Institutional selling is becoming a more prominent part of the pharmaceutical sales rep's job, and pharmaceutical sales training has to reflect this new reality. While today's rep must still possess strong business and communications skills, more is required to navigate newer organizational structures while complying with important regulations like provisions of the Sunshine Act.
Pharmaceutical sales training must ensure that reps have detailed understanding of medical conditions and that they have the business acumen to communicate with physicians, pharmacists, formulary administrators and other decision makers.
Not only must reps possess detailed medical knowledge, they also have to be conversant in financial terms to be able to make their case for adding drugs or other medical products to prescribing practices or formularies. It's a tall order.
Institutional selling presents unique challenges to the pharma rep, requiring that they build relationships with multiple stakeholders and often work as part of an integrated accounts team. How can pharmaceutical sales training prepare reps for institutional selling? It involves training reps on how medical institutions are changing, how account planning for institutional customers works, and providing training on navigating institutional polices on sales reps.
How Medical Practices Are Changing
Physician-owned practices are becoming less prevalent, while centralized institutions like group practices, healthcare systems, and integrated delivery networks (IDNs) are becoming more common. Complicating matters further, one physician may be part of multiple group practices or IDNs. Reps must be able to identify influential physicians and influential institutions so they can prioritize their sales efforts accordingly.
As medical practices become more complex and institutionalized, decision making becomes increasingly centralized, so what worked for a rep last year may not be sufficient this year. Pharmaceutical sales training has to take into account the changing nature of physician practices and the increased importance of institutional selling as healthcare systems become more prominent and physician-owned practices become less common.
Account Planning for Institutional Customers
From an institutional selling point of view, accounts may include medical groups, hospitals, and IDNs rather than individual physicians. Decision-making may not be in the hands of an individual physician, but may be decided by multiple stakeholders or by a formulary administrator.
In some cases, the decision about which drugs are included in a formulary is made by committee, which may be made up of physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and others. Decisions are based on clinical evidence, expert opinions, and cost-benefit studies. In these cases, pharmaceutical reps have to identify stakeholders and build relationships with them to influence prescribing both inside the institution and post-discharge. Pharmaceutical sales training strategies must focus on orchestrating activities at the enterprise level, and at various levels in the stakeholder network.
Navigating Institutional Policies on Sales Reps
Another factor influencing pharmaceutical sales training is institutional polices on pharmaceutical sales reps. As physicians groups and IDNs grow, they're less likely to leave choices about interacting with reps in the hands of individual physicians and more likely to develop institutional polices governing these interactions. That means sales reps have to understand these policies and work with them. While these policies vary in their specifics, they tend to have the following components:
• References to applicable industry or government regulations
• Defined processes restricting access to the institution by sales reps, such as requiring that they first make arrangements with a central point of contact
• Restrictions on access to patient care areas by pharmaceutical reps
• Rules concerning how promotional materials may be displayed and distributed
• Rules about provision of medications for clinical trials
• Rules about provision of sample medications to staff and patients
When reps know what to expect in terms of institutional polices, they can be better prepared for those interactions.
The pharmaceutical industry is subject to a number of dynamic forces, and pharmaceutical sales training has to keep up. How pharmaceutical reps do their work is changing as more customers become part of institutional settings. In addition to having extensive knowledge of drugs and medical conditions, reps today have to have more financial knowledge, and they have to be able to navigate institutions with different decision makers than they may be used to.
If you're a pharmaceutical sales trainer, CLD is ready to help you develop a strong team that delivers, through a variety of training methods designed to produce measurable success. If you'd like to learn more, feel free to contact us at any time.
Mary Hiers is a former engineer and full-time writer. She writes primarily on the subjects of medicine, technology, and business.