WHY DO GPs see representatives? By Caroline Hunt

THE CUSTOMER who greets you like a long lost relative, especially when they want you to take them out for a meal, the GP who keeps you waiting for the best part of an hour and then hardly looks up from their paperwork. What about that lovely being who sees every representative who walks through the doors – even on a Monday, or the elusive creature with the once a year highly prized appointment, why are they meeting with you? A recent survey conducted by Doctors.net.uk in November last year surveyed General Practitioners about drug representatives and provides an interesting picture as to how representatives are viewed by doctors.
Who sees representatives – and why? Of those 500 GPs questioned 84% said that they saw representatives, of these 67% want valuable information about products or to stay up to date with the latest clinical information. Only 7% are interested in what goodies you may have. However 8% are seeing you as a healthy person with a smile, presumably as a change from the rest of the population that step through the door – worth remembering when they ask, “How are you?” For those GPs that don’t want you to darken their doors the main reasons are that they feel that the information being provided can be found elsewhere, or that they do not trust representatives and that no added value is gained in meeting.

As suspected those that see daily are rare but lovely creatures and account for only 1% of the GPs surveyed. A quarter see representatives less frequently than one a month. In the “other” category that accounted for 65 of the responses 27% of these will see only at meetings. This is nearly 4% of the total GP population surveyed who see representatives – think how you can spend your budget wisely on increasing sales with these customers. In this area there is much less bias than you may have thought. Half of the GPs surveyed leave the choosing to the receptionist, who makes the appointments and selects who will or will not be seen. The next largest category is those reps that have a product of special interest to the doctor. This leaves 12% of GPs will only see representatives who they know already or from companies or products that they are familiar with. What leverage are you using to get to see these customers?

Do GPs see contract representatives as different from company representatives? 55% of GPs surveyed did not know of any difference between contract medical representatives and company reps. 2% thought contract sales people could be more pushy, and the same amount thought that they were generally less biased about the products they are promoting and therefore provided a fairer picture. 3% of GPs thought that contract sales people had better selling techniques and 5% thought that their product knowledge and knowledge of the disease and therapy area was less than a company representative selling the same product. So sometimes viewed from within the industry, as on a lower footing than a company representative this view is definitely not upheld with the main customer base

48% of GPs feel that it is important, or somewhat important to know the representatives they see, although we already know that generally it is the receptionists that decide who the doctors will see. What this does indicate is that although a well-known face may not help to get you in front of a customer, once you are there the customer is more receptive to listening to the discussions put forward by representatives. It is important they have already built some rapport with and knows the sales person on some level. This also is backed up by the fact that it is well recognised that more experienced representatives are often more successful than new company employees within a sales call. GPs may often feel that someone who they know is going to come back to them is more trustworthy than a representa- tive they have seem only the once.

So, is all the legwork really necessary? With the pharmaceutical industry investing millions in product promotion and sales force representation do the visits made by representatives change the doctor’s prescribing habits? Do they influence the management of different therapy areas? 54% of GPs agree that sometimes they will change their prescribing habits as a result of their meetings with pharmaceutical representatives. Compare this to 2% who say that they often do. This bears out the thought that a one off visit does not usually increase a product’s sales. Increased sales are as a result of repeated calling on a doctor, persuading him or her with balanced arguments and then getting them to try the product on a small number of patients, before getting commitment to a larger patient population for the product. Most advertising and promotion works along these lines with repeated exposure to a product eventually producing an increase in sales. So your coverage and frequency targets do have a use after all! 41% of GPs state that their prescribing habits seldom change as a result of their meetings with representatives and presumably these are the customers who need even more convincing. As to the 3% who never change what they prescribe – why are they seeing you? More to the point why are you seeing them? Are these the 3% who are only interested in your gifts for them!
So why do GPs see you? More than eight out of ten GPs do see representatives and of these, two thirds feel that you provide valuable information. Half feel that it is important to get to know you, and the vast majority admit to having their prescribing influenced by representatives. All you have to do is work out who is who!

If you would like a full copy of this report you can contact Lisa Taylor, Marketing & Client Services manager, Doctors.net.uk  01235 828 404  01235 828 404 .

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