MSL organization is the interface between corporate functions and external medical and scientific environment. MSLs normally are not directly linked with the goals of commercial organizations, but some expectations of internal stakeholders still influence the MSL’s work. The major company’s expectation from its MSLs is to keep the KOLs engaged and developed. The range of brand/company advocacy that a KOL delivers is normally described as negative, neutral or positive. Since MSL is the KOL’s key point of contact with the company, it is the MSL who can directly influence a KOL to shift from one advocacy level to another. When the newly hired MSL gets face-to-face to an experienced academic KOL it is mostly good communication and influence skills that mean the difference between a successful meeting and a missed opportunity.
1. Don’t just push your own arguments
People who know how to persuade and influence also know that strongly advocating an idea with persistence will get you nowhere. Certainly, you have to be able to articulate your position in a convincing way, but that is only half of the way. You have to actively listen when you want to persuade. You need to listen to assess how receptive KOL is to your point of view as well as to capture KOL specific objections, which you will have to resolve. Also listen for moments of agreement so you can capitalize on consensus with KOL. One of the keys to effective persuasion is to know the other side of the argument.
2. Clarity of your communication is the key.
When you can’t explain your concept or idea in simple words, such that a student could explain it with sufficient clarity to another adult, it’s probably too complicated. The art of persuasion of a KOL lies in simplifying something down to its core, and communicating it. Avoid use of scientific buzz words or jargon that you or KOL may not understand properly. Academic KOLs are very keen on learning new things, so if you give your KOL such an opportunity without confusing, you will obtain interest and trust in return.
3. Doing your homework gives you an advantage.
Accurate preparation allows for effective persuasion. Your starting point should always be to know more about the KOL and situations around her or him. Ask your sales counterparts to share as much as they know about the KOL including communication style, interaction expectations and needs. Attend conferences to listen KOL speaking or read articles by her or him. Knowing this will give you spontaneous insights what to say or do and when to shut up.
4. Confidence and Certainty
Evidence based thinking makes academic KOLs sensitive to certainty in communication with pharmaceutical companies. Truly, there is no quality as compelling and attractive as certainty. If you really believe in what you say and you have enough clear arguments to prove that, you will always be able to persuade KOLs to do what’s right for them, while getting what you want in return.
5. Mind reciprocity
When you give something to someone, they will feel like they owe you. If KOL sees value in services you provide, you may not shy about suggesting some new opportunities for contribution – speaking at a conference, writing an article, moderating an Advisory Board. People feel bad about not reciprocating and will often agree to contribute. Don’t forget to maintain adherence to compliance in interaction with KOLs – expectation of them providing you a service in return for the scientific value you brought is inappropriate as it makes this service not unsolicited.
6. Be Purposeful
Most conversations with KOLs do not require trying to get someone to do or accept something. Aggressive pushers are a turn-off and will only put most KOLs on the defensive mode or will be ignored. It’s the MSL who rarely asks or argues that ultimately gets KOL’s consideration.
7. Offer Satisfaction
Choose being successful over being right. Smart persuaders know that they don’t have to win every little battle to win the war. They are more than willing to sacrifice if it helps the business. Often that is simply to give a KOL what she or he wants whenever possible.
8. Don’t try to persuade the unpersuadable
It’s OK that a KOL’s perspective is different from the company’s. Moreover, it’s an insightful opportunity to liaise with such an expert, broaden your scope and seek for more potential of the product. In long time run, solid relationship with a KOL who is currently is negative to your brand may provide you a lot more value than your current advocates.
You want to persuade KOLs more? – Argue and advocate less often.
Written by Dr. Alexander Tolmachev