Friday, November 14, 2008

Importance of smiles and gifts


Mass doctor calls and account management approach

There is a distinct movement, in MR field-level challenges - from doctor calls to account management. There is change in the air: from brand selling to relationship management and therapy management.

The intensification of market competition, and empowerment of society and patients with access to healthcare knowledge, has led to a situation wherein it's not remunerative to focus on a large amount of doctor calls. Yes, one has to expose the product to as many doctors as possible through all available media – including through MRs. However, from the general pool of doctors, it is wise to select a subset of doctors for intensive customer relationship management. The selection of these doctors would not be merely on the size of their practice but more importantly on whether they are amenable to close and profitable relations with the MR. After all, ultimately marketing is about customer relationship management in ways as to benefit the organization.

There are more than 120000 MRs in India. Some estimates are up to 200000 MRs in India. With such a massive force of pharma salesmen, it is inevitable that some relationships between certain doctors and a MR would be better than with other doctors. This is the reason why account management approach to doctors will work as opposed mass doctor calls only.

Hence, pharma marketing strategies operate at two levels: one - the general exposure plan where messaging and other freebies are targeted to a large community of doctors, and secondly, a focus marketing strategy plan to manage intimate relationships between the marketer and certain customers (product-wise core doctors). As part of the intensive customer relationship management in the second category, the MR would provide therapy management inputs, concierge services, and other inputs to extract high volume of prescriptions.

As such, the above strategy of intensive customer relationship services to core doctors, has been followed by MRs of many a Indian company, but the scenario today is such that all companies (whether MNCs or Indian) – are forced to follow the CRM approach for key accounts.

In the key account management approach: intense CRM is to certain doctors, as opposed to mass doctor call approach - where the focus is on quantity of calls. In the account management approach, products prescribed and sold are due to the management of key accounts (or core doctors) and prescriptions generated there by.

Whether a company follows mass doctor call approach or account management approach or a mix of the two, one thing is for sure, SMILES AND GIFTS take the company a long long way.

The 'profit season' in Indian pharma is April to Sept., when sales are good and demand is high for pharma products. After that in the lean season we have the 'gift season'. This is because from Oct to Dec, festivals dot the calendar: Ganapathi pooja, Id, Durga pooja, Dasara, Diwali, Christmas, and New Year Eve celebrations. These are all gifting times for pharma companies.


A smile has a lot of significance in human relations and salesmanship. In fact, it is said: A SALESMAN IS NOT DRESSED FOR THE DAY, TILL HE WEARS A SMILE! A smile means a lot: it can indicate love, kindness, amusement, and joy. As John Mack has said in one of his blogposts, A FRIENDLY REP GETS MORE TIME WITH THE PHYSICIAN, MAKES MORE CALLS, AND DOES MORE BUSINESS. It is evident that the pharma company with more smiling MRs can do more business.

The focus of a MR while detailing and performing his in-clinic activity ought to be to get the doctor to smile, genuinely, particularly in agreement with the MR - to his points of detailing. When the MR sees a smile he is sure to win the business. A dashing MR (now a first line manager) Mr. Kiran kept a data bank of the birthdays' of his key doctors. One memorable day, Kiran wished a doctor with a bouquet and wished him Happy Birthday, after his detailing. The doctor was actually surprised as he had forgotten it was his birthday! While happy with the compliment from Kiran, he rewarded him with a good POB (personal order booking) worth Rs. 5000/-. This is a simple example. However, it reflects the importance of key account management, generating customer delight and SMILES from target doctors.


Gifts are very important in human transactions and as business tools. WHO DOES NOT LIKE TO RECEIVE GIFTS?! Even the richest crorepathy likes receiving gifts. A gift is an act of love, kindness, sacrifice, and care. It is a gesture that bonds the marketer to his customer and vice versa.

Gifting as per Indian philosophy is of three types:

Saatvic gifting is providing gifts with unconditional love. It is a very high level of thinking. For eg., true saints often give gifts with unconditional love.

Raajasic gifting is the typical business gifting procedure. There is an element of give and take. There are unwritten conditions of gifting. A MR provides a New Year eve gift to a target doctor with the intention of receiving worthy prescription support.

Taamasic gifting refers to giving a gift with unhappiness, contempt, anger, remorse, and other negative emotions.

In any case, gifts play a very important role in CRM (customer relationship management) with reference to pharma company and doctor relationship.

Say the word GIFT and perhaps the first pharma name that pops up is Himalaya Drug Company. They virtually built a huge base of goodwill and sales through regular gifting practices to doctors.

Another interesting example of rajasic gifting that I recollect from my field days is of Cipla: if they gave a costly gift (during those days gifting a fridge to a clinic was a costly gift), to a doctor, they would strike a deal - "Dr., please accept this gift and become a Monday doctor for us for about 6 months". This means, every Monday, the target doctor would give prescriptions only for Cipla products - the rest of the days in the week, he is free to prescribe other pharma products. Every Monday the concerned MR or executive would give a call to the doctor, reminding that he is a Monday doctor! It is kinda cute idea and it worked very well for the company.

With key account management practices coming in vogue in the field of pharma marketing, gifts and smiles have gained more importance.

Realizing the impact of gifting in pharmaceutical selling, OPPI and other bodies have tried to put in to practice a code of conduct with relation to gifting. CLICK HERE.

Thanks for reading this blogpost, please scroll down to read all other blogposts, do click on OLDER POSTS, whenever required to read all posts. This blogpost is put from a nearby cyber centre on 14.11.2008 at 7.30 pm.

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