3 Stages to Building a Winning Pharma Call Plan Methodology
Sales or Division Managers? Make Your Sales Reps Into Sales Champions.
A common mistake among Home Office management is that the single best way to optimize sales is by getting the sales reps to strictly follow the Home Office Call Plan, and that’s it. Although it’s been shown that following the Home Office Call Plan often leads to better results than allowing for Incentive Compensation Goal achievement, there’s a broader picture to address here.
Viewing the Call Plan as a process rather than a fixed, predetermined top to bottom strategy, is lacking both flexibility and ‘street wisdom’. To truly achieve an optimized sales performance in pharma, there needs to be a process, and it needs to revolve around three main stages: before, during and after the call. While most Call Plans refer to the first two stages, a successful Call Plan should address the third stage as well.
Physicians’ expectations of sales reps are based on the objective and scientific justification of both the safety and efficacy of the proposed drug treatment. So far is well known. But what physicians are often truly concerned about is their specific needs, having to do with their specific patients, in their specific environment, in that specific geographical area. Realizing this might be the most important aspect in today’s marketing philosophy in Pharma, focused increasingly on patient centricity. And it requires sales and analytics management to implement a methodology based on the 3 stages mentioned above- before, during and after the call.
Stage 1- Before the call:
This stage refers to the standard pre-call planning sales reps are usually required to do. It includes everything from studying the R&D stages, deriving insights from relevant data analytics (on current market trends, competitors’ drug sales etc.), to identifying doctors with the most potential and building the right schedule to achieve the weekly sales goal. Of course these are mainly dependent on the Home Office Call Plan, and there is little flexibility to be administered in this stage, for the simple reason that sales reps need to be at the top of their game when approaching a sales call, and extremely knowledgeable. There are no shortcuts here- there needs to be a comprehensive studying process for the reps to truly know what it is they are selling.
Stage 2- During the call:
Now this is a bit trickier, since this stage is virtually divided into two processes- the preparation process happening before the call, and handling the call in real-time. The initial steps here must be a continuation of the first stage mentioned above; preparing for the expected conversation with the physician. A standard call structure is usually as follows: opening the call; presenting features and benefits; probing/ gaining feedback; consultative selling; objection handling; and closing. As opposed to the first stage mentioned above, this preparation process exceeds the limits of a fixed Call Plan given by the Home Office, and it is mainly up to the sales reps themselves to achieve the most important objective in the call itself- adding real value to the physician’s knowledge. Sales reps should dedicate their time and effort to getting to know the physicians they’re about to talk to, which is where sophisticated analytics solutions come in, providing the reps with the most recent information on which competitors the physicians were and are currently working with, anonymous longitudinal patient Rx data, MD profile information (including geographic maps), who the top payers are, the physician’s prescription history as well as their Call/sample history, etc.
These all constitute the first process of the second stage thanks to their immediate and crucial importance to the actual call objective- adding value.
Which brings us to the second process of the second stage- the actual call in real-time. Although it seems this is the “money-time”, the reality of the situation is that this should actually be a very relaxed stage. If preparations were well-made, and the rep is fully equipped with the most up-to-date data, the approach should be a comfortable, well assured, straight forward one, making the customers feel they’re facing someone well familiar with the material. But this is where most calls end, failing to provide the physicians with the final most important feeling- that they are facing someone who’s actually interested in helping them with their concerns and with their patients’ needs. This is where it all comes down to, and it is built on 3 basic practices during the call:
This is the only way reps can identify the physician’s true needs. The preparation processes are priceless and significant, but it all goes down the drain if reps don’t listen when facing the actual customer.
2. Don’t be afraid of objections.
Teach your sales reps that this is a selling process, and as such, you need the physician’s inputs to gain real quality feedback. You’re not immune to criticism, and being able to handle concerns and objections head-on will only give your reps the advantage of raising their sales and establishing an authentic trust relationship with the customers (and yes, this is possible in Pharma sales). Teach your reps not to be on the defensive, but to listen to objections.
3. Engage the customer in the discussion.
Sales reps must realize the physicians’ crucial role in the process. They need to make the physicians feel a part of it.
Stage 3: After the call
The story doesn’t end there. Whether or not the call went well, the inputs given by the physicians during that call are priceless insights for the sales process. These should all be handled with dedicated attention and analysis, to insert changes and improvements in the Call Plan. Insights from the ground-up are often a game-changer, and dismissing objections and concerns raised by physicians during sales calls is no less than a business crime in sales all together, and in Pharma in particular. Adjustments to the Call Plan doesn’t weaken it, or changes company goals- on the contrary- it makes it better and stronger, and gives that needed edge to achieve successful pull-through.
So, if you really want to teach your reps how to become sales champions, you need to inhibit the 3-stages methodology:
1. Pre-call planning (study!)
2. During the call practices (prepare & listen!)
3. After the call routine (deliver the message back to Home Office).
Struggling? Why don’t you contact us to find out more on how analytics solutions can help your reps gain the edge they need to become sales champions.