What do GPs see typical representative as being like? When asked to describe their typical drug representative 60% of GPs surveyed agreed that representatives are mainly “pleasant” and 16% saw them as informative. An equal amount (16%) described them as irritating. Only 4% of representatives were described as GP focused. So are we selling to their needs, and should we be GP focused rather than patient focused? 5% of GPs fell into the “other” category and the answers here tended to fall more into the irritating salesman arena, with words such as geezer, ingratiating and desperate appearing as descriptions.
Time is of the essence and a quarter of the GPs surveyed stated that “concise” was the most important sort of communication from representatives. One GP eloquently stated “Varies depending on situation and time available. Nothing so frustrating as relaxed social chat when keen to get on with surgery”. 39% prefer a relaxed style, so pertinent probing questions, logical features and benefits and sales aid can be left firmly on the backseat of the car then? This is backed up by only 0.5% of GPs (3 in the total survey) who liked representatives to be inquisitive in a sales call. This is reiterated in January’s article Hate Selling – Change Selling where Gerry Duffy shows that top performers are routinely behaving differently in calls than their counterparts. They are not actually selling in the conventional sense at all, but instead communicating successfully spending more time listening to their customers. This survey also seems to back up this research. In what areas are representatives well trained? GPs were invited to tick all areas that they felt applied in this category. The two areas that received the most votes were product knowledge and sales skills and in both cases over 260 of the 500 doctors surveyed agreed that representatives were very knowledgeable in these areas. Presentation skills were also recognised as being excellent across the industry. Representatives being seen as approachable only had 144 votes. If we want GPs to see the industry as a useful resource and it is recognised that sales increase with building relationships then clearly a number of doctors do not feel able to approach companies in any way at all. Industry knowledge gained the lowest number of results with only 69 votes; surely representatives should have a clear understanding of the industry within which they are operating? What tips can GPs offer representatives in being more successful? This is an interesting area, and the responses were wide ranging. In general GPs want representatives to acknowledge that they are busy people and cannot spare them much time. They do not want to be asked lots of questions about their current prescribing habits and whether at the end of the meeting these will have changed. They do not want to see pushy representatives at all, and want representatives to be able to judge the situation more (ie how busy surgery has been, GPs current mood etc.). Other turn offs include flirting with either sex, smelling of cigarettes, following a rigid sales structure and pretending to be a GP’s best friend. All of these cropped up with alarming regularity. In essence GPs want representatives to be down to earth and informative without being pushy. In what ways could a drug representative’s visit be improved? Again GPs could tick all areas that applied, and there was also an “other” section too. The area that received the largest number of votes was for representatives to be more patient focused. This echoes earlier results from the same survey that when talking to GPs, representatives should be clearly focused on benefits to both GPs and patients, and these are the areas that GPs want to know about. The number of products discussed in a meeting was also thought to be too high by 180 of the GPs surveyed. The costs to get a representative in front of a GP are high and therefore to get the most value for money out of a rep it may be seen to be advantageous to get through as many products as possible, who exactly is it benefiting? If GPs are switching off at product number four, and therefore losing focus on products one, two and three as the message is being diluted then why not reduce the number of products promoted at any one time? It was clear that three products were thought to be the most any GP wanted to hear about in appointments in their surgeries.
It’s the area we are not supposed to talk about, but holds an innate fascination for most. Although 94% of GPs are probably in the right ballpark, 6% feel that representatives are generally earning £40,000 – £60,000+. For the 100% of representatives reading those figures and feeling inadequate it is the 6% of GPs that are deluded and not you!
85% of GPs acknowledge that company representation in its present form is the most effective way of the pharmaceutical industry ensuring that its customers receive the latest prescribing information, drug interactions and competitor information to be able to make balanced prescribing decisions. This means that the role of a representative is here to stay for the long term. Only 1% of GPs think that they have nine years or less of visits from us left. So what do GPs think of you? In general GPs see representatives as pleasant and informative with good product knowledge and selling skills. The areas that irritate are pushiness, insensitivity to their time constraints and selling too many products in a call. What ever the individual GP thinks about pharmaceutical company representation they do recognise that it is a force here to stay. To make ourselves more successful and to continue to have the access to our customers it is important to look at how we are seen and to change much of the selling that takes place face to face with our customers.
|If you would like a full copy of this report you can contact Lisa Taylor, Marketing & Client Services manager, Doctors.net.uk 01235 828 404.|