Successful physicians possess essential specific skills that get sharpened over time. A majority of these skills are used to find out “what is wrong with the patient”. Some of these skills are:
- Probing to get more of their patients.
- Listening, their ability to go beyond words and understand through the body language of patients who are unable to verbalize their complaints.
- Analytical skills.
- Different diagnostic abilities.
- Regular follow-up.
- Interpersonal skills
- Presentation skills
- Commercial acumen
Physicians by their day-to-day practice sharpen these skills. And over a period of time, they develop good “reflexes” to carry out their routine efficiently. The degree of sharpness of these skills is dependent on the size and complexity of the practice, and of course, the individual ability, sensitivity, and competence of the physician. But the ultimate prescription becomes a motor reflex of the physician’s mind. once a brand acquires a place in the physician’s mind, his reflex to prescribe the brand can be developed slowly. It is the brand effectiveness and the physician’s experience with the brand that can provide an impetus to or hinder prescriptions.
One has to do a lot in the area of personal communication if you want to develop such reflexes speedily. The physician needs to be convinced and helped to associate the brand with stimuli he receives while prescribing the same brand for his patients. Once the reflex is transferred onto paper, it takes a shape of a prescription. Usually, it is observed that physicians do not think while prescribing. It is almost entirely a reflex.
While cultivating the reflex is vital, it is equally important to follow-up with the retailers to see that the brand is well stocked, because it is up to the retailer to honour the doctor’s prescription. If a retailer has adequate stocks of the product, he will honour the prescription. However if the retailer has stocked other competition brands, or is likely to earn more profit by selling other brands, he may substitute the product or try to convince the patient that the competitive brand is equally good if not better. Very often such substitution or advice takes place when the prescribed brand is not adequately stocked or made available. Hence sufficient shelf stocks of the brand is very important for better market dynamics.
Physicians can be categorized into six different classes depending on their prescribing behavior. Two distinctive patterns emerge loyalty patterns and adoption patterns.
Those who prescribe more than three brands from a company consistently may be called corporate loyal. They prescribe because of the company’s influence and its special characteristics, which they value. These doctors can be general practitioners, specialists, or hospital attached.
Hardcore are those doctors who prescribe one particular brand all the time. Softcore loyals prescribers more than two brands but loyalty is divided between only these two.
Some doctors shift their loyalties from one brand to another since they do not find any difference between a few brands. As the competition is steep, and communication is aggressive, many brands of a molecule look alike. When such belief sets in, doctors behave in this fashion and shift their loyalties. A majority of doctors today behave in this manner.
Are those who adopt a new product/ idea very early. These traits are found in some doctors since they like to “try” out new things ahead of others. They are curious to try out new therapies, new technologies. They are experimentative in nature. This class is useful for any new product for a short while at the initial phase of the launch
This category of doctors waits for reinforcement. Many General Practitioners act in this way. Once they observe their reference doctor consultants, they gain the confidence to use and prescribe those products/brands. These doctors do not wish to take risks with patients and themselves.
These doctors are bound by tradition and very conservative. They are very skeptical of change and are the hardest group to bring on board.
We have seen above the loyalty and adoption pattern of doctors representing six types. If you divide the territories of your medical representatives into these six groups, you can direct them to adopt certain specific practices to deal with them at the individual level.