Pharmaceutical Sales Training – A Physician’s Perspective

Pharmaceutical sales reps are being buffeted by several headwinds. Some of them are:

1. Stringent regulations pertaining to product promotions.

2. Big Pharma’s increased reliance on digital self-service portals to cut costs and adapt to increasing aversion by physicians to traditional sales messages.

3. A period of relatively fewer blockbuster products (which will hopefully change in the coming years).

4.  Increased focus on cost reduction by all players in the healthcare industry.

Sales training has now taken center stage from the perspective of the employer as well as the employee. Pharmaceutical companies want more sales productivity in a challenging market and sales reps are craving for job satisfaction and don’t want to see themselves as glorified UPS Drivers driving around to drop of samples.

It is important to understand the Physician’s perspective before devising any training program for pharmaceutical sales reps. Canned sales pitches are no longer effective. Rather, training should be a combination of education and on-demand performance support. Here is what I picked up from a discussion board on what a physician might expect from a sales rep. Very interesting perspective indeed!

  • Do tell me why you think your drug is exceptional. Use the STEPS approach, describing the Safety, Tolerability, Efficacy, Price and Simplicity of your drug.
  • Do tell me why the cost of your drug is a better value than generics in its class. Compare the cost to your brand-name competitors only if there are no acceptable generics in your drug’s class.
  • Do keep me updated on the formulary and tier status of your drugs. This is often more important than your cash price because a high-tiered drug may cost my patient six to 10 times the generic price or two to three times the price of a preferred brand-name drug.
  • Do show me patient education materials about diseases your drugs treat. But please omit drug names, logos, icons or mascots. Including the company name in small type is acceptable. My goal is to distribute information, not propaganda.
  • Do ask me to sign for samples. I use them to test your drugs on my patients before they buy them, or to help them deal with the expense of your drugs when they can’t afford them.
  • Do arrange for other specialists to come to our office during lunch, and let me pick their brains.
  • Don’t bother inviting me to evening dinner presentations. I don’t need extra reasons to spend time away from my family.
  • Don’t expect me to stay long in the sample room. My schedule is very tight, and I don’t like to keep patients waiting. I’ll stay long enough to sign and leave.
  • Don’t expect me to spend more than 15 minutes at lunch, if I join you at all. Eating the lunch you provide often saves me time, which means I can get back to taking care of my patients and get home to my family sooner.
  • Don’t give me anything to read later. I have more than enough to read already and am capable of doing my own research if interested.
  • Don’t offer me pens, notepads or any other “freebies.” The cost of these items is included in your company’s budget, which influences the price you charge my patients for your drugs. I’d rather you pass along savings than pens.

Srinivas Krishnaswamy


I love to read and share thoughts on technology, enterprise learning, mobile and any thing cool that impacts enterprises.

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Posted in Training

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