Inside Pharmaceutical Sales Reps Can Use These Two Skills for Positive Customer Interactions

As more and more companies adapt to the inside sales environment, pharma sales leaders are facing a new set of challenges. Now, they must contend with decreased productivity, a crowded virtual environment, and implementation of new technology and skill sets.

Both experienced and new sales reps alike can struggle in this environment. For instance, traditional reps who are used to face-to-face interactions may find it difficult to translate established relationships into phone calls. On the other hand, new reps might have a hard time building initial relationships with HCPs without the ability to connect in person first. As a result, sales reps — and HCPs — can be left feeling frustrated.

In fact, research conducted by PharmaVOICE found that 58% of sales reps had a negative attitude about working in a digital environment, with only 6% expressing positive sentiment.

Pharma leaders now have to consider which sales skills are most important for reps to have in this new inside sales environment. Implementing new training processes can give their teams the tools they need to succeed.

After analyzing over 5,300 pharma sales interactions over a 12 month period, our team at Centerfirst discovered that even though we measure up to 15 sales skills on each call, two skills most often led to a positive customer sentiment: Managing the call with active listening and Engaging in two-way dialogue using probing questions. As pharma companies work to adapt to an inside sales environment, these are the skills your sales reps can use to drive business impact and facilitate positive customer experiences.

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1. Practice active listening.

As they work to meet sales goals, the most successful sales reps know one of the most important tools they can use is active listening.

Active listening is a communication style that is about understanding the meaning behind what is being said, not just taking words for face value. It can be crucial for uncovering the emotional drivers behind a business decision and developing a deeper understanding of a customer’s needs.

While many sales reps listen for specific keywords or pain points, those that practice active listening pay closer attention to the language, tone, body language (on a video call), and emotions behind the words the customer is using. In doing so, the sales rep can get to the heart of the customer’s needs and determine how best to support them.

By including active listening as a top priority for your sales reps, customers can feel at ease knowing their concerns are being heard and met with empathy.

2. Engage in a two-way dialogue.

In addition to active listening, successful sales reps know how to engage HCPs in a two-way dialogue to uncover the customer’s true needs and collaborate with them to deliver the service that would best satisfy their requests. 

The most effective way to engage a customer in a two-way dialogue is to follow up customer comments with probing or check back questions. Successful sales reps repeat points back to the customer and ask clarifying questions to demonstrate understanding. As a result, these sales reps are more likely to provide the right service to the customer, garnering positive sentiment towards the pharma company.

When sales reps are looking to engage customers to develop a trusting relationship, some helpful follow-up questions include:

  • Can you tell me more about that?
  • Why does that matter to you/your business?
  • Can you be more specific about that?

While these questions are just a jumping-off point, your sales reps will learn how to ask more insightful, customized questions as they are trained and get more practice working with customers in the inside sales environment.

So, how can you train inside pharmaceutical sales reps effectively?

While training your sales reps is an important part of building a successful sales strategy, the first step in your journey should be to assess their performance. If your sales teams have made the move to an inside sales or hybrid model, you have a clear opportunity. After all, these inside sales interactions can be recorded, which can help you uncover insights that can improve sales effectiveness.

Once areas for improvement are identified, we work with your team to continuously train reps, monitor progress, and report on sales performance to ensure your reps are always prepared for success. Our approach also allows you to quickly course correct with real-time insights, giving your sales team a competitive edge in a constantly evolving inside sales environment.

Learn how the Centerfirst Sales Accelerator takes our quality monitoring process and empowers you to assess inside sales skill sets, train reps on targeted skill sets, and monitor leading indicators to achieve success.