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Great Advice from Great Minds

PHARMACEUTICAL

Adam Grant on What Makes a Top Pharmaceutical Salesperson

With Jill Donahue

We had such great response from Jill’s first interview with Dan Pink that we asked for more. Jill will now have an interview in each issue with great minds offering their advice to help us serve differently and better.—Editor We have a lot to learn from Wharton’s top-rated professor, Adam Grant. At 31, Grant was their youngest-tenured and highest-rated professor, one of BusinessWeek’s favorite professors, and one of the world’s 40 best business professors under 40. He has been recognized as one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers.

He is the author of two New York Times bestselling books, Give and Take and Originals. Combining a decade of cutting-edge research with fascinating stories, he opens up a fresh way of thinking about success and illuminates new choices people can make to achieve it.

We sat down with him to talk about how his ideas can apply to pharma…to help us serve differently and better. Grant references a study of 600 pharmaceutical sales people which categorized them into profiles across the reciprocity spectrum into givers, takers or matchers via a survey. On one end of the reciprocity spectrum there are people Grant calls “takers,” who are always trying to get as much as possible from everyone else, and never want to give anything back. On the other end of that spectrum we have people called “givers,” not as in philanthropy or volunteering, but rather being the kind of person who is always helping others. Givers are often sharing their knowledge, being mentors, making introductions, or just providing support for the people around them. Most people are on the middle of that spectrum. Grant calls them “matchers,” those who like to keep a balance of give and take. In the study they were assigned to a new product with no existing client base and ranked on their success. In this interview, Grant explains what it means to be a giver, instead of a matcher or a taker, and how that can help you transform your approach to selling.

1. WHAT TYPE OF PHARMA PERSON WINS; THE GIVER, THE TAKER OR THE MATCHER?

“The defining quality of a top pharmaceutical salesperson was being a giver.” (Give and Take, p. 141) Givers are reluctant to be very pushy. But over time they ask a lot more questions. They also tend to build a lot more trust, which means more referrals, more repeat business, and when they do deliver a pitch, It’s much better tailored to the needs of their clients and customers.

“Many of the most successful people I knew and have studied were giving first, along the way to success.”

While initially there was no difference, each quarter the givers pulled ahead of the others. By the third and fourth quarters, the givers were bringing in significantly more revenue than the others. It didn’t matter whether the sales people were conscientious or carefree, extroverted or introverted, emotionally stable or anxious, open-minded or traditional. Givers are the ones who focus on helping the physician to help the patient. Being “patient focused” isn’t just the right thing to do, it contributes to increased sales!

2. HOW CAN WE BE FOCUSED ON THE PATIENT AND STILL BE FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE?

Try to align your giving with organizational goals. “It doesn’t mean giving your product away for free or for a low cost.” Rather, look for ways to add value. Are there ways we can share knowledge? Are there introductions we can make?

Grant shows us the research which confirms that people work better if they feel like they are helping others and making a difference. This might be the number one secret to moving others. What’s your motivation or your mindset when you’re interacting with someone else? To exchange something of value, whether that’s your time, your energy or your resources.

3. HOW CAN WE, WHO ARE FOCUSED ON BETTER PATIENT OUTCOMES, BREAK FREE FROM OUR STEREOTYPE?

It isn’t easy, the stereotype is strong. Adam says to look towards reciprocity. Try to figure out where other people’s challenges or goals might align with your skills or expertise. There are lots of forms of giving that are low cost to you but are highly beneficial to the people you’re trying to serve. Imagine that you’re doing a client appreciation event or you’re working with a group of healthcare professionals. He has seen successes with reps who go outside the box and ask them to make a request for any kind of help that they might need or want but cannot get on their own. Then they challenge everyone else in the room to try to contribute. You basically become the facilitator of these requests. Which is one way of showing “I’m not just about selling here. I’m actually here to try to help you as much as I can.” Successful givers are flexible. They don’t take on every situation or person, rather they add value when they can and it doesn’t jeopardize their own ambitions.

“Try to figure out where other people’s challenges or goals might align with your skills or expertise.”

HERE’S THE VIDEO OF ADAM’S INTERVIEW:

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Jill Donahue, HBa, MAdEd is on a mission to lift our industry, building purpose-driven, influential people. Through her keynote talks, workshops and award-winning mobile-learning program, she is helping teams build trust, open doors and make a bigger impact. She is the co-creator of the award-winning program EngageRx: The 3 Keys to Patient-focused Growth for pharma professionals. Access their free teaching videos or connect with Jill on Linkedin or on Twitter.

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