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Sales Versatility in the Pharma Industry

Connecting with Customers Every Time

By Michael Leimbach, PhD

One of my clients, an experienced sales manager, was working with a newly hired rep who was used to building social relationships with physicians by providing everything from free samples to free lunches. Now, he was being asked to leverage his in-depth product knowledge to focus on patient benefits. “I’ve put together a great presentation,” he told his manager, “with a lot of our data on efficacy and outcomes, and comparative study results to demonstrate our advantages. But yesterday, about half-way through, this one health care provider is looking at her watch, and then she says she’s got another meeting and can I just tell her quickly what our product actually does for patients. I thought I was telling her.” The manager suggested cutting back on the amount of data and making sure outcomes for patients are right up front. “O.K., I can try it” the rep said, “but in my very next call, the doctor was really into the research and asked a lot of questions and seemed to want even more detail about the studies. So, it’s hard to know what’s best.”

As a sales leader, you also may have noticed how much easier it is for salespeople to connect with some physicians than others. Sometimes the same approach that was successful in one case was completely ineffective in another. And some established relationships end up being downright difficult—fraught with tension and frequent communications issues and misunderstandings for reasons that are hard to understand.

In all these situations there appears to be a common theme—inconsistency and a certain lack of predictability. The reasons for success can sometimes seem as mysterious as the reasons for failure to connect. But the ability to consistently build productive, trusting relationships with many types of clients is the best predictor for getting second appointments, closing important sales, acquiring referrals from established clients, and avoiding the wasteful process of damage control in rocky relationships.

What is it that makes the difference between those successful communications and the difficult interactions that lead to failed calls and sales campaigns?

In one study, a pharmaceutical firm achieved a 53% improvement in market share by building the versatility skills of its salesforce.

Michael Leimbach, PhD

Michael Leimbach, PhD, is a globally recognized expert in instructional design and leadership development. As Vice President of Global Research and Development for Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc., he has worked with numerous Global 1000 organizations in Australia, England, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and throughout the United States. Over more than 30 years, Dr. Leimbach had developed Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning, and performance improvement capabilities, published over 100 professional articles, coauthored four books, been Editor-in-Chief for the highly acclaimed ADHR research journal, and is a frequent speaker at national and global conferences. He also serves on the ISO Technical Committee (TC232) on Quality Standards for Learning Service Providers and on the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development Dean’s Advisory Board.