Medical Sales Strategies: How to Drive Doctors’ Recommendations

Medical sales are a set of activities and skills whose purpose is to influence health care professionals to recommend or prescribe a product. Whether you are in the pharmaceuticals, dermoceuticals, OTC, medical devices, or whatever business relates with patients and their health, you need to have a clearly defined strategy on how to approach physicians.

Selling to private practice doctors is different than selling to healthcare organizations. In hospital the sales process is changed in many aspects compared to individual doctors. The first thing you need to know when you are trying to drive hospital doctors’ recommendations is to find out who makes the buying decisions. For instance, depending on the nature of your product, the decision makers may be the doctors, the nurses, the administrators of the organization or even a combination of them. Therefore, it is important to map all different stakeholders and their purchasing hierarchy. Then based on who you deliver your message to, you must adapt your sales pitch. As an example, when you address to doctors you may have to emphasize clinical evidence, if you target administration financial benefits should be a priority, for a nurse ease of use is important.

No matter how many stakeholders are involved in a buying decision, doctors play the most important role, because their approval is crucial. Whether we are talking about private practice or hospital doctors, when it comes to medical sales strategy there is a set of rules that apply to both. The first rule is that a sales strategy should be focused on the patient. A sales rep should be able to articulate clearly how his product can improve patients’ health, well-being, satisfaction, and experience as well as how it can address patients’ needs and expectations.

To convince doctors that a product is worth recommending to their patients you need to have strong evidence supporting both its effectiveness and its safety. SORT or else Strength of Recommendation Taxonomy evaluates the available evidence according to patients’ symptom improvement, quality of life, mortality etc. If you want to display this kind of evidence you can use clinical trials, meta-analyses and patient reported outcomes. More specifically clinical trials provide a reliable evaluation for a product’s effectiveness and its side effects on humans. Therefore, doctors need to study these evidence so that they form an opinion for the product.  Meta-analyses provide doctors with a broader perspective about the product, since they combine the results of multiple clinical studies. Finally, patient reported outcomes assess the level of patient satisfaction after using a product, the level of adherence to the regimen, the improvement of symptoms and quality of life.

Another important factor that drives doctors’ recommendations is patient satisfaction. Apart from patient reported outcomes mentioned previously, patient feedback and possible complaints may encourage or discourage a doctor from repeating his recommendation for a specific product to different patients. Another way to assess patient satisfaction is through surveys (i.e. questionnaires) that patients rate their satisfaction.

Medical sales strategy though, should not rely solely on clinical trials, patient satisfaction, and a clearly articulated message. Some other ways to influence doctors in favor of your product, include building a strong prescriber base, create a notable brand name, and having an online presence.

If you want to build a strong network of prescribers you should attend conferences, organize seminars, and round tables. Additionally, you should promote doctors’ participation in protocols, scientific observations and clinical trials and ask them to assess the product. Moreover, by having important KOLs talk about your product in a set of doctors can improve the product’s reputation.

To create a memorable name for your product it is recommended that it can be easily linked with the name of a condition or the name of a molecule. Because of most doctors’ limited attention (due to their high workload) it’s been observed that products that use this kind of names or catchy slogans are those most easily remembered by health care professionals.

Finally, since most doctors are looking for information about a product on the web, it is critical that your product has an online presence. According to web-based surveys, approximately 50% of healthcare professionals do online research to gain a broader perspective for a product of their interest. If your product already has an online presence, make sure that its web page is informative enough and easy to navigate.

As a conclusion, a medical sales strategy should include a wide range of tools that target physicians and help them not only evaluate the effectiveness and the safety of a product, but also to assess patient satisfaction, recall its name easily and seek information whenever they need it.