Pharma e-detailing explained

As the COVID-19 pandemic has moved a large proportion of the world online, new ways of working are becoming the norm, including pharma e-detailing. Mehrnaz Campbell and Lindsey Brookes explain how to get the most out of pharma e-detailing.

COVID-19 has changed the way we communicate with our customers and the need for social distancing means that normal face-to-face meetings and calls are no longer viable. The transition to remote working, or e-detailing as it is becoming known, is challenging and it may take us some time to get used to this new way of working.

Here we share our top tips about adapting your working environment and selling style to increase your chances of getting through to the right person, improve your e-detailing KPIs and sell effectively over the phone and online.

Step 1: Create a successful home environment

The working environment has a direct impact on your mindset and how you perform, so create the right environment that suits you. A dedicated workspace, whether it is a home office or an area in your house, is essential to put you in the ‘work’ zone.

Ideally you would want to create a space that has a desk, allows you to sit in the right position and have a chair that supports your back. Select a space in your home that is quiet, has adequate lighting and a strong Wi-Fi signal. We strongly recommend using a noise cancelling headset that you can use both with your phone and laptop. This will free up your hands for typing and taking notes and helps you relax your shoulders and maintain a better posture. We also recommend you use a mouse and a keypad and preferably use a separate screen positioned at your eye level.

Sitting on a chair for prolonged periods can be tiring, so if you are on a long call or a teleconference you could stand and walk while talking. The combination of standing and using a headset will help you to relax your shoulders and project your voice more clearly over the phone.

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Step 2: Planning for e-detailing

Remote working removes the opportunity of call generation through coffee mornings, lunch appointments and exhibitions. However, you will still have activity targets and KPIs to hit. Here are our top tips to help you increase your call rate.

Activity is the key for achieving a good call rate, so expect to make at least 60 outbound calls a day and that does not include the calls where the recipient is engaged.

Aim to have at least two appointments each day, and ensure you have a compelling value proposition for the customer and a reason why they should give you their time.

Working in geographical zones for a period of three to four weeks can improve your call rate and volume.

If you call a surgery to book an appointment or do a spec call, do not stay on hold if you are more than fifth in the queue; simply hang up and call them later. The wait is often longer than you expect, and you would miss the opportunity of calling other practices in the meantime.

Find out the best times to try to catch your target customers. Figure out if they have a lunch break or dedicated admin time, know when they start or finish their clinics, and whether they accept spec calls or talk by appointments.

When you have a great call remember to ask them to identify other colleagues who would be interested in your brand. This will help you generate more leads and increase your customer reach and call rate.

You can’t keep energised if you stay static for long periods of time, so plan to make ten calls then move around, take a break, perhaps go for a short walk. You find you will be more productive when you come back. Exercise is a great energiser but remember to give yourself time to catch your breath before you make the next call!

Remember it takes time to fill your diary with appointments. By being resilient, keeping great notes of potential call backs and ensuring you follow up on every one of them you will make good progress.

Step 3: Engaging the receptionist and overcoming objections

When speaking to receptionists, always make a note of their name and state who you are and which company you are calling from. This is important to ensure they understand that you are not a patient.

Always ask for the healthcare professional by their name, be assertive but friendly and if they appear busy show empathy. You need to be prepared for their potential objections. Here are examples of what you may experience: “They don’t see representatives”, “Are you a representative?”, “They won’t take a phone call as they haven’t got time”, “They won’t be interested” or “They are too busy”.

Having a good value proposition or a good reason for needing to speak to the healthcare professional is essential to persuade the receptionist to put you through or book an appointment. For example, communicating new guidelines, providing opportunity for cost savings or information relating to change of license for a product are examples of compelling reasons that will potentially help you to overcome these objections.

Before each call stop and clarify the value you aim to add to the practice or healthcare professional. This will increase your confidence during the call and the likelihood of being transferred to the right individual.

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Step 4: Using the platform

There are two common challenges associated with using e-detailing platforms; the first is related to overcoming any fear about using the technology, and the second relates to conducting effective meetings and managing healthcare professionals onto the platform. The best way to overcome your own fear is to keep practising and become familiar with features of your platform. The platform used by the NHS is Microsoft Teams, however some customers may suggest other forms of communication such as Zoom, FaceTime or WhatsApp for communication particularly as many are getting more comfortable with use of technology to connect. Be prepared for technical problems. The most common technical problems during e-detailing include buffering, loss of connection, time delays, poor sound quality and security blocks. Customers are generally empathetic and understanding of these potential challenges. The best way to cope during the call is to stay calm and be patient, as this will help you deal with the problem swiftly and continue your call.

You will find that healthcare professionals are more likely to be engaged and give you their undivided attention during a telephone call. The lack of eye contact will enhance their listening skills, and if they are interested in your topic, it could lead to an in-depth discussion often longer than a face-to-face interaction.

To put the customers at ease, switch on the camera at the beginning of the call to introduce yourself, then turn the camera off and focus on the information that you are communicating with the customer. If you are planning to show a presentation or a sales aid, use screen sharing to provide the customer with visual content.

Customers often prefer not to use their camera, so you need to actively listen to make up for the lack of eye contact and body language. For example, if you are showing a complex graph, explain the graph as you talk through it, allow them time to read and digest the information, and don’t be afraid to pause and have silence. Everyone reads at a different pace, so you could read quietly at the same time as your customer, then prompt them by asking if they have finished reading. When moving onto the next slide, check to see if they have seen the slide change to ensure they are not experiencing a time delay and are on the same page as you.

Carpe Diem

When working from home, create boundaries between work and your personal life and switch off when your working day is over. If  you have a home office, close the door, and if you are sharing your space with other family members or work from your kitchen table, remember to put your laptop, headset and work papers away so you can relax and delay thinking about work until the next day.    

Mehrnaz Campbell is Founding Director of Cheemia and Lindsey Brookes is an E-Detailing Consultant for Cheemia.

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This article was originally published in Pharmafield.