Integrity Selling®, a sales training program developed by Integrity Solutions, LLC. of the United States, has been a favorite of companies around the world for over 50 years. Two of our consultants who are passionate about this program, Yoshiaki Matsuda and Yoshie Yamagishi, explore what is required in sales today.
Can you correctly grasp the needs of physicians?
Yamagishi: The COVID disaster has brought about major changes in the way sales and marketing are conducted in the healthcare industry, and MR’s are finding it harder and harder to succeed by following the conventional style.
Matsuda: Doctors, who are our customers, have always been busy – that has not changed since before Corona. However, hospitals began to restrict MR visits to prevent the risk of infection, and the opportunities for MR’s to meet with doctors have drastically decreased. The key is how to make the most of these limited opportunities. We often hear people say, “Even if I finally get to meet with a doctor, it will only be once and then it’s over.”
Yamagishi: I think the biggest reason is that the reps don’t have a good grasp of the doctors’ needs. That’s why they can’t connect with them to take the next step.
Matsuda: That’s right. In some cases, the reps’ ideas, or the company’s ideas take precedence. Doctors will not “want to see you again” if they hear only explanations about products that have nothing to do with their own interests. Even online, doctors are tied to their computers for a certain amount of time. Are you able to grasp the needs of your customers and provide them with valuable information that meets those needs? I think we are in an era in which the very nature of sales is being questioned.
Yamagishi：The pharmaceutical industry is facing a difficult business environment, partly due to the effects of drug price reductions. Many MR’s must be concerned about their future career prospects. The “Integrity Selling®” training program that we offer will give them the strength and confidence to overcome such a situation. We are convinced of this.
Let’s shift our perspective from “products” to “people.
Yamagishi: Integrity Selling uses the AIDINC® framework, which divides sales conversations into six processes. The “understanding needs” that was discussed earlier corresponds to the second process in AIDINC®, what we call the “Interview.” This is the most difficult part of the process, and the part that most of our participants say they would like to improve on.
Matsuda: If you ask a doctor, “Do you have any needs?” you will probably only get a vague response like, “I would like a medicine with fewer side effects.” That is why the power of questioning is required. What is important here is to elicit latent needs. Participants in our training are very interested in the ability to ask questions. After they attend an Integrity Selling program, we often conduct supplementary workshops and video delivery focused solely on questioning skills.
Yamagishi: A unique process in Integrity Selling® is Validation. Throughout the entire process, the customer must trust you, your company, and your products. (Without trust, there can be no negotiation.)
Matsuda: If you end the process with a general comment like “please consider our products” before you have established a relationship of mutual trust, it will not lead to the desired results, will it?
Yamagishi: One-way communication is not acceptable. First of all, it is important to respond sincerely and build a relationship of trust.
Yamagishi: We often hear stories of sales representatives who used to explain their products to customers in a one-way manner, but after attending the training, they began to think from the perspective of customers, doctors, and patients. They used to ask doctors, “How did you like our products? but now change perspective to “How are the patients who used our products doing now?” With that, the doctors’ reactions were much better, and they were able to continue building those relationships.
A workshop-based approach makes it easy for the learning to take root.
Matsuda: Integrity Selling® is not a new methodology. It is a systematization of thoughts and actions that excellent salespeople practice unconsciously. That is why I believe it will “stick” with young, inexperienced salespeople who have room to grow. It is also popular with managers because they can logically guide their subordinates based on their own experiences.
Yamagishi: In order to promote retention, the workshop style is fundamental. The follow-ups, which are conducted once a week for eight weeks, are also a distinctive feature. This allows participants to share successes and failures from taking the concepts back to the field and putting them into practice. They suggest things like “I tried this part of the AIDINC® process, and the conversation with the customer went very smoothly. If you do this, it will work better.” The discussion is quite lively and everyone grows. It’s a very exciting time, and I am happy to see how everyone is improving.
Matsuda: We also emphasize role-plays in which participants play both the role of the customer and the role of the sales representative. Since the role of the doctor is key, we sometimes even go to the trouble of providing separate training for those that take on the full role of the doctor.
Yamagishi: We get feedback such as “the role-plays made me realize a lot of things.”
Matsuda: Yes, we intentionally ask the person playing the doctor role to play it tough. When this happens, many reps get flustered. Then they try to cover it up and ramble on and on about things that are off the main point.
Yamagishi: In Integrity Selling®, “an objection is an opportunity,” but in reality, it doesn’t work out so well, does it? The advantage of role-playing is that you can experience this. It is a valuable step toward the goal.
We help doctors, patients, and companies to build a win-win situation.
Matsuda: There are many “selling skills” out there. But personally, I don’t like the term very much. It seems superficial, doesn’t it? It seems to me that you are selling something by playing with tricks and techniques. I would like to emphasize that Integrity Selling® is a program based on integrity.
Yamagishi: I remember well when I took a training course at the Integrity Solutions head office in the US. I was very impressed by the sincere desire of the instructors and staff to satisfy the participants.
Matsuda: Yes, and now we are developing Integrity Selling® here in Japan.
Yamagishi: I am engaged in my daily consulting work with the intention of practicing Integrity Selling® myself. I believe that honestly dealing with clients will eventually lead to benefits for our own company. This concept is applicable regardless of industry. I hope we can expand it more and more, not only to pharmaceutical companies.
Matsuda: I think this program is also very suitable for medical device manufacturers. When explaining equipment, we tend to emphasize specifications, such as “How many megahertz, what is the angle here and how many degrees is best…” It is necessary to link this information to the simplification of the operation, or to the alleviation of the patient’s pain. Integrity Selling® brings doctors, patients, and companies together in a win-win relationship. We are helping to achieve this. It is truly rewarding.
Yoshiaki Matsuda, Executive Consultant
He started his career as a medical representative (MR) for a foreign pharmaceutical company, where he was responsible for market research and product management. After that, he worked at both a generic drug manufacturer and medical device company in a wide range of roles including marketing and business development. At 3Rock, he draws on his more than 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry to provide support to companies as a consultant.
Yoshie Yamagishi, Consultant
She was in charge of market research as a manager at a foreign pharmaceutical company, where she was responsible for proposing new business directions and maximizing product value. She also has experience in sales at a foreign medical equipment manufacturer. At 3Rock, she provides workshop-based consulting services.