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An Objection is an Opportunity!
by Dr. Cedric Nazareth

Every salesperson knows that a customer can - and will - raise objections. An objection reflects an area of disagreement, where the customer's (doctor's) viewpoint does not coincide with your own.

It is not uncommon for the pharmaceutical salesperson to consider objections to be obnoxious..... loaded with nuisance value. On the other hand, objection handling is a crucial part of the selling sequence. If the objection is handled correctly, you may remove the only hindrance to prescribing the product. Thus an objection should be looked upon as an opportunity and not as an obstacle.

Objection handling blends the techniques of salesmanship with a good product knowledge. And letís look at it this way - if you can handle objections (often considered to be the difficult part) everything else would appear so simple!

Basic Guidelines to Objection Handling

1. Anticipate Objections - One way of doing this is to list out important objections product wise, and draft out model answers to each. This way, you will be ready when a doctor poses an objection to you.
2. Hear the full objection - Always listen carefully and donít jump to your own conclusions.
3. Accurately analyse the reason for the objection
4. Review the objection again with the doctor - By probing and asking suitable questions, you may verify whether your interpretation of the objection is correct.
5. Be positive, not negative - It generally pays to place more emphasis on the positive attributes of your own products rather than the negative features of competitors.
6. Provide proof - Medical literature and reports can carry more weight in scientifically related matters than the word of company representatives.
7. Seek agreement - Put "checking questions" to evaluate the doctorís current thinking and to seek agreement.

A Tip:

First and foremost, assess the true nature of the objection!

Donít react without proper analysis! Listen - Think - Acknowledge - Respond

Types of Objection

Objections will invariably be of one of the following types:

1. Status quo Objection
2. Factual Objection
3. Non-fact Objection
4. Doubterís Objection

Amongst the first steps in objection handling is to make an accurate analysis. Place the objection in one of these categories before proceeding further.

Types of Objection

1. Status quo Objection

The doctor is satisfied with current therapy and sees no need to change. We often encounter such objections, e.g. the ciprofloxacin prescriber who does not want to shift to sparfloxacin. Basic steps in handling objections of this type would involve:

* Show respect for the doctorís current choice of drug
* Assure him that he will lose nothing if he uses your product
* Highlight the fact that your product is different
   and present the differences - Features/ Advantages/ Benefits (Selling    statement)
* Checking Question

An example of this type of objection can be raised by the Ciprofloxacin prescriber, to whom you are selling a Sparfloxacin brand ("S")

Doctorís objection: 			"I am happy with Ciprofloxacin"

Specimen Objection Handling: 		Doctor, Ciprofloxacin is indeed
					an excellent product. However, 
					I assure you that with "S" you 
					will get all the benefits of 
					Ciprofloxacin plus more!In fact, 
					"S" has unique features which 
					would make it your preferred 
					choice. "S" is more potent 
					antibacterial than Ciprofloxacin, 
					and has the best gram positive and 
					anaerobic coverage amongst all 
					fluoroquinolones. In addition 
					"S" has once daily dosing 
					convenience........ Wouldnít
					you now agree that "S" is the superior 
(Please note that specimen detailing provided here and subsquently is only to illustrate the methodology of objection handling using the steps suggested. Actual situations will certainly call for modification in the detailing)

2. Factual Objection

This objection is based on fact(s) that you may not be able to deny. In this category can be included the objections based on the doctorís personal experience, e.g., a doctor may complain that cetirizine causes sedation, based on the experiences of his patients who have been prescribed the product.On the other hand, your company may be projecting cetirizine as a non-sedating antihistamine. Key steps in handling such objections are:

* Acknowledge the customerís point of view
* Put the situation in perspective (e.g., one or two patients experiencing    sedation with cetirizine must be weighed against thousands of patients    evaluated)
* Determine the current situation (checking question)

Objection: 			My patients have experienced sedation with "C" (cetirizine brand)

Specimen Objection Handling:	Thank you for your feedback. Your experience 
				is valuable to me. I would request you to 
				evaluate cetirizine in a larger number 
				of patients and you will be convinced that 
				it is indeed non-sedating. Cetrizine is 
				acclaimed to be a non-sedating antihistamine. 
				Cetirizine has a poor ability to cross 
				the blood brain barrier and large studies 
				involving thousands of patients have shown 
				that sedation occurs no more frequently 
				than with a placebo. Doctor, could it be 
				possible that in the two patients who complained 
				of sedation, some other factor may have been 
				involved? Could I request you to try "C" in a 
				few more patients?

3. Non-fact Objection

Under this head could be included a number of objections in which the perception of the doctor differs from the actual facts. For example, the doctor may feel that single dose therapy with secnidazole is associated with a high incidence of adverse effects, whereas in reality, it is generally well tolerated. Key steps:

(Tread carefully; Donít try to prove the doctor wrong)
* Rephrase the objection into a question e.g., "You feel "S" has more adverse effects?"
(This shows interest in the doctorís point of view and helps to obtain more information from the doctor)
* Answer directly
* Add proof, if necessary

Objection: 			A single 2 g dose of "S" (secnidazole) 
				would cause many adverse effects

Specimen Objection handling:	Have you actually experienced more 
				adverse effects with "S"? 
				(Pause for the negative reply that 
				you would obtain if this is a 
				non-factual objection). Doctor, many 
				studies have confirmed that "S" is 
				well tolerated in a single 2 gm dose, 
				and thatís what makes "S" a particularly
				good choice... (provide proof)... 
				Can I now look forward to your 
				prescriptions of "S"?

4. Doubterís Objection

The doctor may be interested, but is doubtful. This type of objection is particualrly likely to be encountered when discussing a new product or concept. For example, a doctor may be doubtful about lansoprazoleís superiority over omeprazole. Key steps:

* Provide proof
- Make best use of scientific reports and information

Clinical Reports Provide Proof!

There is a wealth of information on your product in medical publications. A report in a reputed medical journal or textbook can make all the difference in converting doubt into conviction. If used appropriately, medical literature can strongly support your effort. Be familiar with the material available available and use it suitably to help convince the doctor. Of course, you must also remember that your capabilility to represent the facts competently will enhance your image and help you gain further mileage.

Do you have the required information?

You often do! Sources include
* Your own Product Knowledge
* Product monograph / Product Manual
* Handout literature & Visual Aid
* Clinical Reports

Product knowledge is, of course, the most avaluable resource. However, there may be times when information is not immediately available with you. In such circumstances you must-

August 1999, Pharma Marketing Page.
This article appeared in Pharma Business 28th July 2000.
All rights reserved

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