The sales and marketing landscape for pharmaceuticals has been changing for some time thanks to the wealth of information now available online for doctors to access at their leisure – but face to face information and education is still as important as ever when exploring new pharmaceutical products.
Medical Sales Reps have been on the scene since the year dot but the industry is now seeing an increasing trend in Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) who, rather than promoting products with detailing presentations as the reps do, provide a knowledgeable resource for physicians who have specific questions that rely on a medical knowledge – rather than just product knowledge.
Medical Science Liasons aren’t sales people – they are a trusted sounding board; highly educated professionals who can speak on the same scientific level as the physicians need when asking in depth questions on products and disease.
There is room for both in the field of course but, with access to physicians becoming more difficult, is there a way that face-to-face meetings can be strengthened by sharing information – and can MSLs improve pharma sales effectiveness, without polluting either role with the other?
Sharing data without stepping over boundaries
Whilst there may be the odd MSL with exceptional sales skills or the occasional medical rep with a doctorate, it’s not necessary to find individuals who can do it all. The industry needs for these two functions to remain separate in order to maintain trust but there is a need to access each other’s data.
It would be wrong and inappropriate to turn Medical Science Liaisons into sales promoters but it is right to educate a physician on the finer details of a product – in context. Physicians appreciate the full education they receive from the medical reps just as they do the scientific knowledge of the MSLs.Their time is restricted so it makes sense to give them everything they need at the same time, without stepping over boundaries.
MSL’s can shoot from the hip. Their education enables them to answer any scientific question as they’re asked it – without having to refer to HQ. It’s why they’re so popular with physicians who can trust they’re getting honest responses to their questions – rather than sales hype.
However, MSLs are often very specialized in their field of knowledge so their responses are often delivered without considering the bigger picture when it comes to the products other, often relevant, benefits. Sometimes, in their fear of ‘selling’, they are in fact, holding back information that would be just as useful – even though it has not been asked for directly.
In this case, visibility of marketing and sales information can help the MSLs consider the bigger marketing programs without turning them into sales people.
It is all about relationships - no matter who you are
The top-performing medical reps don’t succeed because of a good sales pitch. These days, successful sales reps get the numbers because they can build relationships, listen, inform and educate physicians with relevant data. It’s not deep and specialized information like the Medical Science Liaison's, but it is broad and useful.
By giving central access to a portal of up-to-date information on previous discussions, meetings and product programmers, both MSLs and medical reps can learn from each other and collaborate, imparting genuinely useful and relevant information when in front of physicians, without having to assume each other’s role.
Sharing real-time data through a platform simply makes that possible and keeps everyone aligned
They can work alongside each other, via technology, to give their audience everything they need to know when they want to know it. The key is in providing that information when asked – rather than pushing it to improve pharma sales effectiveness.
Making the most of face-to-face meetings
In such a time-starved occupation, physicians will surely appreciate the value of face-to-face meetings much more when they can receive the data they need on research, disease and products as they ask for it.
Sales cycles and decision times will be shortened and relationships strengthened. Over-simplified it may sound but with today’s technology, it can be reality. Platforms can make it possible; but will current pharma culture embrace it?