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Sales Support: Helping Hand Resource Utilization

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Pharmaceutical representatives once operated in a simpler time, an era when the factors impacting prescribing and ordering were minimal. Times, of course, have changed, and the relatively hassle-free environment of the past has given way to a system of healthcare that rivals any in its scope and complexity.

In order to survive, much less succeed in this situation, great pains must be taken to employ every possible sales support resource available. As independent as sales may seem, it is truly a complex network of interactive components all striving for the single goal of sales success. The sooner this is recognized, the sooner success will be achieved. It is, however, up to the individual to ensure that all these resources are actively engaged.

More and more companies are now employing specialty representatives highly trained in one particular area of expertise. These include managed care, federal, and national accounts, and disease-specific specialties (such as central nervous system or cardiovascular). Specialty representatives can provide valuable expertise and focus, and help to relieve already cramped schedules. By piggybacking efforts, even the most resistant customer can be assured adequate coverage and attention. Lobby aggressively to ensure that as many of these assets as possible can be dedicated to assisting in the territory.

While the lavish, all-expense-paid trips of the past may be gone, many companies still offer funding for healthcare providers to attend certain conferences. This provides an excellent opportunity not only to help obtain critical continuing education, but also to really distinguish oneself. However, these opportunities tend to be few and far between, and aggressive lobbying again may be necessary to ensure a fair share. Find out what criteria the company requires and then quickly ensure compliance without fail.

Another valuable resource that is often neglected is medical inquiry support. Most companies provide an entire department dedicated solely to customer or representative queries. While most new representatives are intimately involved with this department, as experience grows, the use of this service declines. Yet, it provides an excellent opportunity to follow-up and provide a personal touch. Even if you know the answer, reiterating in a personalized letter that the company will provide more information can go a long way to enhancing trust and building relationships. Furthermore, sending such messages to inaccessible customers is an excellent way to ensure that some form of information is getting back to the inner sanctum. Finally, this service is often accessed electronically and is therefore simple as well as effective.

Textbooks are also outstanding door openers and thank-you; they are also one of the last quality items the government still allows the pharmaceutical industry to distribute. These small gifts go a long way in a medical office. Healthcare providers also continue to strive to hone technical knowledge, and providing textbooks aids them greatly in achieving their goals. Many companies also still provide funding for after-hours dinner programs. These not only allow interaction with customers in a somewhat more relaxed environment, but also allow the opportunity to have a guest speaker provide third-party endorsement of a product. These events can provide an enormous return if the audience, location, and speaker are carefully selected. Any moneys provided for this activity should absolutely be maximized!

Similarly, funding may be provided to sponsor speakers at hospital lectures, grand rounds, or medical association meetings. This type of expenditure too can reap huge rewards, as third-party endorsements can reach a much larger audience in a more formal setting. Care, however, must be given to avoiding too hard a sell, as this environment is more academic and should be treated as such. Coordinate these activities with hospital continuing education departments and medical society main offices or meeting coordinators.

While the above list of resources is not all-inclusive, it does provide a firm foundation for other ideas and assets. Truly, if a representative maximizes these, greater success will be forthcoming. The key is recognizing that a territory is much like a franchise; while a representative is responsible for the ultimate success, there is considerable additional help and support available from the home office.

Time Management

The topic of time management truly has reams of books, articles, tapes, courses, and every other medium imaginable devoted to it. If there are three books on a shelf, chances are one is on time management. There are doubtless plenty of resources available if this is an area for improvement. Given the multitude of requirements facing a pharmaceutical representative today, the importance of this topic cannot be overstated. As personal time with customers diminishes, time management becomes even more important. Time in this industry is the biggest asset-and can be the most formidable enemy if it is not hoarded, managed, and maximized like any valuable resource.

Critical here, however, is first recognizing the need; like a farm, pharmaceutical sales always need something done. Work is always necessary and it consistently feels as though something is still not finished. Indeed, to be truly successful, this is the status quo.

Databases should be assembled that show not only where the most business is currently achieved, but also where the most potential business exists. This single action is at the heart of successful territory management; it should drive all sales activity, yet is regularly overlooked.

More time, energy, and effort must be spent on the customer that can or does generate the most business-that is the painful reality. This certainly doesn't mean ignoring the little guy, but it certainly does mean balancing priorities. Waiting patiently for an hour for a target customer instead of getting immediate access to a low prescriber is certainly a worthwhile endeavor.

Institutions must be viewed in the same light. Passing on a formulary battle for gaining more retail business is not only solid time management but just plain good business. Focus on those accounts that have the most influence, dollar volume, and potential. Don't let ego get in the way of making these decisions; merely having a product on a list that generates no dollars is a hollow victory.
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