Study Uncovers Need to Build Trust in Midst of Changing Regulatory Environment for Pharmaceutical Sales
Healthcare professionals hold differing opinions on the “Do Not Call” policies that are changing sales promotion practices today, according to a study conducted by Heather Roeschlein, a healthcare sales graduate (2002) and current master’s student in organizational leadership at St. Catherine’s University. A former pharma rep well acquainted with the new regulations, Roeschlein examined the industry’s long-established sales model in light of what regulators and legislators see as excessive influence exerted by pharmaceutical companies on healthcare providers.
A clear disconnect was found, through interviews and surveys, between the perceptions of sales reps and healthcare providers about their relationships. The former stated: “Providers do not have the time to see salespeople.” In contrast, the latter identified a certain trust level as the key issue to fostering a productive working relationship with reps. Healthcare sales reps, therefore, need to focus more on behaviors that build trust.
The keys to building trust are character and competence, according to Stephen M.R. Covey, who outlines 13 behaviors in his 2006 book: The Speed of Trust. Roeschlein selected three of Covey’s behaviors directly related to the scope of her research and provided the following recommendations for pharma reps:
Demonstrate Respect — Show genuine care and concern for others by being kind to all staff that a rep regularly encounters at each customer facility. Although unable to prescribe products, these people watch how reps behave and can impact policies and procedures that regulate rep’s interactions with healthcare providers.
Clarify Expectations — Know what customers expect from reps and always abide by those expectations. Be aware of the facility’s sales rep policies and know how providers prefer to receive information. Don’t try to bully staff into bending the rules; follow the proper channels.
Listen First — It is natural for salespeople to deliver their messages at all costs. However, to find out what is truly important to customers, reps need to close their mouths and open their ears to understand what they are really telling them. Some interactions with healthcare providers may not result in any type of a sales pitch. Rather, allowing providers to voice their opinions is crucial to creating dialogue in the relationship — versus a one-sided conversation.