Medical Sales Tips

New Report Shows Medical Sales Reps Need to Bring More Value in Physician Meetings

Posted on August 01, 2018


In the past, lavish dinners and expense accounts were part of the game in pharmaceutical sales and medical device sales. Most sales reps could walk right into a physician office and get 30 minutes with the physician with no questions asked. Sometimes business was discussed. Other times, those interactions were mostly small talk and relationship building. Relationship building is bringing value, right?

All of that has changed. There are no Christmas gifts. No Starbucks cards for staff. Physician dinners are still out there, but a lot of reps end up picking up the tab on their own dime as submitting the dinner for expense approval isn't worth the hassle. That's not allowed but they still do it. 

There are still educational meetings but even those are heavily scrutinized. What's funny is those educational meetings typically bring the most value to a physician and rep, but they require scheduling an approved surgeon to come and speak, which takes time and requires budget approval. 

Those physician office visits? Yea, those have changed too. As the healthcare landscape has consolidated in recent years, many physician groups are being forced to clamp down on rep access to physicians. 

To make matters worse, there has been a sense that physicians don't want to see their local sales reps as much. Life is busier and some physicians have stopped taking office meetings completely. In taking a step back, it makes sense as there have been plenty of wasted time spent in these meetings. 

To bring more clarity to this issue, a great report was just released from DRG Digital highlighting the lack of value in a majority of these physician / rep meetings.

DRG Digital’s Manhattan Research survey data concluded that physicians average 6.4 rep visits per month, at an average 11 minutes per visit (Source: ePharma Physician® 2017). 

While getting in front of customers is a key measurement for many medical sales reps, are those reps actually bringing value to their physician customers or are they just checking a box by getting facetime with them?

According to this report, physicians shared that in half of these meetings, reps show them information they have already seen in previous visits or found through their own research. That's not a great stat for sales reps. Are they going through the motions or are they preparing for each meeting with a pre-call plan and working to bring value in each meeting with a customer? 

The answer is a resounding no. 

Maybe office visits aren't the best use of time in the new era of medical sales?

Here are a few take-aways from the report:

  • Physicians want to see fewer product refreshers, more patient-centric content. One primary care physician said: “There’s not really value in a rep refreshing on resources like trial information. If I need I reminder about a drug, I would look it up myself.”
  • Visits should showcase pharma digital resources. “Showing me information that I can provide to the patient on pharma websites would be helpful,” one PCP told us, citing info about administering an injection as an example. Half of physicians are more likely to search for a specific resource on a pharma site after being shown it during an in-person rep meeting (Source: ePharma Physician® 2017). 
  • Docs who use remote communication with reps do so to ask non-urgent follow-up questions.While only a modest number of physicians communicate with reps through email, text and live video, those that do are usually looking for answers to non-urgent questions, and a 24-hour response window was deemed acceptable by most of the physicians we interviewed. “I use remote detailing if I have a question about the drug,” said one neurologist, “usually about availability or the copay program.” 

Possible Solution

“Remote detailing could become more important as in-person rep access gets scarcer,” said Cullen Kain, a DRG Digital Research Associate and lead author of the report. “For now, though, doctors told us they are using it to get answers pertaining to a specific patient, and they don’t need to hear back right away. That means expensive on-call reps probably aren’t necessary for most brands – text or email will do just fine.”

You can read more and learn what 20 physicians had to say about their experiences with reps in the report by DRG Digital, Optimizing the Rep-Physician Relationship, which is now available to Manhattan Research subscribers. (contact us to inquire about access.)