5 Key Principles of MSL interaction with Sales Reps

IMG_6161MSLs are traditionally separated from commercial functions like marketing or sales within pharmaceutical industry. The firewall between MSL team and sales normally helps to prevent inappropriate interactions when for example sales deliberately or not manipulate MSL activities for sales objectives. Some companies will not allow MSLs and reps to be in the room with the physician at the same time and many of those that have very specific policies on how those two functions can interact. Both the sales reps and the MSLs should have a clear understanding of the rationale and selective restrictions of the other functions – i.e. sales reps should know where MSLs participate in certain activities and MSLs know why sales reps behave the way they do. 5 key principles below may serve as a basis for a complementary MSL-Sales reps interaction model.

1. Adopt clear vision of what sales and MSL functions should accomplish for the company. MSL function is a more long-term competitive strategy and market access, than short-term, however executives who fund programs are often interested in short-term commercial input. If the access is gained through the MSL team there may be a temptation to deliver marketing messages through them also. The company has to create a clear policy on how both business units will interact based on their different objectives (scientific education versus product promotion).

2. Ensure an environment where concerns from both sides can be raised without fear. The team managers have to help their staff to understand the devide between the functions and describe the factors that separate the two roles including company policies and regulatory requirements. This can be made through corporate trainings and cross-functional questions and answers sessions. An internal updatable Q&A document will also be very helpful.

3. MSLs and sales reps are here to help each other within established boundaries and rules of engagement. In some cases the firewalls between functions may lead to prohibition for MSLs and reps to talk to each other, which becomes another barrier in alignment of their interactions. However these firewalls need not to be broken down to improve collaboration. When MSLs and sales reps work in culture of mutual respect, when each function compliments the other, both teams can improve their KOL interactions and together move their brand forward.

4. Introduce careful planning of teams interaction with KOLs. It’s not uncommon for both teams to target the same physicians to drive their separate goals, but without careful planning too many field representatives can easily overwhelm KOL. By collaborating, sales reps and MSLs can time their visits to ensure that KOLs see someone from the company on regular and acceptable intervals. When visiting a KOL MSLs or sales reps need to be aware of prior or existing interactions originating from the company without necessarily having to know the details of those interactions.

5. Engage with Corporate Compliance early to prevent issues. Ideally Compliance should be deeply involved in setup of the company policy regulating the interactions and devide between MSLs and sales reps. Nevertheless when conducting a training or a Q&A session for the teams it’s important to have compliance colleagues on board, which will help to quickly resolve any ad hoc questions and prevent bigger issues.



Written by Dr. Alexander Tolmachev. Posted in MSL News