Jolt to the System – Going Beyond the Science with Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs)
The jolt was noteworthy. Not knowing they were chocolate covered coffee beans, I threw 8 of them into my mouth in one fell swoop. I should have looked to see if there was a card on the table to confirm that what I thought were chocolate covered raisins, were in fact chocolate covered raisins, but there was no card in sight. This happened several days ago at the annual LTEN conference.
How often do we dive into something, assuming we know what it is, and never really question our assumptions?
I had an epiphany – ok maybe that is too strong a word; I had a light bulb moment on how this relates to Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) while sitting in on a few sessions at the LTEN conference.
While many MSLs have a PhD or an M.D., they find themselves in a job that requires them to flex their capabilities well beyond that of science. While science may be their sweet spot, the job requires so much more.
What do I mean?
While they have a higher baseline of scientific knowledge, they need the ability to flex their social styles. They have a great grasp on the disease states, but they need to be able to communicate non-medically at a higher level. And although they took the job because of the science, there is a lack of knowledge of what the job really entails and priorities often change.
Other areas like listening, advocacy vs. inquiry (motivational inquiry), cross-functional collaboration and business savvy are often lacking.
Words and phrases like communication skills, role playing, coaching tools and planning carry a negative connotation. However, the bottom line is MSLs need these “human” skills to bring value to the population they serve. With tone and non-verbal communication representing a majority of the communication with customers, how does a company develop the competency framework and skills for the MSL role? This by no means negates the need for science; I just see these skills as the catalyst for greater scientific conversation.
Yes, there is a firewall between MSLs and field sales. However, the MSLs have customer-facing roles and, as such, need to bolster their customer engagement muscles, beyond the muscle of high science. For example, they may need the same coaching tools as their sales counterparts, but with different behavioral anchors.
At LTEN, one larger pharmaceutical company shared that were able to identify and get buy-in for investing in the development soft skills of the MSLs by leveraging input from exemplar MSLs. These MSLs understood the case for “soft skills” development. I guess you can say they labeled their own chocolate covered coffee beans.
If looking to develop your MSLs in the “soft-skills arena,” please give us a call.