My first podcast appearance – interviewed by ad agency Principals, Chris Runge and Robyn Douglas

My first interview stemming from The Doctor Won’t See You Now. Chris and Robyn are the Principals at the Douglas and Runge ad agency — they found the book relevant, insightful and worthy of a podcast! My sincere thanks to them for helping to connect this content to so many as we rebuild trust in biopharma, find purpose in our service, and derive meaningful joy from our work.

Interview with Scott Costin – Part 1

Study Hall Slate6

Rep: “Trust me!” Customer: (hmmm…)

Trust – the concrete foundation of sustained business development. Do biopharma manufacturers’ customers trust us? Generally, they do not. “High levels of distrust make it incredibly challenging for pharma companies to communicate the good they contribute to society. What’s more, efforts to become truly patient-centric, and customer-focused companies will be hampered if patients and key stakeholders fail to trust them.” [“GSK’s New ‘Ethical’ Customer Approach – Is it Delivering? (white paper)]  

Brene Brown’s (Ph.D and shame/vulnerability researcher from the University of Houston) daughter had a teacher in school that used a marble jar. The class collectively made a good choice, the teacher put a marble into the jar. The class made poor choices, the teacher removed a marble from the jar. When the jar was filled, the class enjoyed a big party. This is the best metaphor I’ve heard to represent how trust is built — many small, but significant, trust-building acts over time. Representatives and companies that recognize the priority of trust in building business, I propose, are more likely to achieve their desired outcomes than representatives and companies that don’t prioritize trust-building.

Learn how you can earn customer trust in “The Doctor Won’t See You Now,” available at Amazon.com. Serve them well. Scott #pharmaceuticalindustry #biopharmaceuticals #earntrust #genuinevalue #professionalpersistence 

Are you told to call on all the right customers? Or just the docs?

“The physician, once the focus of nearly all promotion activity, is now part of a group of “organized customers”— hospitals, group practices, integrated delivery networks, accountable care organizations—looking for leverage to cut costs and improve profitability.” (ZS Associates: Biopharma Companies Identify Biggest Challenges and Opportunities in Targeting and Activity Planning, 2015). Who do you optimally call on to develop your business? How do you identify them, connect with them and genuinely support their priorities and interests so you might develop your business? Learn how in “The Doctor Won’t See You Now” available on Amazon. Serve them well. Scott #biopharmaceuticals #pharmaceuticalcompanies #customerexperience

“Sorry (Pharma Rep) — we’re not permitted to meet with you.” How to “Call” on Your Customers

“…(today) a medical assistant told me and [a colleague] that her employer, a growing health system with dozens of clinics and several hospitals, has a policy of no contact with vendor representatives due to the perception of favoritism possible with such meetings.” Today, these policies are ubiquitous. Are you equipped to call on these customers? Step one – don’t “call” on them — meet with them.

Think of your first meeting with a customer as just that; a meeting. Do not think of it as just another call on a customer. Today you either provide customers genuine value or you’re an obstacle to them in which case they will not meet with you. Then where is your potential for healthy business development? It’s always a meeting you’re working to get. Meetings imply value to both parties. Get the meeting, plan for it and execute it well. Now you’re earning trust, proving you’re credible and you’re on the road to business growth.

Execute your initial meeting well, then calls may be appropriate. But don’t lose sight of this fact — every customer will always ask herself prior to meeting with you, “why do I want to meet with this person?” Think carefully about your answer. Does your answer benefit her? Or does your answer really benefit you? Meetings benefit both parties.

“The Doctor Won’t See You Now,” available at Amazon, can equip you well to connect with, and bring genuine value to your customers. Serve them well. Scott #pharmaceuticalindustry #biopharmaceuticals #healthsystems

Trust in Biopharma?

In the Introduction to “The Doctor Won’t See You Now” you’ll read my case demonstrating biopharma industry value to patients. We’ve been very productive and useful to millions yet we remain often reviled. “Silence like a cancer grows.,” said Paul Simon. So why don’t we work harder to communicate our real value to the public and earn greater trust from our customers, trust born from consistent, genuinely customer-centric, reliable work with them? In this book available at Amazon, you’ll learn how you can provide genuine value and regain customer trust. Serve them well. Scott #pharmaceuticalindustry #biopharmaceuticals #pharmaceuticalcompanies

Biopharma Sales Reps — Does Our “Access” to Physicians Vary From State to State? And Does it Even Matter?

Bonuses, promotions, selection to elite committees, pay increases and even our jobs are dependent on us connecting with our physician customers. When so much depends on us meeting with this group, it’s helpful to recognize and understand the priority of equipping our representatives to connect with their customers. Ever hear, “sorry — we don’t meet with vendors, do lunches or anything like that,” or “you’re not even permitted on these premises”? In some areas these are all-to-common statements receptionists are well-trained to articulate upon our arrival at their desk. Leaders in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon and Massachusetts may benefit from committing more resources to training and equipping representatives to connect with their physician customers. For leaders in Texas, Oklahoma and the Southeast, this simply isn’t as high a priority.

Here are two maps redrawn from ZS Associates 2011 (top) and 2015 (bottom) AccessMonitor® Reports. The shading represents representative access to physicians by quintile for each Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA); lighter is better access and darker is more restricted (white = non-MSA geographic areas). The “access” difference between states (and MSA’s) is substantial.

But does this even matter? We all entered this world the same; we crawl, then walk, and eventually learn to run with help from others. Often we’re quite effective at teaching our representatives how to talk with physicians in detail about our products and services. But if they can’t connect with them or get them to agree to a meeting (due to organization/institution policy, personal disinterest or a perception the representative will provide no value) are we expecting them to run before they can even walk?

Access to our customers is a serious business development limitation many face daily. Learn tools you can teach your teams, or yourself, to connect with relevant customers, including physicians, in The Doctor Won’t See You Now, available on Amazon.  Scott

ZS 2011 and 2015 Maps

Hey, Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives, Who are Your Customers?

This may be the million-dollar question sales VPs, biopharma CEO’s, commercial officers and even analysts ask today. A field force is expensive and must generate a return on the dollars invested in them, return that comes from the customers we connect with choosing our therapies. Having served on the customer-facing front lines of this industry the past 18 years, I know the answer — our customers are many, many different people and positions.

A point not lost on this writer; while we might derive comfort from clearly defining the customer we must connect with to influence our business, doing so in any way still presents a noteworthy chasm between manufacturer and patient, the ultimate customer to our entire industry. Nonetheless we necessarily prioritize our focus on those influencing and deciding therapeutic options and priorities.

In a health system where doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses and pharmacists are employees reporting to others, the definition of “customer” broadens substantially. Now the clinic manager, pharmacy manager, director of operations, clinic administrator, section chief, department chair, or medical director may be more of a customer to us than the rank-and-file physician. In the “private practice” days of yore, the doctor was the ultimate decision-maker. Today, the doctor is rarely that authority. Administrative and leadership positions have direct and specific interests clinically, financially and operationally. As a consequence, they are perhaps the most important customers with whom we should connect.

Is it really helpful to necessitate pharmaceutical representatives meet with 7, 8 or 10 doctors per day? And can we provide her genuine value not readily available anywhere else? Or are we, and our customers, better served by connecting with the leaders in the health systems employing so many health care providers today? Learn much more on who to connect with and how to provide them genuine value in The Doctor Won’t See You Now, available on Amazon.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Thank you for reading.  Scott

The Walls Are Up — How to Get Them Down

Forgive the post’s title having perhaps too familiar and emotional a connection with many. It does serve well as an “attention getter” though, yes? The title refers to the walls customers raise when they begin to feel as if they’re being sold or marketed to. The question for me and my colleagues working in sales is this; how do we keep customers’ defenses and skepticism down so we can more effectively develop our business?

The top rated teacher at The Wharton School for five straight years and in the top 25 of the Thinkers50 [Global Management] Ranking, Adam Grant published “Originals” in 2016. Sheryl Sandberg, founder of LeanIn.org, wrote in the Foreword:

We accept the status quo because effecting real change seems impossible. Still we dare to ask: Can one individual make a difference? And, in our bravest moments: Could that one individual be me? Adam’s answer is a resounding yes. This book proves that any one of us can champion ideas that improve the world around us. 

The book goes on to provide many details and insights on how we can be original and effect change.

For anyone working in sales and business development, a noteworthy insight emerges in “Originals” when he highlights the research of Marion Friestad and Peter Wright. One aspect of their research says, in short, when we feel as if we’re being sold to, we tend to put up walls or defenses against this persuasion attempt (Friestad and Wright; Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 21, No. 1, June 1994, Oxford University Press). When you connect with that customer and the doctor will see you now, what will you do with that time? Will you launch into early persuasion/selling attempts??? You may have just had your last meeting with her.

Educated consumers have defenses against persuasion. Grant highlights a selling strategy of Rufus Griscom who founded Babble, an online magazine and blog network for parents. Rufus pitched Babble to investors and ultimately to Disney. He pitched his business by highlighting the top reasons they should not buy Babble. Interestingly, presenting these data points to his skeptical audience caused them to disarm. Rufus observed in meetings that this unconventional approach caused audience members to chuckle, relax their physical postures and lower their shields. They were no longer being sold. Rufus sold Babble to Disney for $40 million.

From the very first contact our customers have with us, they expect they will be sold to. We are known as “sales reps.” Their shields are up before we say our first word. Our job is to get them down so we might engage in constructive, useful dialog and develop mutually beneficial business.

After several meetings with me, during two of which she mentioned many of her patients were on a competitor’s therapy, a physician customer of mine switched almost all her patients on a competitor’s therapy over to mine. During our previous encounters I never confronted her or sold her on my therapy. I presented resources potentially of use to her, listened to her priorities, and supported them. When I felt the time was right, my question to her was a simple one: what do my competitors do for you? Without hesitating, her reply was, “Scott, they do nothing, absolutely nothing.” In disarming her during all prior meetings, I was able to connect with her, meet with her, learn her priorities and interests and provide genuinely helpful resources and training. Had I sold her on day one or two she could have easily thrown up the shields and cut off all communication. What would be my chances of developing any business then?

Learn more in “The Doctor Won’t See You Now,” available on Amazon.

Scott

“The Doctor Won’t See You Now” was just made available on Amazon!

“Be one with the tortoise,” I’ll tell my team on occasion. Helpful words for me as well.

Plan it, do the research, write it, publish it, market it, blog about it, and hopefully a few people will want a copy. The road was long, sometimes curvy, and often uphill. The hills (incidentally, these are where I learned the most along the way) are declining in grade severity now as the book is finally on Amazon. More copies were sold in the first 12 hours it’s been on Amazon than I sold in the entire month of December. Looks like Bezos’ reach is broader than mine — the hills are smoothing out some.

Pharmaceutical and biopharma manufacturers, as they have for decades, employ sales representatives and task them with developing business. For representatives to achieve their objectives sales leaders often purchase information and services from other companies that provide them customer lists, appropriate geographic territories and the ideal representative count appropriate for the market and product to be marketed. The dilemma facing many sales leaders today is that first item; customer lists. Are those customers employed by:

  • a health system,
  • an academic health system,
  • a federal (VA or DoD) health system,
  • a completely integrated delivery network (e.g. Kaiser Permanente),
  • a group clinic?

The plausibility they’ll welcome your representatives, their marketing messages, samples, lunch offerings, clinical studies or PI references is, at best, remote.

So how do representatives connect with these customers and develop business that’s beneficial for the customer and the manufacturer? It is possible. That’s why I wrote the book, “The Doctor Won’t See You Now.” In it you’ll learn why the industry is often shunned by health care providers and their leaders, how to assess your product and company culture for the health necessary to effectively develop mutually beneficial business, and many action items you can take to connect with these customers, provide them genuine value and… you guessed it, develop mutually beneficial business.

The tortoise was consistent, methodical, deliberate, focused, persevering, patient and calm. And he was not slow. At the finish line, he was faster than the hare, because he focused on his work and methodically doing all of which he was capable. Biopharma representatives are extremely capable, well-educated, ambitious workers with incredible talents. However they’re talents can go wasted and motivation sapped as they’re often directed down paths of futility. This book is for them, and their leaders, that we may all go down paths not of futility, but of utility; utility to our customers and our business development by optimally serving our customers and their patients.

Enjoy the book — much more to come.  Scott