Pharmaceutical and biotech companies have had an epiphany. They are revamping their corporate image to reflect a more patient-centric approach, and are shifting emphasis from product features to patient outcomes. If you go to any pharmaceutical corporate website, you’ll see imagery of patients, not products. You’ll read mission statements containing words like passion, transformative, noble, and journey. While this new patient-centric approach is undoubtedly a step in the right direction that progress comes to an abrupt stop when sales representatives walk into a physician’s office.
For representatives in the field, physicians are commonly referred to as “targets,” or “high/low value prescribers.” In the car industry, a customer may be referred to as an “up” or “tire kicker.” Language has power, and using words that reduce physicians to profit centers is counterproductive to a patient-centric model. To continue the pharmaceutical industry mindset shift, the first thing we need to do is humanize our customers – the physicians and the patients they serve.
Just as physicians know that one pill or therapy does not treat all patients, sales representatives should know that one message does not impact all customers. A good sales call should be customized to a doctor’s needs, knowledge, practice, and habits; a good sales representative works hard to understand these nuances so that they can be an effective resource for the physician. If representatives continue to rely on scripted marketing messages and talk tracks without seeking to understand their audience on an individualized level, representatives will only ever be seen as marketing messengers rather than service providers and partners. When sales representatives align their goals with physicians’ goals – achieving better patient outcomes – they will begin to embody the patient-centric approach to selling.
Currently, sales representatives’ goals often look like making quota and revenue targets, which is not in alignment with physicians’ goals. In Selling With Noble Purpose, sales leadership expert Lisa Earle McLeod explains how top performing representatives think of customers first and products second. If that premise is held in mind, sales conversations will then be focused on the customer’s environment and goals, not product features and benefits. Representatives will be aimed at helping the physician achieve better outcomes for the patient than what the status quo provides. Representatives who are passionate about and believe in the impact their organization has on customers, can more effectively differentiate themselves from the competition and achieve monetary or quota goals while making a difference for patients.
Herb Brooks, coach of the 1980 Olympic gold medal hockey team gave an impassioned speech before the start of the game against the heavily favored Soviet Union that became known as the Miracle on Ice. Brooks said, “Great moments are born from great opportunity. And that’s what we have here tonight. That is what you have earned here tonight.” The moment is now for pharmaceutical companies to uphold their “customer first” brand promise. By bringing that brand promise into the physician’s office, sales representatives will move from targeting quotas to partnering with physicians to improve the outcomes of their patients.
Your time is now. Begin your journey to a patient-centric, customer-first mindset by writing down a set of commitments you, as a representative, will make to physicians and patients. Look at this list before and after every physician visit you make and hold yourself accountable. See how this mindset shift will mutually benefit you, the physicians, and the patients.
As Coach Brooks said, “This is your time. Now go out there and take it.”