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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.

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