By Andres Lares
We all know the importance of building personal relationships in the workplace. Over the past couple of years, working remotely has made staying connected with co-workers and clients a challenge. As we transition to a longterm hybrid model, we are seeing the impact and having to find better solutions.
In the life sciences space, particularly in the pharmaceutical and medical devices worlds, this has become a new and complex challenge for sales reps. The days of wining and dining doctors ended years ago, and sales organizations had to adapt. Then came the evolution of pharmaceutical and therapeutics (P&T) committees, and once again they had to adapt.
Now, it’s harder than ever to get access to doctors, requiring more adaptation. Even before COVID it was not uncommon to see the signs proclaiming “No Reps.”
Here are a few tips and tricks life sciences sales professionals should know that are relevant to just about every role:
Any strong and long-term relationship requires some give and take. In the business world, this means value must flow both directions.
Sales leaders should ask themselves, “Why would they want to meet with us?” It’s a tough question to answer, but one of the most important to figure out.
For example, if a pharmaceutical company’s goal is to have more prescriptions written (when their drug will be effective), then what is the goal of the doctor? Purchasing committee? Practice administrator?
Developing the answer to this question requires research, introspection and asking questions. Don’t assume that everyone always wants the same thing – ask them, and provide them what they want in the way they want.
All too often we choose the easiest path when communicating with others. In the life sciences, it’s ingrained in pharmaceutical reps to visit their doctors as much as possible. However, after having a couple of years of restricted access, which many physicians and decision-makers preferred, there needs to be a strategy behind when you visit in person, request a video call, call on the phone or send an email.
In-person might be the first time you meet in order to jump-start building rapport. But if you always come to visit in person, you begin to desensitize the impact of the visits and make it less enticing for the doctor to take the meeting.
Respecting their time and thinking about the medium each time can be an easy but highly impactful tactic. Consider mixing up your mediums to be as effective as possible. Save your request to meet in person for when you have something of value, and that will make it more likely the doctor accepts the next request.
Take advantage of each interaction to build rapport. While this is not revolutionary, it’s rarely done. Gatekeepers can either keep you out or be your friend.
To choose the latter means showing respect and making a genuine effort to connect with them. After all, what do you have to lose? Salespeople in this industry often have tight territories, so it pays to leave a good impression with everyone all the time.
Then, when you do get in front of the decision-maker, ask questions. Prepare the questions in advance and make sure they are thoughtful. A great question says as much, if not more, about you than having all the answers.
Listen and take notes. People want to be heard – it’s the best way to both gather information and develop relationships.
Finally, make sure to follow up. Give yourself opportunities to follow up with valuable information, products or services, and make sure to follow through. This is the way to develop trust.
Selling successfully in this new hybrid environment requires many of the same skills that were required before, except being more intentional and strategic.
Remember to always deliver value. This can be personal and professional, but always try to offer the other party something that will make the visit worthwhile. This can come in many forms, such as product sampling, new product information, research that was recently produced or an article that might be of interest.
Remember to choose your medium wisely. Don’t always ask for in-person meetings if they aren’t needed. Use each medium depending on the objective. In-person is best for building rapport. Video calls are great for presenting information. Phone calls are quicker and less formal. Text messages signal responsiveness.
Finally, remember to practice empathy and curiosity at all times. Treat everyone with respect. Administrative assistants, gatekeepers, etc., are people doing their jobs too, and minimizing them to get to the decision-maker is not only wrong, but also bad business in the long term. This means having a positive and curious mindset with each interaction. After all, what do you lose by doing so?
If you practice these three tips and tricks, you can expect to develop better relationships with colleagues and clients, regardless of your job function.
Andres Lares is managing partner at Shapiro Negotiations Institute and co-author of “Persuade: The 4-Step Process to Influence People and Decisions.” Email Andres at email@example.com.