Influencing Skills vs. Selling Skills

In the world of the medical science liaison (MSL), selling is taboo. The MSL’s role is to provide technical support to a healthcare provider (HCP), while a sales representative’s role is to convince an HCP to appropriately, and within labeling, prescribe a product. Both are important and admirable roles within the health care industry.

But there are times when an MSL needs to persuade or influence an HCP. MSLs need to develop and strengthen their influencing and persuasive skills to appropriately change the HCP’s behavior. For example, if an HCP holds an opinion about a therapy that is based on incorrect data, then the MSL must influence and persuade the HCP to accept the validity of the correct data.

In the medical industry, the notion of persuasion can make people feel awkward or uncomfortable, but it’s a valuable part of human interaction that’s been around as long as we have—and it’s very much a part of the medical industry. HCPs must persuade their patients to trust their judgment every day; it’s simply part of how humans interact.

An MSL can influence an HCP effectively by following three simple tips:

1. Listen.

Stephen Covey, in his NY Times best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, points out that most people listen in order to reply, not to understand. To be effective at influencing people, you need to understand their perspective first. This comes from good listening. Good listening involves listening to understand and actively absorbing what the speaker is telling you. This helps you better digest the content and provides more time for your brain to develop a thoughtful, empathetic response.

2. Ask good questions.

Asking questions helps develop perspective. The more you ask and uncover, the more knowledge you have about your audience. Without asking questions, you will likely get a one-sided, somewhat scripted perspective. Asking questions breaks down barriers between you and your audience and opens the door for more dialogue and discourse.

3. Be positive.

Good influencing involves helping others get what they need. If an MSL is trying to influence an HCP to do something, then it needs to be for a good reason—to help patients or to make the HCP more effective at what he or she does. Being positive helps accomplish this task.

Many organizations place a rigid firewall between their MSLs and their sales representatives. In this environment, developing MSLs’ influencing skills is often overlooked or even avoided. Traditionally, commercial training is provided to develop the selling skills of the sales representatives, while MSL training has been left to internal Medical or HR resources. However, these internal groups often lack the expertise to deliver good development of influencing skills. This is where an outside organization can be helpful to consult or find a way to leverage commercial training.

Let’s get in touch to discuss how Romar can help your MSLs develop their influencing skills.

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