Dr. Harry Kovelman & Monica Birchmeier Speak on Management and Communication in the MSL Career

How do you maintain a consistent management and communication style when managing MSLs from various academic and experiences levels?

First, I think it goes back to how we built the team. We always strive for collaboration and the personal connection when looking at an MSL candidate, if we expect a team to connect with our most influential key opinion leaders, then we would expect that our communication internally in stellar first. With that said, we function as team, but allow MSLs to do what they do best. We have regular team meetings, events, virtual and live. We thrive on the success of our individual team members and our collective efforts which move the whole medical affairs department forward. We stay positive, we solve problems together, and we are accountable to each other.

How does having a consistent management style improve the performance of your MSL team?

They know what the expectations will be. There are no surprises, because there are enough curve balls in the field, in the market etc. Here, our team is solid, the bar is set high, but it doesn’t change. That stability allows for success in the role, it allows for less burnout.

What are some of the most important soft skills that contribute to success fro your MSL team?

Emotional intelligence, relatability—a personal connection. This coupled with scientific rigor, makes for a great combination. It’s important to read cues, to know not only what to say but when to say it, this is something that is key to relationship building.

How do you ensure the development of these soft skills in your MSL team?

Practice, but connections within the team itself. You have to manage up, down and sideways, so its practice and more practice. With that said, we also make sure we give the team the tools they need to refine their skills. At our team meetings, we will often bring in some breakouts to help develop these tools.

Copyright 2013-2018 The Medical Science Liaison Society. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authorization. The MSL Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization dedicated to advancing the global MSL career.

Dr. Arthur Chan Speaks on Cross-Functional Collaboration in the MSL Role

Dr. Arthur Chan Speaks on Cross-Functional Collaboration in the MSL Role

How does compliant MSL cross-functional collaboration contribute to the success of the company?

In today’s world, access to HCPs is becoming more limited for our commercial teams, products are more complex and being approved quicker, and there is a growing need for MSLs to educate physicians. As a result, companies are investing more in MSL teams, and with that investment comes increased accountability. It’s important for field medical teams to be aligned with commercial product strategy, yet remain separate and have independent educational goals and peer-based interactions. Understanding how to collaborate through trust and transparency with our cross-functional colleagues while maintaining compliance will be crucial for an MSL team to demonstrate value and make an impact.

Please share some examples of effective and compliant collaboration.

Most companies have a firewall between commercial and medical personnel. I think the first thing to grasp is that the firewall should create clear and well-defined, easily understandable boundaries. It’s not meant to cut off communication or instill fear. Communications and interactions between teams should be permissible. Many MSLs participate in sales training, speaker training, and sales directors often triage requests for additional data and discussions on research interests to their MSLs. What’s important to keep in mind is that the interactions between medical and commercial folks should be limited in the presence of HCPs, and if off-label or research topics are likely to be discussed, ensure that those are only with the MSL.

What skills and best practices can strengthen cross-functional collaboration?

Effective cross-functional collaboration starts with ensuring a strong working relationship with their counterparts in other departments: marketing, sales, R&D, clinical trial management and reimbursement as examples. Similar to a romantic relationship or a friendship, effective cross-functional collaboration begins with truly understanding the needs and personality types of our cross-functional colleagues. In order to be effective team players, MSLs need to figure out where they can make the most impact and what activities are most valuable to their cross functional colleagues.

On the flip side, it’s also important to educate our cross functional colleagues on the MSL role. What can and can’t we do? What tools do we have? How do we work together? It’s important to set expectations and boundaries right from the beginning, and to ensure that field visits with physicians are coordinated. Knowing that a visit has happened or will happen, without divulging the details of the conversation, will instill trust and a sense of collaboration. After all, to the HCP, an MSL and a sales rep both represent the same company. The more coordinated MSLs are with their cross functional colleagues, the more united the company will appear to a physician.

Copyright 2013-2018 The Medical Science Liaison Society. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authorization. The MSL Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization dedicated to advancing the global MSL career.

Dr. Christine Vaupel & Jinah Lee Speak on the Value of Mentoring MSLs

Why is mentoring so important to the success of an MSL?

Mentoring is critical to success, not only because of the expertise and soft skills MSLs can acquire from mentors, but also because mentors can provide access to professional networks and personal support to facilitate success and mitigate less successful efforts. Excellent mentoring greatly enhances MSLs chances for job satisfaction and success for the mentor and the mentee. Research shows that great mentoring is the single, most important reason people thrive in a career, more than hard work, talent, and intelligence.

How does MSL mentoring improve the performance of new MSLs?

Confidence is increased by empowering MSLs to work more efficiently, encouraging them to negotiate when necessary, helping them set boundaries, and letting them know that despite the perception that perfection is success, increasing skill sets and building knowledge is a journey.

How has MSL mentoring evolved since you began your MSL career?

Initially, mentors were mainly assigned to a new MSL for the purpose of transfer of technical knowledge. However, as the MSLs grew in numbers in the industry, peer mentors began to support mentees in relation to how to do MSL job more effectively. It is the delicate balance of the art of doing this job which is precarious without experienced mentors. This is not something one can grasp from reading an article. The MSL community is getting larger now so mentoring has been integrated into MSL programs across companies and is crucial for the success of any level of MSL.

Please share how MSL teams can setup formal mentoring programs.

Establishing formal mentoring programs on MSL teams starts with leadership vision and support. Successful mentoring programs incorporate these key aspects: clear delineation of program goals and expectations for mentors and mentees, careful selection and pairing of mentors and mentees, holding both mentor and mentee accountable for the relationship’s success, recognition for mentors who make a difference and a timeline with a beginning and end of the formal mentoring relationship. How do you gauge success? By organizational follow-up; outcome survey data that lead to developing and implementing best practices.

Tell us about the MSL mentoring program with the MSL Society?

The MSL Mentor/Mentee program is a unique program across the Pharma industry offered through the MSL Society. Since the program is both group and one-on-one session mixed, it allows the mentees to not only build a vertical relationship between a mentor and a mentee but also allows the mentees to build a lateral network with their peers. The gem of this is that it reinforces, we are in it all together to ultimately benefit our patients. More information is available at the link below.

Copyright 2013-2018 The Medical Science Liaison Society. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authorization. The MSL Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization dedicated to advancing the global MSL career.

Susan Giacalone Speaks on How to Recognize an MSL’s Success in an Organization

Please share how MSLs should disseminate the insights they gain from KOLs with colleagues.

It’s beneficial to first determine what information should be shared at each stage of lifecycle management. This is best addressed early- and often, and should be based on input from member of the medical, commercial, and compliance teams. Some information may be considered proprietary to a team, based on its’ role in the organization. It is important to be deliberate in setting up guidelines early, and adhering to those guidelines. Periodically readdressing the insights shared to meet cross functional needs is critical. Sharing compliant insights with internal stakeholders helps to create a unified view of the organization’s KOL base. This in turn benefits the KOL, and enhances the value of the MSL team, internally and externally.

How do effective KOL relationships contribute to launch readiness plans?

A robust institutional KOL relationship management plan can identify the mindshare of expert opinions, lead to faster product adoption and develop/maintain strong, collaborative relationships with KOLS and clinicians. KOLs greatly impact impressions in the field. Careful and intentional KOL mapping and engagement expands the MSL reach, promotes meaningful dialog and, perhaps most importantly, delivers a KOL valued experience. In turn, these relationships leverage the MSLs team’s internal stakeholder value through communication of qualitative, quantitative and “added value” metrics within the organization. The KOL relationship plan should be adaptable to changes in life cycle dynamics and business priorities, by incorporating internal and external feedback loops on a predefined basis. Some general goals of a successful MSL KOL relationship plan and the associated timing of an organizational launch plan may include the following:

  • Pre-Launch: Drive awareness and gauge perceived urgency of unmet medical need.
  • Launch: Establish appreciation of the unique MOA of drug.
  • Post-Launch: Improve and expand the treatment experience via a planned lifelicycle management (LCM) program.

How can you raise awareness of the great work that MSLs do across their organization?

As MSLs we have long struggled with defining our value in terms that can be readily accepted and absorbed by the commercial focus of a profitable organization. Reach and frequency metrics are not easily translated into MSL value and are based on processes rather than outcomes. Rather than adapting to the quantitative metrics so often imposed on an MSL field force, I recommend implementing a weighted “scoring scale” which translates quantitative, qualitative and “added value” metrics into a numerical scale. This system enables MSL managers to render and communicate objective and subjective assessments of MSL value into a recognizable format for our commercial colleagues and offers a common ground for communication. When you speak your colleagues’ language, they more often hear what you are saying.

Copyright 2013-2018 The Medical Science Liaison Society. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authorization. The MSL Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization dedicated to advancing the global MSL career.

Dr. Melody Davis Explains Why MSL Excellence is a Valuable Concept

Dr. Melody Davis Explains Why MSL Excellence is a Valuable Concept

What is MSL excellence, and why is it a valuable concept?

MSL Excellence as a concept is related to supporting MSLs along a continuum. Iteration of skills sets and foundational knowledge should be considered. For the individual MSL, this equates to near constant training and development. As a new MSL, are team Directors ensuring that MSLs understand the business and their role in it? How strategy is created and aligned to field tactics? As MSLs engage in field activity, are they exposed to new ways to dialogue with HCPs? Do they really listen and bring back intelligence to the organization? Can they successfully navigate the often tricky waters of HCP profiles? If they are interested in other professional opportunities in the company, is training and coaching provided? In the end, it is really about making sure that MSLs know their HCPs and can provide resources.

How can you ensure that newly hired MSLs are field ready?

Newly hired MSLs have to prioritize the deluge of information they receive. Prior to entering the field, MSLs must understand corporate policies and regulations. MSLs should shadow more experienced MSLs at the company to observe how meetings with HCPs are conducted. Shadowing is beneficial to observe different MSLs engaging different people. Successful MSL interactions evolve in a variety of ways. Therapeutic knowledge depth and breadth will differ from team to team. However, it is key that the new MSL know how to apply that data. There is some material that MSLs must be able to recite – indications, black box warnings, key competitors, etc. Using the different pieces of data obtained from reading and discussions with mentors and trainers is the key to success. Can MSLs verbalize concepts on the fly? To different types of audiences? Testing that ability ensures that the MSL is ready to go forth and conquer.

Please describe how pharma companies can ensure their MSLs are maintaining high standards at all times.

Data changes. The field changes. Physician perceptions change. Regulations change. Are the MSLs keeping up? Are they aware of enhancements to internal processes and do managers ensure that MSLs have modified their behavior? It’s not easy, but it is critical. Is there dedicated time for reading and reflection? Journal clubs and other types of exchanges on teams are important but some MSLs require time for independent study and companies tend to favor external activities. That can hurt the MSL’s success long term. Seeing a range of physician types is important – managers should ensure that MSLs don’t ONLY seek out their superstars. If possible, teams should critically analyze data from various sources multiple times a year – theirs and competitors. Do managers ensure that the MSLs really know and can speak to the new data? You cannot stamp an MSL as ‘field ready’ after onboarding and then never check in.

How can you ensure there are adequate and effective training resources for MSLs at all stages of their careers?

Resources are limited and the requests and options are vast. Companies must prioritize. Continuously. What training is ‘owned’ by Human Resources? Do MSLs know how to access it? What can be purchased off the shelf? What must be customized for your team? What can be delivered electronically versus live? MSLs should have access to a range of resources. What fits an MSL today may be different three years from now. The data knowledge required in one territory is different than in another. One MSL is may be highly connected to their electronic resources while another shuns technology. Are the resources adequate for both? Planning for the future is critical – training should be provided to the MSL team when they need it. However, at the rate of business today, needs are identified at the time training should be deployed. That is not a good use of time, budget, or resources.

Copyright 2013-2018 The Medical Science Liaison Society. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authorization. The MSL Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization dedicated to advancing the global MSL career.