First, kindly accept my apologies for skipping a few editions of this column. No explanation or excuse will be enough. For those who called or reached out to enquire, I am grateful.
The communication view of the selling process is a much richer and comprehensive view of salesmanship. Personal selling is an oral presentation in conversation (by the salesperson) with one or more prospects for the purpose of making sales.
Hence, we have the interpersonal communication of the interaction between the buyer and the seller. Both are active participants in the direct face-to-face communication. Both function as sender and receiver of messages. Both try to influence each other. However, the burden of effective and successful communication lies on the pharma salesperson. This is primarily because his major responsibility is to persuade the doctor, pharmacist, nurse or other healthcare professional to prescribe, recommend or adopt his product or brand.
The process of selling involves these broad steps:
- Pre-sale preparation
- Pre-approach and approach
- Sales presentation or sales interview, and
- Post-sale activities.
It is worth noting that the personal selling process is underpinned by some theoretical considerations:
AIDAS theory: The theory, says that a successful sales presentation, like adverts used in mass communication, takes the prospect through five mental stages, namely: (1) attention, (2) interest, (3) desire, (4) action, and (5) satisfaction of the buyer. AIDAS theory of selling was a very popular basis for many sales and advertising tests in FMCG radio and TV ads. So your professional presentation to HCPs and the trade must be structured to achieve these movements.
Buying formula theory: The thrust of this theory is that the role of the pharmaceutical sales representative is to help the buyer to find solutions to his problems. It gives emphasis to the HCPs’ needs and the HCPs’ problems to be solved. You asked questions to understand the buyer’s situation and uncover his needs. This problem-solving approach recognises that a sale is made in the mind of the buyer. The buying formula theory of selling is the modern approach.
The sales presentation or interview may adopt the AIDAS formula (attention, interest, desire, action and satisfaction). Objections raised by the prospect are handled during the interest and desire stages. The climax of sales presentation is the securing of action, i.e., purchase, commitment to buy or recommend or adopt your product/brand. Following up is necessary after securing purchase. It will help to determine what help is needed, buyer’s satisfaction and reduce his problems, if any.
Let us describe in brief the usual steps of the sales process:
Step 1: Pre-sale preparations
Anticipating the sale means getting ready. The salesman must identify a customer’s problem, solve that problem and prescribe a solution to the customer according. To do these things, a salesman must be familiar with the product, the market and the organisations and the techniques of selling. He must know his customers, their situation, unsatisfied needs and problems. He must know buying motives and buying behaviour of the customers or prospects, to whom he has to sell his products.
He must know himself, his company and competition.
Step 2: Prospecting
A prospect means any potential prescriber, recommender or buyer – the one who brings prospects to the seller’s business. A prospect is one who has or may have an unsatisfied need, ability to buy (purchasing power) and willingness to buy (motivation).
Prospecting relates to locating of prospects. They can be located through present customers, other salesmen, lists, conferences, associations/groups, or by direct cold canvassing (calling on strangers and developing contacts by scouting out leads).
Located potential customers have to be qualified, i.e., they must have need, purchasing power, inclination to buy and buying authority or power. These qualified prospects must, of course, be accessible to the salesman. Prospecting is practically the “seeking function” of the total marketing activities.
Step 3: Pre-approach
Once a prospect is located and qualified, the salesman should find out his needs, problems to be solved, his preferences, personal habits, nature, behaviour, etc. On the basis of adequate information of the customer wants and desires, the salesman can prepare his plan of sales presentation or interview. The product presentation has to be tailored to the specific requirements of the customer.
Step 4: Approach
This is the stage where the salesman comes face-to-face with the prospect. The approach consists of the two major parts: Obtaining an interview, and the first contact. The salesman may use various means of obtaining an interview or face-to-face interaction. He may use the telephone, obtain an introduction or reference from a customer, or use his business card.
What is more important is the first contact. And at the first contact, the sales representative must be able to attract the prospect’s attention and get him interested in the product. This is crucial to avoid being dismissed before he can present his product. Securing attention is the first step. Attention is attracted through proper approach.
Gaining interest is the second step. Many devices are used to stimulate and increase interest in the product. Product or sample can be shown. Visual aids can be used in sales demonstration. Sales presentation should be clear, concise, to the point and positive.
Step 4: Detailing (Sales presentation)
Once the salesman has sought and found a potential customer and has matched their wants with his product (in terms of features and benefits), he is ready to formally present that product to the customer. The sales presentation should be closely related to the buying process of customers. It should be in the language the prospect understands – MOA, onset of action, side-effect profile, segment, etc.
The sales interview should generally go according to AIDAS theory. The product characteristics and expected benefits, the salesman should find out the customer’s reactions and objections. The prospect must be convinced about the benefits, expected performance and services of the product. The ability to face and meet a buyer’s objections is acquired with time and experience.
A good detailing presentation must:
(i) be complete; that means, it must cover every point which is likely to influence the prospect.
(ii) be clear, and should leave no misunderstanding or vagueness in the prospect’s mind.
(iii) remove competition by providing that the salesman’s product is definitely superior and is the only product that will satisfy the prospect’s want.
(iv) win confidence of prospect that the salesman’s statements are true and that the salesman is honestly trying to help the prospect.
Tunde Oyeniran B Pharm, MBA, a Sales/Marketing Strategist, Selling/Sales Management Trainer and Personal Sales Coach is the Lead Consultant, Ekini White Tulip Consulting Limited, Lagos. We deliver Training, Recruitment and Field Force Management Solutions .Feedback- Channels: 080-2960-6103 (SMS/WhatsApp) /email@example.com or check out https://fb.me/EkiniWhiteTulipConsulting.