCPs need to know how to handle these objections and guide the patient to the best medical outcome. If the HCP, as a buyer, has gone through 60% of their buying journey before coming into contact with the pharma rep, how can they be sure they have the most recent and reliable information to pass onto the patient?
Everyone plays a role in a truly patient-centric model – the question is how can pharma companies transition and support managers, reps, and MSLs to instill the new behaviors and depth of trusted medical knowledge necessary to make the shift?
View the webcast on-demand Give your Reps the Edge: Driving Patient-Centric Growth in Medical Sales
Read more on the work Qstream does with Life Sciences teams