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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19625

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: Electronic Source

Moldenhauer S
Three ways to modernize your sales force 2011 Sep 7

Full text:

Today’s sales challenges can’t be solved with a Twitter post, argues Scott Moldenhauer. Instead, sales leaders must modernize their approach to sales training

The pharmaceutical sales landscape has changed radically over the last 10 years. Nevertheless, companies continue to train a 1980s sales strategy. What gives? Think about the last time you saw your sales trainers in action. It was probably at a recent sales meeting. The trainers entered your breakout session, discussed features and benefits, and then provided the inevitable role play. That’s all fine and well, but where’s the beef? After all, on Monday morning, sales reps go out into the real world to face access restrictions, formulary challenges, and doctors who can’t remember their names. Trainers don’t know which way to turn. They understand that the reach and frequency model has lost its appeal. Nevertheless, the search for a better alternative continues. The bottom line? To survive, the sales force needs to evolve. But what should the evolutionary process look like? Here are a few thoughts.

Step 1: Update the model

Want to upgrade your sales force? Start with your selling model. The pharma selling model is in need of a serious makeover. Of primary concern is the ‘consultative’ selling approach. The consultative model is too bulky for today’s physicians. The consultative model generally requires time for the following elements: an opening statement, presentation of features and benefits, probing techniques, objection handling, and a close. In the 1980s, when doctors had 20 extra minutes to experience all five steps, the consultative approach worked well. However, times have changed. Trying to cram a consultative sell into a 60-second hallway call is like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. It doesn’t work. This is not to say that consultative model doesn’t work at all. It does, especially when time is ample. Yet the majority of the representative’s day is spent engaged in hallway calls. These are short calls that generally last less than two minutes. The pharmaceutical marketplace is calling for a short call model. The good news? These models exist—and they are highly effective. WHAT IS IT?

Step 2: Put the emphasis on access

A short-call model is one step toward improving the pharma sales force, but it’s not enough. The primary challenge is access. Up to 50% of physician offices now restrict rep access. The key word is ‘restrict.’ Most physicians are neither completely open nor completely closed to reps but somewhere in between. My personal research shows that access is a skill that can be taught and learned. HOW? In fact, when you look at the behavior of the best reps, you find that they successfully access many physicians that average reps cannot. Moreover, they use a common set of strategies to do so. These strategies can be coached and taught to others. To date, pharma’s response to the access challenge has been to tell reps ‘go where the doctors will see you’ or to provide reps with nebulous instructions, like ‘implement the total office call.’ Companies that learn how to successfully train access can influence more physicians. The payoff can be enormous.

Step 3: Keep focused

For the last 15 years, people have been writing articles on how pharma sales reps will soon be a thing of the past. Now, 15 years later, people are still writing articles on how pharma sales reps will soon be a thing of the past. Let’s get one thing clear. Reps are effective and will continue to be effective.
However, if your product costs $400, the generic costs $20, and managed care has blocked your product, don’t expect miracles from your salespeople. In the near future, your sales force will continue to be your most valuable selling tool. Declining ROI has occurred because of generics and tighter managed care constraints, not because reps have lost their effectiveness. For whatever reason, this confuses people. They mistakenly conclude that reps have become defunct and then begin a quest for the new Holy Grail. The latest craze, for example, is the idea that social media, e-detailing, or smartphones can replace reps. (For more on social media and smartphones, see ‘Social media forums and the pharma industry’ and ‘Will the iPad kick start a pharma sales and marketing revolution?’.) I am continually amazed by the attention given to these novelties. Is it really possible to solve today’s sales challenges with a Twitter post? Stop the insanity. Reps will continue to be the predominant drivers of sales for some time. Nevertheless, sales leaders must modernize their approach to sales training. Rather than investing inordinate amounts of time and energy in new mediums that may or may not prove effective, put the bulk of your focus into helping reps adapt to the changing marketplace. If you want an immediate return, provide your sales force with access and short call training.

Scott Moldenhauer is the author of Pharmaceutical Sales Revolution and president of the Persuasion Consultants, LLC, which provides training solutions for pharmaceutical and medical device companies. For more information, see

To learn more about sales strategies, make sure you’re aware of our upcoming Specialty Sales Excellence conference, taking place in Philadelphia on November 15-16, 2011. To download the brochure just click here.


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