You’re a Scientific Advisor or Medical Science Liaison (MSL). Your Medical Affairs team bridges the gap between science and commercial activity within the pharmaceutical community.
Everyone looks up to you. Kids in STEM after-school programs. People with rare medical conditions whom no one else will champion. The struggling masses whose ailments are made more manageable thanks to the investigator-initiated trials you coordinated. Survivors of diseases that used to have no cure. Doctors who get to help their patients find relief and hope thanks to advisory boards you’ve run.
The world looks to you for updates on genome therapy development, controlled clinical trials, and working as a detective to discover every conceivable path for innovation, including launching research initiatives to find treatment indications outside of what you’ve successfully labeled and marketed.
Your brain has a tremendous capacity for storing massive amounts of medical data for each treatment you’ve played a part in developing. Every day, people ask for your help.
Doctors ask pharma sales reps, “how ELSE can this help, and WHO else should get it?” The reps would love to step in, but they’ve already used everything in their own toolbox to help- a natural gift for building relationships with doctors, and the work they’ve done to memorize and understand the on-label indications they’re allowed to talk about. Anything else will have to be referred to you and the Medical Affairs team.
The e-mails start coming in. Phone calls. Video conferences. Was that a fax? Yes. Yes, it was.
On one call, a medical oncologist is asking about *ALL* the indications you discovered during clinical trials for treatment. “How much time do you have?” you wonder.
Your next call is from a well-known professor, reaching out to develop a partnership for her Medical Education project, as she offers to share her own scientific feedback to your company.
The next, one of the region’s top experts, who’s heard your product may offer a brand new angle to look at the treatment of a disease he’ll be speaking about at an upcoming conference.
Well, they asked for it… so you unlock the doors to your brain and release a heavy stream of data.
On the other end of the call, their brains are actively picking through what you’re saying to try and connect their own story to the most immediately relevant information
You start sending them literature. “A 49-page report should be in your inbox now,” you inform them, “along with two articles we published in medical journals and a link to view a slide deck for each of the potential indications we’ve discussed. Now, let me give you all the data.”
You know the science better than anyone, and you share as much as you can, with a focus on the data. So much data. Beautiful data- it tells such a story, doesn’t it?
Well, not to everyone. Not everyone’s minds process data as a story, so it can make them check out. As you’ve communicated all the data to all these external stakeholders, do you realize when you’re losing them?
Do you notice when you’ve gone off of the message your launch team had decided on and developed guidelines for?
Do you tend to dive so deeply into all the science that you forget to connect, build a relationship, and ask the relevancy-identifying questions that will help you both?
This is where Life Science Suppliers like Excel Communications come in.
They help you develop the communication skills to build real relationships with our industry’s major external stakeholders and KOLs.
They help you take all that data and tell the story that you see, in a way that your external partners can see it, too. So you can actually be a liaison, rather than just a data delivery system.
Excel Communications creates truly customized workshops, usually when a training need is revealed. A recent client project arose because they’d done a gap analysis of their work in Corporate Medical Affairs which identified some clear areas for growth. They’d been doing everything possible to develop and maintain the MSLs’ scientific proficiency and knowledge of clinical data. The analysis revealed, however, market signals that all this beautiful data was not enough to ensure the full understanding of the medicine’s benefit to the patient.
No matter how good the data is and how efficacious a treatment, it will fail to event reach patients if the messaging is not clear and there’s a gap in communication and interpersonal skills for Medical Affairs and Field Medical teams. Your roles are invaluable when it comes to educating and informing healthcare professionals. However, not being from a “sales” role, you may not have been given training in influential communication.
Influencing with information is not the same as persuading, which is what people in sales do. In fact, as stated by Sir Andrew Witty (ex-CEO GlaxoSmithKline, CEO Optum), you “have an important role to play in providing doctors with information about our medicines, but this must be done clearly, transparently, and without any perception of conflict of interest.” Your clarity and your connectivity are really your driving factors for success here. Otherwise, the data becomes unclear.
What Excel Communications’ recent client recognized was that the training program needed to develop customer-engaging medical functions’ communication skills. They went through Excel Communications’ 4-Step Performance Audit:
- Define Performance Standards
- Address Current State
- Evaluate Performance Gap
- Plan Actions and Resources
They then put the plan into action. Excel is able to fully customize training around any area of communication, including One-to-One Communication Skills, Presentation Excellence, Meeting Facilitation Skills, and Peer Leadership. In the case of this recent client, they identified several core challenges:
- Link scientific brand core messaging with mandatory communication skill training to have a truly sustainable impact on local teams.
- Corporations have not traditionally been expected to do training; the countries would typically be responsible for it. They would need to offer something for the countries for the first time.
- Compliance concerns arose, especially in the US, that this would be a “sales training in disguise.”
- For many MSLs being trained, English is a second language, so communication skills training would have to be administered in multiple foreign languages.
- The dreaded “one and done syndrome.” With so much training, there is an understanding of the day, and then people get back to work and forget what they’ve learned. How could this be different?
Because the client recognized that this was truly a global need, they were very happy to work with Excel Communications, which truly has a global presence and partnerships that provide a set of truly local experiences to a globally equitable training program. Not only would they need to consider language differences, but content adaptations, as well.
Excel Communications’ Managing Director, Rachel Hewitt-Hall, once gave SOURCE EXPLORER an example: Japan. Japanese launches happen later than other countries, and they’re just culturally less open to external training. Excel Communications worked with a global client to acknowledge Japan’s launch schedule within the scope of customizing their training. They also supported the Japanese trust of insiders by using one of the company’s own internal interpreters to translate the training, so it would have hyper-local resonance.
For this client, this kind of sensitive approach was very attractive about working with Excel. Where there were concerns, Excel had the nuanced experience it took to earn buy-in both from Corporate and from MSLs like yourself. They were able to address any cultural concerns, and completely set minds at ease through expressing a clear understanding of these customer-engaging medical functions.
Expectations had to be very clear, not only for what the roles were but what you are allowed to do. Excel is one of the only training suppliers who truly have a familiarity with the specific legal restrictions are within a medical organization, which is one of the reasons this client knew to go directly to them. Everybody is on the same page about compliance, and it helped this client’s Corporate Medical Affairs team trust that it would not be a “sales training in disguise,” but rather a valuable skills training that would be, for many the first communication skills training they’d ever had, even after many years in the industry.
While it was not a disguised sales training, this client had the previous understanding of Excel’s capabilities, having developed, among other work, exemplary and highly customized sales training for their company before, the scalability of which could serve as a model for this new format.
Because this was a global initiative, it was also vital to call upon the international scope of Excel’s trainers. The training had to be delivered in multiple languages, which is no problem for Excel and is one of the reasons they stand out.
Now, Excel Communications has developed training where their work stands completely on its own, just in developing communication skills. But they also kept the end goal in mind in working with this client and knew it would need to be very integrated into the brand content to really land and stick, as well as to be usable down the road in additional sustaining training and onboarding.
In the end, they formed a 50/50 partnership in creating the content of the training. The client really brought all the brand content, and Excel brought in the skills, the tools, and the training. The deliverable was a one-and-a-half-day face-to-face workshop led by Excel with the full support of Corporate Medical Affairs.
In the case of Excel’s work with this client, there were also one-day refresher workshops six months later that really helped to maintain the impact of the training. They were proud to also engage Excel to create and lead three highly interactive webcasts to reconnect their MSLs with the content of the training. As brand content was updated, the webcast training were still applicable, having been created with this likelihood in mind from the start.
The relationship with Excel continues, as they now offer the one-and-a-half-day workshop twice per year in Europe as part of onboarding for new team members.
The feedback from participants was more than relief that they weren’t being asked to do more than is allowed or required of their roles; if you’ve held one of these customer-engaging scientific communications positions, you know what those concerns are. There’s enough on your plate. But this workshop was so integrated with the brand medical content that it wasn’t “extra” at all just an effective and game-changing way to be more effective. One participant called it “life-changing.” Wow.
Imagine being on those calls or meeting with industry influencers and feeling like you’re really serving your role. Connecting the dots and building relationships that reinforce why you are the trusted expert and your brand is relevant to the industry.
All that work and all the understanding you’ve developed of a product will be able to make its desired impact, thanks to your communication. The value of these skills cannot be overstated. Your value cannot be overstated. You are the vital bridge behind the scenes working so hard to connect the data of the science to those who need to understand it.
Companies like Excel Communications are the vital bridge between your understanding and your skill to communicate it. And then your power to get treatments clearly understood and championed in the market makes the impact on patients that we are all here for.
NOTE- If you are the Medical Affairs Director for your team and communication training is in your plan for your team, share this with them to help them understand why and how it will help them to succeed!