Pharma Turns to Neuroscience – For Selling Skills

A handful of pharmaceutical companies are leading the pack in using science-based selling to meet new market challenges.

Pharma-Report-cover-top-webRising Tide Partners has released its 2015 Pharma Selling Trends report. Based on in-depth interviews with customers, industry reps, sales leadership and knowledge experts, the report concludes that in light of recent changes in the industry, from the proliferation of generics to revenue takeover by specialty categories, the companies truly poised to drive significant growth with existing sales teams are on the extremes of the industry spectrum – either leviathans like Amgen and Abbvie, or nimble firebrands like Horizon and Raptor.

Russell P. Granger, President and CEO of Rising Tide Partners said, “It’s not surprising that a science-based industry would embrace the new science-based selling methodologies. But the fact that only the largest and smallest companies appear to be doing it is puzzling. There’s a vast swath in the middle still struggling with the new realities of consolidation, specialty markets, and other seismic shifts that directly impact selling efforts.” He added, “Progressive companies are pursuing what might be characterized as a third phase of pharma selling strategies.  The perks-and-extras era of the 80’s and ’90s gave way to consultative and data-driven approaches in the early 2000s, and now the forward-thinking firms are focused on the neuroscience of influence and persuasion.”

Given the pricing structure for specialty and orphan drugs, which now account for up to 70% of pharmaceutical industry billing according to some studies, gaining even an incremental edge can mean huge leaps in revenue. “Salespeople must be trained to know and recognize the emotional triggers that can help them persuade and influence the wide variety of buyers, decision-makers, recommenders and influencers,” said James Smith, National Managed Care Executive at a well-known pharmaceutical research & development firm specializing in biologics. “And in the current environment, even a single additional sale can mean millions in additional revenue.”

Pharma Selling Trends finds that while many are still trying to get reps to be more consultative and conversant with clinical data, leading-edge companies have gone well beyond what they consider tablestakes expertise. “Empirical evidence, analysis and data are vitally important in our industry, but we know from recent neuroscience research that people don’t make decisions based on facts,” said Mike MacLeod, a thirty-year pharmaceutical sales and marketing veteran and business development consultant to dozens of top-tier firms. “The emotional brain is far more influential than the logical brain when it comes to human decision-making. The risk in failing to use this knowledge is not just that reps will be less effective at getting ‘yes’ decisions, but that they will actively, though unwittingly, encourage a ‘no.'”

David Hoffeld, Founder & CEO of the Hoffeld Group, a leading research and consulting firm on science-based selling, agrees. “If people don’t know these scientific principles or don’t know how to implement them, they contradict them,” he said. “Harvard Business Review analyzed 800 reps in sales meetings and found that 63% of their behaviors drove down performance, while only 37% increased the likelihood of the sale. Why? Because salespeople unknowingly contradict science.”

There’s good news according to Harvard Business Review:

HBR-Triggers“Persuasion works by appealing to deeply rooted human needs. We can learn to secure consensus, cut deals, and win concessions by artfully employing the scientific principles of influencing people.”

Pharma Selling Trends reveals that this is precisely what some of the most successful companies are doing. “We’ve seen it time and time again over the last few years: companies that embrace a science-based way of selling literally transform their organizations,” said Hoffeld. “They grow sales, they grow market share; average sales go up, sales cycles go down. And the reason is that they’re literally aligning how they sell with how the human brain is wired to buy.”

You can download the complete Pharma Selling Trends 2015 report here.