Medical Representative Detailing: How to Detail Like a Sales Champion

Become medical rep detailing champion

Here’s a quick interview I did with Mr. MR (Medical Rep) who has been a consistent sales performer in any pharmaceutical sales company which he joins.

He’s a friend. A male medical rep in his forties, MR has been selling to both channels: General Practitioners and Institution, e.g., Government and Private Hospitals and Teaching Institution.

Now with more than 12 years experience under his belt, let’s pick MR brain on how to detail like a medical sales champion like he does. No matter if you’re selling Cardiac product, Psychiatric or Antibiotics, MR had done it all.

He’ll share with us his best practice to, at least, improve our current medical sales reps skills, performance or to meet plan for every quarter year after year.

Let’s hear it from him:

Host: Would you tell us a bit about yourself?

MR: I was with Pharmaceutical Company A for 5 years selling Cardiac and Antibiotics. Then I went to Company B taking the same product portfolios and stayed there for 4 years. After that I went to Company C for almost 3 years now, making the Respiratory and Cardiac portfolios. I’ve been a consistent performer year after year despite a particularly difficult economic situation in every company I’ve joined and looked forward to another productive year this year.

Host: Inspiring! Now, would you tell us how important is detailing to your success?

MR: It’s vital to me. Personally, I’d rank it high with having the right product and the right market. I know there’s no factual evidence to prove this but my gut tells me without effective detailing I won’t win my customers’ vote for using my products.

Host: I see. Having said that, could you please share with us the outline for your detailing plan roughly?

MR: I often review my previous call report before making a sales call for that day. Morning is the best time to do this, or sometimes, I do it the night before I hit the sack. I set objective in terms of several sales or activity or progress in the sales cycle to achieve with each call. I make sure I record the outcome for each request I’ve made. I add my personal note on what I need to start doing, what I need to stop and what I need to continue doing based on my observation or from what I recall. I do this right after every call or any given moment after the call.

Host: Interesting. Looks like you have quite a complete outline there. Then, how do you make you're detailing more effective?

MR: To add effectiveness, I need feedback. I usually got it from my Sales Manager (SM) when we go out together to meet customer or from my trainer, in or out of the office. There are times when I ask those customers who are close to me to provide feedback. They’ve been very generous so far. But I personally prefer SM and trainer as my source for further improvement since they’re already available and ever ready to help. I Set an action plan for my detailing development, I take action, and I track how far and useful my response is. I use the sales number as a way to keep track. If I see no improvement, then I move on to find another area of development. Sometimes, I adjust my approach for better results. I take this as a continuous process and so must any reps who desire to improve not only their detailing but their sales performance in general.

Host: That’s pretty elaborate the way you plan your improvement. What’s your best tip for readers to improve their detailing?

MR: As I said before, keep on learning and improving. This is not a onetime exercise. You need to move from improvement to improvement. You keep building them until you can’t be denied success. If you made, it would come. Sometimes it comes sooner than later. Always get the right feedback on areas of improvement and space that you’ve done well. You also want to start practicing good detailing habit.

Host: Since we’re on the topic of habit, could you share an example of good detailing habit you want to recommend?

MR: Personally, I take preparation as the most important habit of all. Prepare enough material before meeting customers/prospects. Coming unprepared is the worst habit reps can have. It always makes them look stupid and clumsy.

Host: I see. Now, perhaps you can touch a bit on a mistake to avoid during detailing.

MR: The most common one I observed some of the new reps, even some old reps doing, is trying to put in everything at one go. They should have been more with the message they want to pass on during a call. Depending on the time, the customers and the stage of selling they’re in, they don’t have to vomit everything they find in a brochure. Select the most important relevant message. Be attentive to how the customer is responding to the letter. If you didn’t achieve your objective for that call, adjust or change the way you handle the situation.

Host: Sometimes, reps find themselves making a mistake during detailing. Could you suggest ideas on how to avoid being in such a situation or how to make a correction?

MR: If I were in such a dire situation, I would just apologize, and excuse myself. It’s better to "back-track" than to continue on the wrong track. You can reschedule the meeting some other time when you're better prepared to meet the customer. I recommend when starting the call for the day, start with "light call" to support staffs or non-decision makers who won’t disrupt your overall plan for that day. Do these before you hit the important or core sales call.

 Host: Good take on the light call idea. Any last words for the readers?

MR: I can’t say this too much: keep on learning by getting targeted feedback, and keep improving on your detailing. You might not see the immediate impact, but those small improvements do add up. You want to be able to surf the wave, so to speak, when it happens. This might sound a bit corny, but attitude makes the difference. Be green and grow or be ripe and die. Your most excellent improvement resource is at arm's length so just reach out to your SM and trainer and be on your way to sales success.

Host: Beautifully said, man. Thank you.

MR: My pleasure.

That's the end of the interview I had with MR on how a medical representative details like a true detailing champion.

Let's continue with:

3 Habits That Immediately Improve Medical Representative Detailing

Improved detailing skills can mean a lot to a medical sales rep. I can speak about this for myself. Whenever I improved my relating, I also improve other areas of my career. I got my confidence boost, and I seem to be luckier.

Perhaps, what people said is really true:

The harder I work on myself, the luckier I get.”

I perform better, and I got my sales number to prove it. I wonder if it will do the same to you.

Whatever it is, improving detailing skills can bring about countless favorable benefits to your medical sales career.

So to do this, let’s take a look at the previous interview that I did with a consistent sales champion, Mr. MR (Medical Representative, not his real name of course):

Habits to improve detailing

These habits we’re going to touch on were taken from the above interview, and here are 3 things MR shares when it comes to immediately improve his detailing effectiveness.

And he’s talking about immediate improvement (he understand human needs for direct result)!

The 3 things are:

1) The setting a goal for improvement. Which area of detailing you to want to improve? Do you want to improve your delivery? Do you want to develop winning habits? Do you want to handle your visual aids better? Decide to work on one area of improvement and focus on it until you get what you want. From there, decide if there’s any other area you want to work with next. Trying to tackle too many areas at the same time can only cause loss of energy and focus.

2) Getting feedback from SM (Sales Manager) or trainer. Our Sales Champ talked about observing his own behavior to improve his details, but I can tell from experience this is not easy to do. We tend to overlook, ignore or deny where we are lacking. We need a third party observer to observe and provide feedback on our details. We need them to provide honest and pointed feedback toward improvement which we set in our objective.

3) Continue to improve. It’s not a onetime exercise as our champ said. Thus we need to have proper records on items we aim to improve, what we’ve done to achieve them and where to go from there. This is another reason why we need to get feedback continuously from our SM, trainer or even customers like our Champ did (although customers are not his favorite resource).

The setting goal, getting honest targeted feedback and keeping on improving are the essential habits to immediately improve detailing effectiveness for medical sales rep as outlined by our Sales Champion in his interview.

Is there’s anything else you feel like you need to add?

If there is, feel free to add in the comment box below and together let’s benefit from it.

9 Medical Representative Detailing Tips Every Pharmaceutical Sales Rep Need to Know

Here are some pointers I would like my fellow new medical sales rep to know about detailing:

1) There is no right or wrong method, just what works and what does not.
You can categorize putting it as the “old school vs. new school” method of detailing but the main point is which one works best for you. There’s very minimal value by having the latest sales strategies like SPIN Selling, SNAP Selling, Selling to Social Style (S4), Value Base Selling, Patients Focus Selling or what have you when simple talk, point to the brochure and ask for commitment achieve your sales objective just the same.

2) Ask yourself whether you’re in a long call or a short call.
Depending on the type of call you’re making, a long call requires you to detail more compared to a shorter one. It’s common sense. A typical long call makes you go through the steps of asking questions, making initial benefit statement, checking for acceptance, validating your claim with studies, addressing a concern and asking for a commitment. A short call is achieved with just greetings and discussing key message(s) and schedule for another meeting.

3) Is it a technical or follow up call?
The technical call could mean it’s the first time you call upon the prospect or customer and you need to take the time to introduce the company and product and go through a lot more details. A follow up call typically just a continuation on what you’ve discussed before that meeting (progressing into the sales cycle).

4) Are you seeing a decision maker or non-decision maker?
Like it sounds, the decision maker needs no stone left unturned for them to make the final call, but non-decision maker probably needs to be updated on the progress of the sales process or negotiation.

5) Are you in the GP (General Practitioners) or Institution selling?
Some GPs require a detail description of the product or service you’re offering. Most of the time, they just need to know how big is their profit margin is but there is an exception in some instances. For Institutions, customers need to be furnished with more details but when it comes to making a decision; you might need to go a few layers before a conclusion can be made, with or without your detailing. Sadly, some Institution requires you to manage bureaucracy well. Well, it’s just the way it is.

After a few years of going in and out the pharmaceutical industry and changing a handful of Pharmaceutical Companies, let me share with you a few tips that you can use to detail like a sales champion. 

All these tips come from my sweats and tears in the industry and nothing fancy like the kinds of stuff coming out of the textbook:

i) You want to prepare to best of your ability.

Read all you can about your product material which includes your Packet Insert/Product Info (PI). Ask your Brand Manager (BM) or Product Manager (PM), Sales Manager (SM) and whoever responsible for telling you about the product everything you need to know about the product and its’ related issue. Make sure you understand enough to present to your prospects or customers.

ii) Practice with those who know the product or customer.

In detailing practice, this is called “mock detailing.” You learn how to best present your piece, you get feedback, practice some more and then you go out to meet your customers. This might be awkward initially, but after a while, you’ll get the hang of it.

iii) Make the call and record your performance afterward.

It would be good if someone else do this with you since you’ll have the tendency to ignore or miss your own bad habits like not pointing at brochure with pen, etc. but do the best you can to record what you did well, what you need to stop and what you need to continue doing.

iv) Polish your detailing and keep polishing it until you develop your own style.

It will take some times before you achieved detailing mastery and that’s the reason why you need to keep practicing. You can never tell when the company will change your portfolio or change your area, or you change the company for a better career and so on.

You can’t just be complacent with your current performance ...

... Your good can always be made better they say.

Up to this point, I believe I’ve told you the basic of detailing that a new rep (and probably seasoned rep) needs to know. Feel free to add to this list and feel free to ask me question if there’s anything else you need to know.

15 Medical Representative Detailing Mistakes That Cost Sales and Revenue

Mistakes are made regardless of New or Senior Medical Sales Reps (MR). What usually happens is they make those mistakes, and they did not realize or they just plain ignored them, and these mistakes get repeated over and over again which produces the same adverse outcome. Ultimately, they cause sales losses and missed revenue for pharmaceutical companies.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common detailing mistakes made by MR and let’s learn from them:

1) Not enough preparation. No background check was done to the previous call or to look into the customer’s past record to customize an approach before the sales call. In the worst case scenario, wrong information or product was presented during the sales call. It happens, but it is easily avoidable.

2) Saying the wrong thing to the wrong crowd. Detailing messages are not relevant, and they lead to more questions, and they turn into customers’ losing interest. It’s a classical “send the duck to talk to chicken” kind of situation. If enough preparation was made before the call, this could be avoided without breaking a sweat.

3) Not reading body language. Reps didn’t notice the signal to move or ask for commitment and did not interpret well the non-verbal cue that’s being transmitted by the customers/prospect. Reading non-verbal cue when detailing is as crucial as delivering the verbal message, in fact, in some instances, it’s more important to pay attention to the non-spoken message.

4) Fail to add value. No value was added in detailing due to trying to say too much in such short period of saying too little in product related issue when having longer time (spend too much time chit-chatting), and customers were lost in the conversation, and reps find it challenging to put them back on track.

5) Pressing for time. As reported by the latest survey that many doctors are spending less time with the medical sales rep. And most MR can’t really decide what to say when they got the opportunity to meet doctors to face to face.

6) Ineffective use of detail aids or visual aids during detailing. For example, reps keep flipping brochures to find where the piece of information related to the topic discussed is located hence losing customer’s attention and interest (and patience too).

7) No, follow up. Since many reps think that detailing is just a past event and it ends the minute they walk out the doctor’s room. They should know that doctors retention rate for products could be quite short because of interference with another pressing issue like patients well being and other medical products. They need to be reminded more than informed, and that means ‘follow up.’

8) Don’t know when to start. For some reason, because many reps are very talkative about the issue other than their own products, they keep on talking about the non-related issue and talk very minimal or almost zero about their product key messages. They can talk for hours about movies, sports, travel and so on until they forgot that they are there to deliver meaningful and relevant critical messages to customers.

9) Don’t know when to stop. Some MR, even after being verbally reminded by the support staff that the doctor needs to attend to some other matter, keeps pressing on what they have to say. Falling into this mistake or the previous one is easy. These are just the flip side of the same coin.

10) One way communication channel. This is also known as talking TO the doctors. Treating customers like a wall results in the same reaction from the customers. Customers find it easy to lose interest because they have so many other things to attend to.

11) Not checking for receptivity. Reps keep talking to finish the conversation fast and to go back home to their TV, or they just want to make up their sales call numbers. This might be one of the most natural detailing mistakes made by MR primarily when they work alone without proper coaching.

12) Does not validate claim/statement. This violates the ethics of evidence-based medicine. Even we don’t want to depend on just public opinion whether a drug can address our medical needs or not.

13) Assume customers know everything. This mistake causes reps to skip many important qualifying questions regarding the product they represent. Customers may know enough about the background disease and probably a science behind the medicines, but reps suppose to know more about how their product is relevant to customers’ practice. Don’t assume. Ask question.

14) Reps spill the bean too soon in a call. They did not build interest for customers to feel that they need to use what is offered. In a competitive pharmaceutical industry, building customers’ attention has become more and more essential to make sure the drug position as the preferred medicine of choice.

15) Bad detailing habit. A habit like not pointing at the brochure with the pen, keeping detailing aids too close to them and other practices that can repel customer’s interest and attention to the message being delivered is also common. MR needs to realize this habit and replace it with a more favorable pattern.

These are familiar medical rep detailing mistakes as I’ve seen throughout my years in the industry. Some people can add more to this list, and I invite them to do that in the Comment Box below. Let this be a reminder of things we want to avoid when detailing to customers.

How to Correct 15 Medical Representative Detailing Mistakes and Become a Detailing Champion

Remember we’ve talked about this 15 Medical Representative (MR) detailing mistakes before? I’ve been asked by readers to write on how to correct these mistakes and hope to put them into the league of relating champion.

Are you ready to rumble?

Let’s get it on:

1) Develop positive detailing habit.
To be able to do this, we need to identify what the negative habits are. Negative here means not helping in making our detailing more effective. So start identifying patterns that shape our detailing produces the outcome we've expected. A simple thing to do is to work together with our immediate Sales Manager (SM), trainer or our trusted colleague.

2) Build anticipation first.
Don’t straight away share with doctors the solution that you’re offering before we can build enough “want” into our proposition. Let the anticipation for it builds up, and when they want it, that’s when we give it to them. Not sooner.

3) Become a product expert.
Don’t assume that customers already know everything there is about our product, and we must feel the need to ask right questions and qualifying questions about our prospect or customers (I suggest SPIN Selling or Question-Based Selling by Tom Freese for useful questioning techniques).

4) Prepare to back up our claim.
As long as we have solid proof to validate what we’re saying, we can go ahead and answer them. Otherwise, refrain ourselves from making any statement about our product features or benefits that we can’t prove.

5) Check for customers’ receptivity.
Make sure we’re answering their questions, addressing their concern, and we’re right on target. Treat this as a conversation, not a lecture.

6) Talk with customers.
Use positive non-verbal cues whenever appropriate, encourage them to speak and know when to keep quiet in conversation. Treat customers as living human being.

7) Know the right time to stop and listen.
Don’t keep going when there’s clear indication by customers (body language or support staffs) that they need to attend to some other pressing matter. Reschedule if we need to.

8) Know when to start talking about the product and its key messages and stop chit- chatting.
This can be done deliberately. At the appropriate moment just slip in your product message for example, “By the way doctor, do you know that Product X can …”

9) Follow up after the sales call.
Make sure questions are answered, concerns are addressed, and promises are delivered.

10) Use detail aids effectively.
The only route to this is fortunately simple: practice, practice, and more practice.

11) Come back later.
Stop seeing customers at the wrong time and schedule when it’s the right time for us to come back. Come back when we’re ready to detail, and customers are prepared to listen.

12) Add value with every call.
Have something beneficial for customers when meeting them. Best way to do is to customize a sales message to suit their unique need. No customers are the same.

13) Learn to read body language.
You can learn this through a book, but I firmly believe that you need to attend a proper training for this. Some learn through experience, but this takes a long time and sometimes on an inaccurate basis.

14) Get the right message across.
Alter what you’re going to say base on the kind of crowd you’re seeing. Take time to design the right message to the right group.

15) Do enough preparation.
Remember the rule of Mr. Murphy: if anything can go wrong, it will.

Want to add to this list?

I invite you to add the items by writing them in the comment box below.


  1. During the detailing, If some product attracts dr's attention, Instead of stopping there elaborating little more, they continue blindly without realizing that dr has liked something.

    1. I hear you and you have a good point there.

      It's a good idea once you notice that you've pressed a hot button during detailing, you pursue in that direction.

      Thanks for chipping in the tip.

      Keep sharing. I know others will appreciate it.

      Thanks :)