How to be a successful medical sales representative

Patient and Practitioner- what value are you adding to them?

Have you defined the value your brand is bringing to your patients and the HCPS?

As a medical representative, your messages should communicate your brand’s value to the patient and practitioner with your opening statement, throughout your call, and in your closing remarks.

  • Begin each call with a value statement rather than a brand name. Let’s suppose you sell chronic disease medications. You could start your face-to-face call by saying something along these lines – Hello, Dr.M. My name is Jane from Rich-pharma and I’m here to help you improve the quality of life of your chronic disease patients and ultimately, add value to your practice.
  • Paint word pictures using patient scenarios that the physician can relate to. Don’t tell a story about high-income patients to a physician who sees only middle to low-income patients. For instance, if your HCP is a GP practicing in a rural area, it wouldn’t make sense to sell them a story about a banker who needs your products. Even if they see such relatively wealthy clients, they would probably be only a handful out of their patient pool. One creative way I got around the affordability issue was to open up the doctor’s eyes to the possibility of relatively well-to-do caregivers. It’s possible that elderly patients who are not on health insurance have relatives like children and siblings that can cover their medical expenses.
  • Link each pain point you uncover to the impact of not addressing it. Continuing with the example above, let’s suppose you uncovered the physician’s challenge with poor customer adherence to their medications. You should highlight the impact of not taking the medications on the patient – deterioration in health, poor quality of life, loss of life or limb; to mention a few.
  • Highlight the impact of poorly controlled disease management on the physician’s practice
  • Tailor your brand message to each need. Link each message to the benefit for your HCP or their patients. Avoid selling too many product benefits in one call especially if they don’t all answer the needs you uncovered.
  • When closing, summarize all the value messages your brand will provide to the HCP and patient, and then ask for the business.
    • Be specific in the action you want the client to take. The number of products you want them to buy and how soon you would like them to make a decision.
    • Some reps get a little anxious at this point because they are scared the customer may not give a positive answer. You can check my tips on ‘how to be assertive’ to learn how to word your closing.
    • An effective way to minimize the risk of a negative response is to make an initial tentative closing. You can ask the HCP if there is any reason why they wouldn’t use your brand. If they raise any objections, address these properly and confirm that they are satisfied with your response before going ahead to close the call.
    • There’s also the possibility that you that you may not get the sales in this first call. Remember, its a journey and you’re trying to build a long-term relationship with this HCP. When you have to reschedule, book a definite appointment there and then. When leaving, hint the customer about the agenda for the next meeting, and drop a few reminders of your visit.


To be successful in selling as a medical sales rep, you also need to define correctly what’s in it for your brand.

If you’ve profiled this customer correctly and are sure that they will help you meet your sales target, the next step to getting sales requires more of smart work and not hard work.

Create an A-B Shift Plan.

First, you need to outline long-term goals for this customer and break these down into smaller goals that build up to your ultimate objective. In other words, create an A-B shift plan for your customer. Point ‘A’ is where they are currently, and ‘B’ is where you would like them to be. The steps you need to take, to get them from A to B is what will inform the agenda for each visit.

What specific, measurable, realistic, and time-bound goals have you set for this customer? Your goals need to be specific so that you can measure them against your over-all budget and know how you fare. They also need to be realistic and ideally, should be tailored to the customer’s capacity.

Specify all the resources you would need to take this HCP through all the stages of the customer journey. Adapt your message to fit each stage; from brand awareness to relationship building, and all through to when they start using your brand and thereafter.

Divide your long-term goals into short time objectives and assign reasonable timelines to each.

Be ready to make adjustments to your plan based on current reality.

Create a Pre-call Plan for each incremental step

  • How do you intend to open the call: You could either use personal or professional touch-points to create a rapport. One creative way to build a quick connection is to get the HCP to talk about something that interests them. Look them up on social media to know what their interests and hobbies are. Check around their consulting rooms to see their recent awards, family pictures, anything that would help in breaking the ice. Once they’ve loosened up, you can then move them to the purpose of your visit.
  • What messages do you want to pass in this call: It’s always better to limit it to a message or two per call so you can always have something new to talk about in subsequent visits.
  • What questions would help you effectively uncover the need for your brand? Practice the art of asking leading questions that will get your customer to talk more. Ask ‘what’questions like “what is your biggest challenge with managing your diabetic patients? What are the must-haves for you in any anti-diabetic medication?” Structuring your questions this way will help you get all the required information to tailor your communication to their specific needs.
  • What is your edge over the competition: You should be able to differentiate your brand, and communicate its unique value by using effective comparisons. One way to achieve this without bringing your competition into the call is by comparing your brand with the Industry average. For instance, if your brands’ selling point is efficacy, you could say something like it’s 50% more effective than other medications in its class.
  • What obstacles could the customer bring up and how will you handle them: There are several steps to handling objections and this book on objection handling provides invaluable tips.
  • What materials do you need for this call: Data, samples, and drop-cards should be tailored to the purpose of your call.

You’re better off over-prepared than inadequately prepared, as this call may be the only chance you get to make a good impression.

Image is Everything

The first impression a customer will form about your brand is likely a reflection of your attitude, and this could affect their buying decision. In a lot of cases, customers do not buy because they like your brand; they buy it because they like you.

Communicate with the Right Attitude

Your Brand image is everything and that Image is you. The first impression a customer will form about your brand is likely a reflection of your attitude and this could affect their buying decision. In a lot of cases, customers do not buy because they like your brand; they buy because they like you.

Be mindful of your Customer’s time and space:

You should invariably begin your calls by asking if it’s a convenient time for the client. If it’s not, you can either secure an appointment for a more appropriate time or ask if they can spare you a few minutes. If they grant you a listening ear, try not to exceed the time even if you are unable to get the sales in that call. Remember, it’s always better to book another appointment than to prolong a call and end up irritating your customer; closing the door to future opportunities

Be assertive but not aggressive:

You’ve probably heard many times that one of the key characteristics of great salesmanship is assertiveness. Unfortunately, most reps interpret this to mean being a ‘pest.’ Assertiveness means displaying your confidence and belief in what you are marketing and at the same time considering the point of view of your customer. Aggressiveness means asking them to buy your product regardless of whether it addresses their specific needs or whether you’ve been able to address their valid objections. To give an example to differentiate between both styles of approach: Statements like ‘what do I need to do to make you buy this product now? are aggressive because they put pressure on the customer to make an instant decision whether they want to or not. Rather than frame your question as ultimatums, you could give the customer options. ‘Could you give me a specific time you will make your decision regarding my product’?, ‘Is there any other point I have not addressed which may be causing you to hesitate in making a decision?

Be Confident, yet humble:

Project confidence and communicate your belief in your brand. Try not to show nervousness or anxiety to your customer. Fidgeting, not making eye contact, hemming and hawing are all signs of nervousness that you need to avoid as much as possible. Demonstrate your humility in your willingness to be objective and possibly learn from your customer.

Be authoritative, yet diplomatic:

It’s great to show you know stuff, but you have to be careful not to sound condescending while at it. Avoid starting with arrogant sounding phrases like ‘did you know, or, are you aware’?Rather than begin your statements with such phrases, you could start by quoting an authority on the subject. For instance, if you are selling an anti-diabetic medication and you want to show the burden of diabetes as a disease globally, you could say something like: “The CDC data shows that as much as 438 million people will have diabetes by 2030. From my discussions with some of your colleagues, based on the average number of diabetic cases they see monthly, I found out that this prediction is entirely accurate.”

Communicate Trust and credibility:

Marketing is selling a perception but this doesn’t mean you should try to pass a roach off as a shrimp to your customer. Be honest about what your brand can or cannot do. Keep appointments you schedule with your clients. In the unfortunate event that you have plausible reasons to miss an appointment, call ahead to reschedule.

Communicate by listening with 100% attention:

How well do you listen to your clients? Do you watch for non-verbal clues that may indicate doubt, disapproval or boredom? To master the art of effective communication, you need to practice active listening.

  • Pay 100% attention to your client and listen with all your five senses.
  • Look out for subtle signs like the customer folding their arms, fidgeting, making side to side head movements and other signs that may indicate a negative response to your message.
  • Take care not to display negative non-verbal expressions like disappointment, impatience or annoyance. Be aware that the same way you are checking out your client, they are probably checking you out too.
  • You could check that the customer is still listening to you by letting your voice trail off into silence, once in a while.
  • Listen to understand first and Clarify appropriately before responding to any question or comment.
  • Check for acceptance at every stage of your call to ensure you are both still on the same page.
  • Never interrupt your customer. Not only is this kind of behavior rude, but it also comes across as not being receptive to their views and opinions.
  • Switch off or mute your mobile devices, as there is nothing more distracting than phone interruptions during a call.

Communicate Empathy and Optimism:

Let your statements be optimistic even in the face of challenges. Always refer to the cup as half-full rather than half-empty. When the customer disagrees with a statement you made, rather than try to counter directly, use empathetic statements like ‘I understand why you may think this way’.This does not necessarily mean you agree; it just tells the customer you can see it from their point of view. However, be firm and unapologetic about getting your message across.

Avoid getting into heated discussions with your clients.

Learn to remove your personal feelings and emotions from your calls and even if the client says something negative about your product, try not to take it personally. If the conversation begins to get heated, there are several tips to help you calm the situation down and come out of that call with the best possible outcome.

  • Keep calm and don’t react. Take deep breaths, count to ten in your mind; anything that will help you keep your cool.
  • Paste a smile on your face to show that you are completely unfazed.
  • Ask Questions to clarify what the client’s grievance is. It could be that they are just having a bad day. It could also be that they may be reacting to something you said or may have had a previous bad experience with your brand. If the former is the case, you may have to make a swift decision on whether you can still make headway with the call or if it would be better to reschedule. You can decide either way by posing the question to the client. Based on their answer, you should have a pretty good idea which option would be better.
  • Sometimes the customer may not respond to your fishing for the cause of the negative reaction. Try to backtrack in your mind to the thread of conversation that led to that negative response. It could well be that you didn’t pick up on some negative cues from the customer. Hopefully, by backtracking, you can pinpoint the exact cause of the cold reaction.
  • One way you can try to defuse the tense situation is by making a joke at your own expense. Try to have a few lighthearted jokes in your arsenal for situations like this. You must bear in mind though that it’s entirely possible this may not work especially if the customer is naturally difficult.
  • Always bring the focus of the conversation back to the value of your brand to the customer.
  • Avoid apologising for a perceived wrong if it’s not your fault as this could sound insincere. Instead, show empathy and direct the customer towards an amicable solution. However, if the customer has a genuine grievance with your brand or company, take full responsibility for the unfortunate experience and don’t try to downplay the customer’s reaction. Try to respond to the customer’s situation as soon as possible and if need be, escalate to someone higher-up in your organisation.
  • If despite all your attempts to remain calm and steer the call away from muddy waters, you still do not make headway, reschedule. Whatever you do be polite, but do not take insults or abuse from any customer. You can always concede a battle so long as you have your sights on winning the war.

Build Trust and Credibility.

Marketing is selling a perception but this doesn’t mean you should try to pass a roach off as a shrimp to your customer. Be honest about what your brand can or cannot do.

3 thoughts on “How to be a successful medical sales representative

  1. A very inspiring article, describing the best qualities for a medical rep. Specially when describing the aims to achieve when working as a business rep. Please keep sharing such nice articles.


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