One of my clients was in the business of managing the logistics of large company meetings. In this case, they were planning the meeting for a mid-sized pharmaceutical company. As it turned out, the person slated to deliver their keynote speech had to cancel just weeks before their national sales conference. My client suggested that their client use me.
I got the call early on a Monday morning, and was delighted for the referral. Heck, it was much more than a referral… their recommendation was all that was needed.The company wanted me, but they first wanted to meet to discuss what I would speak about. My client gave me some of the most direct coaching I’d ever received: “Do not attempt to teach them the normal Consultative Selling process as you have taught us,” they directed. “In the pharmaceutical industry, the reps only get ten seconds to talk to the Docs, and that’s between patient visits. So you will have to stay away from the Consultative Selling techniques.”
Well, this would be interesting. Consultative Selling is based on the principle that, “you don’t have anything to sell until you understand your customer’s needs.” Then you show how your company can help them. It’s the very foundation of everything I believe about selling. Still, they made me promise, almost swear an oath, to protect their own reputation for understanding the customer (as I had taught them.)
Soon after, a meeting was arranged, and I found myself in conversation with the CEO and the president of the pharmaceutical company. I got a brief history of their main drugs, geographical coverage, and sales strategies. We discussed their expectations and what I might do to really jazz them up. Then, I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I ventured a probe.
“I understand that your sales reps only get ten seconds with the docs, and I should be sensitive to that as I present. Is that right?” I asked.
“Yes,” they replied. “Why do you ask?” Aha! An invitation to discuss their needs…
“Do you like that?” I asked.
“No.” They said with resignation. “Is it possible to get more?” Well, since they asked…
“Of course,” I said. If I could prove that, would you want me to discuss that during my keynote?”
“Absolutely.” They said in wonder.
So I arranged to go for a ride-along with one of the reps in southwest Florida. We would travel up the coast from Naples to Tampa. On the first stop, we went into the waiting room, she talked with the scheduler, and we waited for an invitation into the patient area. The doctor emerged, and she talked with him while I tagged along like a new assistant. We left about ten seconds later as the doctor entered the next patient area.
The sales rep waited about five minutes sitting in the car with me as I wrote up my notes.
“So give me my coaching,” she demanded.
“Oh I’m not here to give you coaching.” I said. “I am just appreciative that you would allow me to accompany you to your visits so that I can learn about how your company sells to the doctors.”
“No way!” she said forcefully. “If you want to ride with me, you’re going to give me my coaching. Well with that she won my total support and my admiration. She knew she had her own personal sales coach, and she was going to get her value out of it. So I asked her how long she had with the doctor. She told me that it was about ten seconds. I asked her if she knew why. She said no, so I told her,
“Because that’s all you wanted. You went in there with your tail between your legs like the doctor was doing you a favor. You have a new drug with a new application for estrogen therapy that women love, and it’s getting great results for other doctors all around him. He didn’t know that. And you didn’t tell him that it was the reason you were there.”
Then I coached her on exactly what to say to the next doctor, using a Statement of Potential Benefits IBS (Initial Benefit Statement). And she did exactly as I had instructed. She talked with the doctor for over fifteen minutes, got her samples loaded in the cupboard, and she and the doctor read the scrip packaging together. The doctor even helped her with understanding some of the medical terms that she did not understand. World record: from ten seconds to fifteen minutes on the first try. Not bad.
Imagine when I told that story during my keynote. Imagine the energy that filled the room with the realization that they could actually engage with meaningful conversation with a doctor in an industry where 10 seconds was considered the expectation. Imagine the results of an entire sales force that had that skill. No need to imagine. They grew, got acquired by a larger company, and made a lot of people very, very happy.