Changing How We Communicate with Doctors


By Todd LaRoche (@toddlaroche)

Its no surprise studies indicate that physicians can enhance patient satisfaction by spending more time with them during office visits. Conversely and challenging for pharmaceutical sales reps the amount of time doctors have away from patients is decreasing. This article references a survey that shows 60 percent of doctors are able to spend a mere two minutes with a medical representative at any given visit. The same survey found that 51 percent of doctors also consider repeated visits by representatives a disturbance.

Not only are sales reps faced with the challenge of communicating effectively in less time, they are finding it more difficult to get in front of doctors to begin with. The end result: sample drop-offs with little or no product discussion. When face time does happen, its imperative that the pharmaceutical sales rep differentiates and distinguishes himself from other reps calling on the same doctor.

While sales reps may not be used to communicating in a two-minute window, doctors, nurses and office staff are conditioned to interact that way. Being brief and getting to the point is essential in a health care environment. Recognizing that, sales reps need to change how they communicate with doctors if they want to increase their effectiveness.

Knowledge is a key. With a compressed amount of time to detail new medicines and deliver marketing messages, sales representatives need to quickly demonstrate thorough product knowledge, a clinical understanding, and be able to provide supplemental information upon request. Sales reps also need to get better at tracking information related to each sales call, including the doctors contact information, preferred mode of communication, patient population needs and prescription-writing activity. With better information, sales reps can implement more doctor-centric strategies and craft more relevant messages.

In-person interactions arent the only way to go. Its important to identify creative ways to convey information. For doctors who are digitally savvy and prefer electronic communication, e-mail can foster stronger relationships while providing an efficient and more cost-effective means of communicating beyond the traditional face-to-face call. Further, physicians can review information at a time that is convenient to them not when they have an office full of patients.

E-details, online seminars, opinion leader events, Web conferences, and group discussions are other ways to communicate with, and educate, physicians without taking them away from the office. Take evolving communication preferences into account and understand how physicians you work with prefer to access information.

When time is tight, the hook is crucial. A hook is a statement or an object used specifically to get attention usually used as the opening statement in your conversation. In a leisurely chat that isnt objectives-based, a hook might not matter. But if you have mere minutes of a physicians time whether in the office or at a virtual event a solid hook that relates to your objective, your listener, and your approach can be a real differentiator.

Your consumer marketing is a great conversation angle. More than ever, patients come into a physicians office asking for a specific medication the result of both direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs and an abundance of online research. Keeping physicians informed of major consumer marketing initiatives can give them a much-needed heads up on what they may be hearing from their patients. Then, show them how to integrate this information into patient care.

Track and measure every encounter. While overall sales and market penetration matter immensely to the organizations bottom line, at the individual sales reps level there are other metrics worth tracking in this limited-face-time environment. Average amount of time spent discussing products with a physician, requests for additional information, volume of sample product distributed or prescription-writing activity are just three of many ways to track messaging effectiveness by proxy measures.

To create rapport with doctors, we need to change how we communicate. Technology is creating new and exciting opportunities for communication that enable us to take evolving communication preferences into account when providing new product information, clinical alerts or product updates. By incorporating communication technology, electronic promotional activity, and virtual events into our communication arsenal and demonstrating depth and breadth of product knowledge, sales reps can provide valuable interactions with doctors and achieve their objectives.



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