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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.

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