WAYS TO STANDUP AGAINST ‘SERVICES SEEKING DOCTORS’
First of all, Medical Representatives must understand that their services are far more important to the Pharma Companies in the promotion of their products as per strategy, than the kind of services or supports that some Companies may offer to some Doctors. If Companies can win over the Doctors with supports or services, then the Medical Representatives will have too little to contribute and the job may cease to exist soon. Companies may send the services, supports, samples and other promotional inputs by Courier to the Doctors directly in such a scenario. A few small Pharma startups who tried this route couldn’t sustain such services for long and hence had to close down operations, because ‘greed has no limit’, and the demand keeps on increasing month after month. Besides, it is difficult to quantify the exact returns in terms of prescription support from such serviced Doctors, though some Companies try to see the details of supplies made to nearby Retailers from the Stockist/Distributor concerned every month, i.e. secondary sales. Once a Company falls into this trap, it may be very difficult to revert back to ‘purely ethical promotion’ again, because if we stop such ‘services’ one day, drastic sales loss may last for many months and rebuilding a healthy sales base again may take a few years, which may be difficult to deal with from business perspective. The working habits of frontline salesmen of such ‘service’ based Companies may come down drastically as their focus gets shifted to delivering the agreed upon services to the Doctors on time and then ensuring agreed upon returns from each Doctor serviced month after month, than sincere implementation of marketing strategies in the field. In addition, the sales base created through sincere implementation of marketing strategies may last long when compared through the sales base created through offering of other services, because if we stop the ‘other services’, the sales base may crumble quickly like a pack of cards.
Therefore if your Company believes in 100% ethical promotion, be happy and proud about it. It means they value your services in the promotion of products as per promotional strategy, thus achieve the objectives consistently. Your ethical services to the Doctors may include:
a) Regular visits to the Doctors every month at the appointed time and place of convenience for them
b) Effective detailing and sampling of products detailed as per strategy
c) Targeting right Doctors for the right products
d) Polite, courteous, Professional, and warm relationship with the Doctors and their staff
e) Clarifying queries if any of the Doctors promptly on the products being promoted
f) Identifying the correct potential for each product for each Doctor (RCPA), set an ambitious but reachable objective with sincere efforts for your products, and working sincerely to realize it month after month.
The above services are far more valuable and important than a few ‘supports’ that a few Companies may offer to some Doctors to get their prescription support. Therefore believe in yourself, try to set high standards in the ethical services being offered to the Doctors, as mentioned above, and create an impression that you, your company, and the products being promoted, are different than the mostly ‘me too’ products that may be promoted by the such Companies through ‘other services’.
Benefits to Salesmen who have been promoting their products ethically without ‘any other services’:
a) Try to be happy and proud to be associated with organizations which believe in ethical promotion only.
b) By working in such Companies you can improve upon and sharpen your skills, product knowledge, communication, so you will be valued upon in your current Company, and will be in demand in the Industry.
c) You will have the job satisfaction that you are hitting the objectives consistently by your sheer hard work in a 100% ethical way.
d) You can earn attractive incentives commensurate with your performance, whereas the incentives may not be that attractive in ‘service’ minded Companies.
e) Keep promoting the products to such Doctors in all sincerity with effective detailing and sampling, control of which is in your hand without yielding to their gestures for ‘services’. It may be possible that some of them may see your point of view, i.e. benefits to the patients, and may support the products to some extent.
f) ‘Customer-wise Audit’ for every Head Quarter can be done often to evaluate the objective for each product we have set for each Doctor, and how much business we have got every month. If any Doctor has not contributed close to our expectation, even after giving six effective visits as per strategy, then we need to understand the reasons. If it is only due to not offering ‘other services’, then I am of the view that the frontline Salesmen in consultation with their Superiors take a call if such Doctors can be replaced with new Doctors from the same Speciality in and around the same locality who are not known to be services seekers. We can’t afford to waste our efforts – hard work – and precious promotional inputs on unproductive customers for long.
From the Companies’ side they can help the frontline Salesmen stand firmly on ethical ways of promotion by:
a) Selecting candidates for frontline salesmen who are confident, believe in themselves, good in communication, want to stand on their own legs without any crutches, and train them properly before letting them out in the field. Training includes how to say no diplomatically to such services seeking Doctors.
b) Offering products which are of high quality and 100% safe.
c) Manufacturing facilities are GMP, WHO, and possibly FDA compliant.
d) Making the frontline Salesmen highly competent in product knowledge, and effective in detailing.
e) Set high standards for field working and ensure it is adhered to by every frontline salesman
f) Marketing products which are unique and offer distinct benefits to patients in therapeutic segments which are not that crowded.
The above will help the frontline Salesmen to talk with confidence and pride in front of the Doctors and they may have the guts to decline politely any hint for ‘services’.
Organizations hesitate to report details of such Doctors to competent authorities such as MCI, and the Government, fearing backlash from the Doctors, which may affect the overall sales, though now-a-days MCI and the Government are tightening the screws on Doctors, and Pharma Companies who are indulging in such unethical activities.
The ideal situation is the Doctors prescribe the products strictly based on merit and benefits to the patients, without expecting ‘any other services’, and the Pharma Companies promote the products which are of high quality, safe, offer distinct benefits to patients, purely by ethical means only, for which both have to extend their hands and co-operation in equal measure.
The author Mr.Srinivasan V has over 35 years of rich experience in Pharma Companies, having headed Sales Administration, HR, Administration, Personnel, and Training functions. He has authored over 500 articles in India and abroad on Pharma Management. His book “Reach For the Stars” is like a Bible for aspiring and already working Medical Representatives.
- Srinivasan V
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