How to persuade an academic KOL?

загруженноеMSL organization is the interface between corporate functions and external medical and scientific environment. MSLs normally are not directly linked with the goals of commercial organizations, but some expectations of internal stakeholders still influence the MSL’s work. The major company’s expectation from its MSLs is to keep the KOLs engaged and developed. The range of brand/company advocacy that a KOL delivers is normally described as negative, neutral or positive. Since MSL is the KOL’s key point of contact with the company, it is the MSL who can directly influence a KOL to shift from one advocacy level to another. When the newly hired MSL gets face-to-face to an experienced academic KOL it is mostly good communication and influence skills that mean the difference between a successful meeting and a missed opportunity.

1. Don’t just push your own arguments
People who know how to persuade and influence also know that strongly advocating an idea with persistence will get you nowhere. Certainly, you have to be able to articulate your position in a convincing way, but that is only half of the way. You have to actively listen when you want to persuade. You need to listen to assess how receptive KOL is to your point of view as well as to capture KOL specific objections, which you will have to resolve. Also listen for moments of agreement so you can capitalize on consensus with KOL. One of the keys to effective persuasion is to know the other side of the argument.

2. Clarity of your communication is the key.
When you can’t explain your concept or idea in simple words, such that a student could explain it with sufficient clarity to another adult, it’s probably too complicated. The art of persuasion of a KOL lies in simplifying something down to its core, and communicating it. Avoid use of scientific buzz words or jargon that you or KOL may not understand properly. Academic KOLs are very keen on learning new things, so if you give your KOL such an opportunity without confusing, you will obtain interest and trust in return.

3. Doing your homework gives you an advantage.
Accurate preparation allows for effective persuasion. Your starting point should always be to know more about the KOL and situations around her or him. Ask your sales counterparts to share as much as they know about the KOL including communication style, interaction expectations and needs. Attend conferences to listen KOL speaking or read articles by her or him. Knowing this will give you spontaneous insights what to say or do and when to shut up.

4. Confidence and Certainty
Evidence based thinking makes academic KOLs sensitive to certainty in communication with pharmaceutical companies. Truly, there is no quality as compelling and attractive as certainty. If you really believe in what you say and you have enough clear arguments to prove that, you will always be able to persuade KOLs to do what’s right for them, while getting what you want in return.

5. Mind reciprocity

When you give something to someone, they will feel like they owe you. If KOL sees value in services you provide, you may not shy about suggesting some new opportunities for contribution – speaking at a conference, writing an article, moderating an Advisory Board. People feel bad about not reciprocating and will often agree to contribute. Don’t forget to maintain adherence to compliance in interaction with KOLs – expectation of them providing you a service in return for the scientific value you brought is inappropriate as it makes this service not unsolicited.

6. Be Purposeful
Most conversations with KOLs do not require trying to get someone to do or accept something. Aggressive pushers are a turn-off and will only put most KOLs on the defensive mode or will be ignored. It’s the MSL who rarely asks or argues that ultimately gets KOL’s consideration.

7. Offer Satisfaction
Choose being successful over being right. Smart persuaders know that they don’t have to win every little battle to win the war. They are more than willing to sacrifice if it helps the business. Often that is simply to give a KOL what she or he wants whenever possible.

8. Don’t try to persuade the unpersuadable
It’s OK that a KOL’s perspective is different from the company’s. Moreover, it’s an insightful opportunity to liaise with such an expert, broaden your scope and seek for more potential of the product. In long time run, solid relationship with a KOL who is currently is negative to your brand may provide you a lot more value than your current advocates.

You want to persuade KOLs more? – Argue and advocate less often.


7 Essential Considerations about Promotional Material Review and Approval

business-gear-to-success-20933774Promotional material review has become an important topic because of increasing scrutiny of pharmaceutical advertising by Regulatory Authorities, Public and Media across the world. Dissemination of promotional materials and engagement in activities that are promotional in nature is a part of business practice of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Promotional materials target either consumers or health care professionals and are disseminated on different types of media. Surveillance and enforcement of prescription drug advertising is governed by country Regulatory Authorities (i.e. FDA in US, Federal Legislation in Russia, etc).

To ensure that promotional materials and activities comply with industry guidance and local regulations, pharmaceutical companies normally establish promotional review committees, which are cross-functional teams that take into account legal considerations and review medical consistency. The medical reviewer normally resides in Medical Affairs or Medical Information department. The basics of medical promotional review are more or less common among established and emerging countries since they are based on global corporate requirements. Below are the some most essential principles of promo-material review and approval in pharma and biotech manufacturers.

1. Promotional review committe has to be established and it’s work should be governed by a corporate procedure with clear distribution of responsibilities. Normally it’s representatives are from Regulatory, Legal, Marketing, Medical Information and Medical Affairs. Review and approval process may be virtually performed in a corporate on-line system with access for all assigned roles.

2. The prescription drug advertising and promotion regulations require promotional materials to be fair-balanced and not false or misleading in the communication of benefit and risk data. Promotional content must be consistent with the prescribing information as approved by local regulatory authorities.

3. Promotion and advertising of a product prior to marketing authorization (registration) is prohibited. Information on unapproved drugs and indications (off-label) may be given to physicians only by the Medical Affairs function and only upon unsolicited request from physician.

4. Promotional content must be substantiated by reference to prescribing information as approved by local regulatory authorities or by additional scientific evidence meeting the requirements of local regulatory authorities. Such additional evidence should be made available to physicians upon request.

5. Medical Information responsibles ensure scientific relevance, accuracy and completeness of clinical data, as well as that claims are adequately supported by data and materials are consistent with current approved label. The acceptability of references used to support claims should also be determined.

6. Medical literature quotations must not change the meaning intended by the author or the significance of the underlying work or study.

7. Normally pharmaceutical manufacturers require that promotional material should include:
– trade name and generic name of the product;
– name, logo and address of the company marketing the product;
– short statement with essential product characteristics including safety data;
– date of production and a unique identifier.


1. Bork L., et al. The role of pharmaceutical medical information in promotional review: three benchmarking review. Drug Information Journal, 2012; 46: 107-114.

Written by Dr. Alexander Tolmachev,


10 self-coaching questions MSL should ask and answer to keep growing professionally

questions or decision making conceptAccording to Pareto rule, it’s possible to get 80% of result with 20% of the effort. Often 20% means having right habits. In order to establish successful habits and consistently achieve professional and personal goals, it’s helpful to adopt some self-coaching behaviours. Self-coaching is a powerful skill set of tools and techniques that any MSL can apply to create instant and sustainable work (and life) changes. Developing a strong habit by asking yourself these questions at least once a month will make a difference. When thinking of questions to ask yourself, keep in mind that they have to move you towards a solution rather than in the direction of another problem.

1. What do I want to achieve on MSL position?
Obvious, but in fact not always asked within the teams. It’s essential to have this question raised at any time, as it clarifies the expectations from the role, facilitates and stregthens the links between personal aspirations and eventual MSL impact. Write down the answer to this question.

2. How will I know when I’ve achieved success?
Make your goals as specific or measurable as you can. What will be the customer and stakeholder perception of your input? What do you want it to be? Set the realistic milestones and treat them as steps of the ladder leading to the top of your ambitions. Put the answer to this question in writing because that will force you to clarify what you want as a result, and keep it visible daily. Any of your goals should be supported by this question, as it bridges your plans with reality.

3. What is my first step towards this success?
The most difficult step of a mountain climb isn’t the last one – it’s the first. Making a first step is important as it initiates the direction you have chosen. After the difficult first step, every your movement becomes easier and the progress becomes faster. Try not to postpone your first step and do it as soon as you can even if it is be small: make an project outline, a customer call or just a meeting invitation.

4. What stops me from moving forward?
Normally these are our fears and inertia appearing at the border-cross of our comfort area. Obviously our path to development lies through those fears, anxiety and low confidence. This might be a lack of knowledge as well. The answer to this question might become a check-list for your personal and professional growth. Think to yourself, how wisely involving your colleages or your manager you can overcome those barriers.

5. What are three things I am doing regularly that don’t serve or support my goals?
We need to have a filter for work or opportunities we receive. The more things we are doing, the more quickly we become distracted and pulled away from our course. The only way to keep on path is evaluation of our work in terms of support for our goals. This might be our useless and distractive habits that bog us down and prevent us from achieving goals. Answering this question in writing as well will help you to filter out things for down-prioritization or quitting.

6. What resources have I never used?
A question that releases our entrepreneurship spirit and triggers out-of-the-box thinking. Working solely inside MSL job description doesn’t not make us outstanding. A job done beyond our responsibilities will help to make MSL team great. Use the insights of this question to become more creative in finding opportunities to achieve your goals.

7. What would be the biggest impact from achieving my working goals?
MSL actions should ultimately lead to the achievement of Medical Affairs goals and mission. Comparing your impact against your organization goals may reveal some insightful thoughts on how to strengthen the link between the work you do and stakeholder expectations.

8. What would I try now if I knew I could not fail?
My favourite question and one more trigger to release our inner genius. The stream of fresh ideas is right behind this door, you need just to open it.

9. If I did know, what would the answer be?
Simple and brilliant. “Not knowing” may appear to be our latent intent to avoid risks of change. Asking this question gives us unconscious permission to dream and be creative because in fact we do know. If not MSLs, who then?

10. What can I learn from this?
If you can learn from a negative situation you reduce the likelihood that it will ever happen again. Besides, reflecting on this question, you may find ways to turn your trouble today into basement for your best success tomorrow.

Written by Dr. Alexander Tolmachev,


10 Questions MSL Should Ask Any Thought Leader

Shutterstock_Questions_ImageThought leaders are an important extension of the pharma organization’s central nervous system. With the increase of strategic importance of thought leaders to pharmaceutical business, Medical Affairs role is expanding in response. MSLs are taking on a progressively more strategic role within their organizations as thought leader relationships become more and more valuable in establishing market dominance. Regulatory limitations of sales-to-physician dialogue and high complexity of science behind the products has led to a growing customer-facing role for MSL teams with focus on thought leaders. Why question them? To better understand medical practices and habits, patient needs and gain feedback on job MSL are doing to bring value to thought leaders and eventually improve patient access to new therapies. These powerful questions may always be used in discussion with any thought leader.

1. What do you think?

These words are probably most important to use in any conversation. Commercial people rarely address this question to customers, possibly because they believe they already supposed to know what is on the customers’ mind. Asking this question doesn’t reveal our incompetence, it bridges us with other people and helps to gain a lot of valuable insights.

2. What can we do to serve you better?

Probably the single most important feedback MSL can gain from thought leader relates to ideas MSL share to help physicians to improve medical practices. When it comes to gathering ideas for your innovative project, the voice of thought leader should be at the top.

3. How is our team doing on this project?

When you are eager to make the work as good as you can you may want to ask this general question. Be prepared to seriously consider the feedback. That doesn’t mean that you have to do everything that’s suggested, but you should at least listen and think about it.

4. Give a recent example of how we’ve exceeded your expectations? Or not met them?

In case you want to receive a more robust answer, instead of just asking previous question, make the questions specific and over a recent time frame so that your feedback will likely generate more actionable items.

5. What is the one thing that none of the pharmaceutical companies do that you wish they did?

This question directly leads to the potential differentiation points between you and others. Obviously you don’t have to implement what you hear, it’s more important that it may lead to new insights.

6. What’s the one thing we should never stop doing?

This question possibly will reveal useful, if not surprising information. You might expect the answer to be related to something like slides preparation and receive feedback about the your politeness and helpfulness. This question will likely reveal strengths worth promoting.

7. What’s one thing we do better than other pharmaceutical companies you work with?

In this question you are trying to discover something that you can work with as a true differentiator. This is probably the question you’ll need to work hardest at getting specifics. You want to look for words and phrases and actual experiences that keep coming up over and over again, no matter how insignificant they may seem to you.

8. Will you refer us to other physicians, and if so, why?

This is the ultimate question of satisfaction because a truthful answer means your customer likes your services and likes the experience of getting your services.

9. What would you say is one of the top three priorities of your current work?

Find out what’s the focus of you customers work and what initiatives they already have in place. This of course will help you to define key areas of interest where you potentially aim with you engagement proposals.

10. What other sources of information do you consider credible that help you make medical decisions?

This will help you to envision other ways of influencing and communicating your messages to thought leaders. Also – a good way to stay updated on current scientific trends and learn the market better.
Written by Dr. Alexander Tolmachev,