“The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” -Henry A. Kissinger
One of the toughest parts about physician relations is managing a field team. Or, to be more specific, how do you get better results in an increasingly difficult field environment? You’ve got talented, experienced field staff, but you just aren’t getting the big wins that you used to. The first question to ask is whether or not it’s time to change your field approach. Is the team doing the right things to get the right results? Start by doing a quick and easy assessment of your field strategies.
Here’s a simple checklist to get you started and depending on how you answer each question I’ve included some tips for what you can do to further advance your team:
- Does my field team have 3 to 4 clinical areas of focus? If the answer is yes, go into your tracking tool and see how many visits were dedicated to growing those service lines. Sometimes we have great intentions. But what actually happens in the field is something completely different. The areas of focus might not be the right ones. Now may be the time to update the focus or reinforce with leadership these are still the right areas to grow. And if the answer is no, well you know what to do.
- Is your team advancing the relationship toward additional referrals? Many times the answer to this question is “I think so but I’m not really sure.” There are several ways to monitor this. First, in your tracking tool consider implementing a simple and consistent technique for your team to document their calls. In the notes section, the first line should state the visit objective, the second line documents what action took place, the third line is what intelligence was learned and the last line communicates next steps. That way you can look from visit to visit and see if there was a natural progression, including how much lag time there was between visits.
- Is “tell and sell” still the main selling method in the field? This requires spending some time in the field with your team. Scheduled and unscheduled ride-alongs are the best way to assess what’s really happening in the offices. Did their pre-call plan include a succinct objective? Did they ask good questions to uncover desired needs? Or did they dump the bucket and share five different things with little to no acknowledgment of whether the physician needed it or not? If during the ride-along the first visit was all about telling, consider working with them in the car to try something different in the next visit. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing your opening statement. Practice with them so they feel comfortable.
As a manager, one of your greatest tools is coaching. This checklist just provides a simple place to start so you can develop the right coaching tools to advance your team. Just like we teach our field teams, coaching is about asking, not telling. But most importantly, it’s about holding team members accountable to do things in a new and better way.