A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Drug Reps Soften their Sales Pitches, reported a big shift in the pharmaceutical industry’s sales approach. Reps are now required to use new selling skills that serve doctors as helpful advisors versus being the stereotypical “pushy” salesperson. The article regularly references the old way of selling — just keep pestering the doctor to get them to write prescriptions, with salespeople fixated on pitching instead of listening.
Eli Lilly was highlighted as most progressive in making this shift and noted a 40% increase in doctor satisfaction with Eli Lilly’s sales reps since the change. In addition, revenue for one of their key products is up $450 million from a year prior. There is a great example in the article about a sales tool that reps give to doctors so they can better explain how a drug works with their patients. This approach requires sales training that encourages reps to think about the big picture of a customer relationship – not just pushing for a sale today.
Advise First, Sell Second
This whole story sounds very familiar to the another topic these days – what people are calling Sales 2.0. Sales 2.0 is often related to sales software tools, but also to a new sales approach using social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. The key to being successful in these new channels is to be adding value to conversations, sharing content and ideas that will help others, and to avoid the traditional sales pitch. By adding value, people want to learn more about you and become more open to taking your call.
Effective selling has always been about being a good listener, asking good questions, not being afraid to direct your clients, and knowing your product and industry. My background is mostly in the marketing industry, and I’ve always coached my sales teams to think of themselves as marketers first and salespeople second. This doesn’t mean a salesperson should be measured or compensated on anything other than closing business – that is the purpose of the role. It’s more a state of mind to keep yourself focused on what the client needs. If you do that, the sale will happen naturally.
It’s encouraging to see the sales industry undergo this shift – and see immediate success with this personal selling approach. New technology tools can not only make salespeople more efficient, but also enable the strong ones to stand out in the crowd.