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Pharmaceutical Sales Training Tips

I'm a personal trainer in Europe and I've got a request to offer a sales training for one of my clients in pharmaceutical.

What I'm looking for is literature and tipps regarding sales process, customer retention etc. especially for the pharma business.

Any tips are highly appreciated. - by sgt_serge
Gosh Serge, where to start.

The world of pharma sales is very complex, it's currently changing a lot, and it is highly risky for you and your client (more of that in a moment).

Pharma sales is often very different depending on the type of product you "sell", who you "sell" it to, and the country you're "selling" it in.

I use "sell" in quotes because you're not strictly selling. The person you interact with usually doesn't buy the product from you. If they're a doctor, then your job is to persuade them to prescribe your product for appropriate patients. The actual purchase comes downstream when the patient visits the doctor with a relevant condition, the diagnosis and prescription is done, the drug is bought from a pharmacy of some sort, and reimbursement is sorted out.

Selling primary care products (for example, statins) to a general practitioner is very different to selling a complex cancer drug to an oncologist in a hospital. In the one case you have a few minutes to get across some standard messages about the product - the other can often be a series of highly technical medical discussions over a long period of time with significant involvement from the pharma company's medical team.

So the sales role may vary from being essentially a door-to-door salesman to being a large account manager.

Typically, the pharma company will have invested heavily in market analysis and segmentation to identify the key influencers of prescribing decisions, their preferences and needs, etc. They will have crafted marketing messages and tested them to see which are the most effective. Then they will expect the sales reps to deliver the right messages to the right people. The skill of the sales rep often lies in knowing locally who the key influencers are, and in being able to get in to see them and establish a decent relationship.

Increasingly nowadays, even for the simplest products, "selling" involves influencing a wider range of people. Doctors have less and less autonomy, with formulary lists and prescribing guidleines placing increasing restrictions on what they can prescribe to whom under what circumstances and in what sequence. So the selling job is now focused more on influencing the the people who write the guidelines than just on the people who write the prescriptions.

This all varies tremendously country by country in Europe - with different reimbursement systems, different guidelines and differnet methods of controlling prescribing. It also varies regionally and locally within countries. You really have to know the local conditions to have any hope of success.

The risk I mentioned is that there are very strict controls on what a sales rep can and cannot do or say. The key messages they use and what they say must be within the label of the product and have to be approved by the pharma companies medical/compliance teams. Saying the wrong thing to the worng person and the wrong time can cause big problems sometimes with legal implications. And very often the things you can't say or do are things that seem normal in other sales areas. For example, in Sweden (if my memory serves me correctly), you cannot initiate more than 1 meeting a year with a doctor unless they contact you. Typically the sales environment in Europe is very different to that in the US and many of the approaches used in the US will either not work, or get you into big trouble in Europe.

So at the risk of sounding pessimistic - I'd be very careful about accepting an assignment to train pharma sales people in Europe if you don't know the industry well. I'd be tempted to pass the job on to someone who does.

Ian - by ianbrodie

thanks for your reply. Clarifies a few things. I especially like the differentiation of sales process by product sold. Companies selling generica definitely have a very different process compared to companies selling very complex solutions.

I'm not concerned about the legal implications as we won't be doing a "say this" "say that" training but rather a training in regards to how to establish a good relationship, how to get agreement etc.

Do you have a recommendation regarding the sales process? - by sgt_serge
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