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Prescription for Success: The Role of the Pharmacy Call in Pharmaceutical Sales
After the countless hours of product training and skill development and relationship building, your efforts culminate when a prescription is filled at the pharmacy.
When you consider that pharmacists talk to the same physicians that you talk to, about treating the same patients that you talk about treating, it’s obvious that pharmacists play a vital role in your success.
Why wait any longer to establish or improve your relationships with pharmacists in your territory?
A licensed pharmacist is a pharmaceutical specialist. Although physicians are experts in disease diagnosis and treatment, pharmacists are experts in pharmaceutical disease management.
Many physicians rely on pharmacists to train patients to use metered-dose inhalers, blood pressure monitors and injectable medications. Physicians also assume that pharmacists will monitor potential drug-drug interactions and recommend appropriate drug substitutions.
A pharmacist is a patient care provider. He or she is a link between patients and medical professionals, and can triage routine illnesses like a cough, cold or the flu. Patients count on their pharmacist to tell them how to take their medications, what outcome to expect, and how to react if something goes wrong.
A pharmacist is a pharmaceutical sales partner. Pharmacy support is crucial for successful pull-through programs, patient education, and supplemental physician contact. A pharmacist may be able to provide information about managed care formularies and drug pricing, as well as alert you to patient questions or concerns.
Pharmacy calls are sales presentations
Successful pharmaceutical sales reps prepare and execute pharmacy calls with the same care as they approach physician calls.
Conduct basic pre-call planning to identify your goal for the call. Do you need authorization to display prescription vouchers or coupons? Do you want to inform the pharmacy staff about a new drug launch? It should only take a few minutes to mentally outline what you hope to accomplish, but those few minutes make a difference.
Begin each call with an introduction and a statement of purpose. Most people recognize you before they remember your name, so until you have developed a relationship, put the pharmacist at ease by re-introducing yourself on each call.
Get right to the point of your visit. A clear statement of purpose will help the pharmacist assess how much time they need to spend with you, and whether or not they can afford that time right now. “May I have two minutes of your time to tell you about a new indication for Hoozlefritz extended release tabs?” is more helpful to a pharmacist than, “Hi! I’m the new Hoozlefritz rep.”
Deliver your information succinctly and factually. Pharmacists do not prescribe medications and do not want to be “sold” on the merits of your product. They do, however, want to know the indication, dosing, mechanism of action (MOA), pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic (PK/PD) profile, and occurrence of side effects. This is vital information for their consultations with physicians and patients.
Close your call by asking, “What can I do to be a resource for you and your customers?
Here are specific suggestions from pharmacists in three different settings that you are likely to encounter in your territory: retail chain, independent and hospital pharmacies.
Retail chain pharmacists’ recommendations:
Develop partnerships with pharmacists. Paul, a New York state-licensed pharmacist, points out that he and physicians and pharmaceutical reps all have the same goal: to provide excellent patient care. “We are all interdependent. The cycle starts with the drug companies and links to the physicians and the pharmacists, who link directly with the patients. We’re all in the patient care business.”
Suzanne, a licensed pharmacist in Tennessee, agrees. “My customers are the drug rep’s end customers. For both of us, “success” means making our customers healthier.”
Chain pharmacists across the country agree that pharmaceutical reps can be more effective if they DO:
o Provide the pharmacist with objective clinical information.
o Invite pharmacists to educational programs with physicians, or sponsor separate programs for their local pharmacy organization.
o Follow through on what they say they are going to do.
o Respect the pharmacist’s time.
o Offer your business card every time. Make it easy for pharmacy staff to contact you.
o Inform pharmacists of any prescription voucher, rebate or coupon programs ahead of time. This gives pharmacy staff time to learn the quirks of the program so that they can facilitate patient uptake.
Paul says, “One of the drug reps in the area launched a prior auth product in a crowded therapeutic class. I stocked her vouchers at each of my stores, and she informed her target physicians of this. Physicians appreciated the simplicity, patients were happy about getting a free trial, I benefited from the increase in customer traffic, and this rep led the country in sales.”
o Make pharmacy sales calls on Mondays or early in the morning.
o Ask a pharmacist to stock your product “to be ready for the first prescription”.
o Ask a pharmacist for confidential information, such as, “Which doctors are writing my product?”
Independent pharmacists’ recommendations:
Masood runs a small chain of independent pharmacies in southern California. To him, respect is the most important element of a sales call. “Some reps think that because I am not a big name chain that I am not as important, or maybe they do not need to be polite with me. But that is not the way to think of it. I am very busy here, with many customers every day. The smart reps know that I am a big business for them in this city.”
Consensus of independent pharmacists is that reps will be more successful if they DO:
o Provide NDC #’s.
o Understand that pharmacy customers are the first priority. Be patient.
o Educate the pharmacist about potential side effects.
o Ask for the opportunity to schedule an educational lunch presentation.
o Treat independent pharmacists as well as they treat chain pharmacists.
“I’ve worked in both settings, and I’ve seen a lot of drug reps overlook independent pharmacies”, says Alan, a pharmacist in Wisconsin. “Maybe they think that because we’re small we’re not “real” pharmacists. But we have the same educational background, and we have the same interactions with doctors and patients as any other licensed pharmacist.”
o Ask for confidential information.
o Ask a pharmacist to stock your product without a prescription.
o “Sell” the pharmacist.
Hospital pharmacists’ recommendations:
A hospital pharmacy may serve only inpatients, only outpatients, or a blend of the two. Inpatient pharmacies are usually restricted to stocking products that are on the hospital formulary. Hospital-based outpatient pharmacies operate like any other retail pharmacies. They are not usually restricted to the hospital formulary.
Tim is a hospital pharmacist in Maine who welcomes drug reps. “Reps are a great source of information for me. I know that if I tell a rep that a patient had an unusual reaction to their drug, the rep is going to pass that on to their company to investigate. Drug companies are highly motivated to check it out and follow up, which helps me serve my customers better.”
Recommendations for pharmaceutical reps when calling on hospital pharmacies. DO:
o Ask about scheduling an educational lunch presentation.
o Ask for information about the formulary process; offer yourself as a resource for information.
o Ask about the schedule for the hospital P&T committee.
o Know your drug. Be prepared to clarify and support any information that is included in your product PI.
o Ask for a list of physicians who are on the P&T committee.
o Pressure the pharmacist to stock product without a prescription.
o Make a sales call without a clear reason for the call.
Which brings us back to the bottom line: Pharmacy calls are sales presentations. And just like prescriber calls, pharmacy calls are powerful tools to improve patient care and drive your business.
If you make the effort to develop productive relationships, you will find that every pharmacist in your territory is an extra person on your sales team!
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