The secret behind the establishment of solid, long-lasting and productive relationships in the business world is the ability to exert influence without appearing to be trying to exert authority. Not surprisingly, key account management training should help to show you how you can exert influence in any relationship, but should definitely focus on the amount of time and effort that you need to put into preparing, before you set out to engage with the prospect. Pharmaceutical sales can be a particularly difficult industry to deal with, especially when the representative tries to convince an end-user about a particular product. Powerful forces can be at play and often a diverse set of emotions come to bear on any decision, so that the sales representative has to be armed with a lot of preparatory work before he or she can expect to attain success.
Many healthcare professionals, pharmacists and practitioners have become rather jaded, often as a consequence of saturation, overkill and poor sales and marketing techniques. It is safe to say that the average professional does not look forward to meetings with pharmaceutical reps, which can be all too frequent. This makes the pharmaceutical sales rep’s job a lot more difficult, as influence must be exerted without any posturing or undue articulation.
Comprehensive pharma training must be provided by consultants, so that the sales representatives under their charge are well aware of the meaning of preparation and go into the field with ultimate confidence. You have to know what your endgame is and what you want to achieve, very clearly. This will vary from client to client, but the rep must master the ability to differentiate, even if he or she is always trying to sell an identical product. The professional may have many different ways of saying “no,” but the rep has to be prepared and be ready to assert the position without appearing to be dominant.
Building a foundation of influence requires some subtle and often behind the scenes activity. Maybe the rep will have to work through gatekeepers within the target organisation along the way? It is very important to be proactive and to show that you understand the challenges that face the client. You will need to look vertically and horizontally and take into account factors which may not necessarily have any direct association with the ultimate goal, but may nevertheless impact in one way or another. All this work will pay off as you will end up making a position of trust, an essential prerequisite, as taught during key account management training.
If you have a good idea what your prospects will say to you when you meet with them, you can have your position prepared in advance and can field their questions and any possible objections. You should be able to predict and provide them with a clear solution, one that meets their needs and wants and satisfies your ultimate objective, as well. It’s important to build flexibility into your stance, so that you can be seen to “give” somewhat, if necessary, helping to achieve a powerful feeling of collaboration between all parties, creating good relationships going forward.
Alan Gillies is the Director of L2L Consulting, an elite pharmaceutical consultancy firm which specialises in Strategy Development and Implementation Excellence for prestigious multi-national organisations.