Obviously, the bar is high for Medical Affairs talent. They need to collaborate with R&D colleagues and deeply understand the science that underpins their work; they must understand the rules and regulations governing the industry almost as well as their compliance and legal department colleagues. Though when recruiting Medical Advisors or MSLs pharmaceutical HR and Medical Affairs managers may focus mostly on peer-to-peer scientific dialouge maintanace skills or clinical research background rather than basic customer interaction skills that possess colleages from Sales. As for background in Sales – it is often considered to be irrelevant and even destructive for future career in Medical Affairs. The reason why there is prejustce against sales background is strict functional borderline between Medical Affairs and Sales department and lack of clear understanding of MSL/Advisor credentials in Sales. So probably any chance of confusing the roles or having wrong insight about Medical Affairs is considered to bring severe risks (e.g. оff-label promotion). Though probably it’s not that black and white as good selling skills plus Medical Affairs intelligence do not potentially threat, but ensure powerful competency combination for customer oriented approach. Let’s summarize the features of successful integration of selling skills to Medical Affairs professional toolkit.
1. Become the number one solution for your customer’s clinical and therapeutic problems.
Many thought leaders are not just open for new data, but out there looking for solution to their problems. Becoming a problem solver for external stakeholders can be your competitive advantage.
2. Create opportunities for your Marketing and Sales partners based on medical community unmet needs.
Helping your internal stakeholders understand how you add value to their business and what other services you offer will create more new ways to collaborate. Instead of judging your internal customers as being difficult or demanding try to see the situation as an opportunity to apply your scientific intelligence.
3. Be a good negotiator with ability to persuade people.
While some people are natural communicators, the majority of individuals can learn these skills to succeed. Fortunately, with some training, MSL can be a better communicator and use the new-found skills in work.
4. Build and maintain your customer network.
Your customer network and relationships is also your competitive advantage. Thus if you focus on long-term medical community partnership you are building a win-win relationship that will serve you in the future.
5. Be able to craft and deliver a good “elevator pitch”.
Science oriented Medical Affairs colleagues rarely able to condense their proposals to a pitch size. Though if you are able to quickly and simply explain what is your project about and what is its value for the customer, you will exceedingly broaden the scope of your influence and will be perceived as a true partner.
Medical Affairs is a customer oriented organization and sometimes there is a temptation to become what your customers expect you to be. Such reactive approach is not always good for business, as it eventually turns MSLs and Medical Advisors to “order takers” who can compromise corporate compliance. When scientific and compliance intelligence is balanced with selling skills Medical Affairs colleagues acquire their own voice in the organization and become valuable partners of business and KOLs.
Written by Dr. Alexander Tolmachev