Navigating the evolving healthcare landscape: focus on MSLs

Written by Annie Rankin and Gavin Kenny on Monday 18th June 2018

It is widely acknowledged that the role of the MSL has grown exponentially over the past few years, from being seen as predominantly a support function to being absolutely core to the value that pharmaceutical companies can offer. The ability of MSLs to build credible peer-to-peer relationships with healthcare professionals is critical to maintaining Pharma’s reputation and in facilitating valuable two-way communication with the healthcare community.

As the role of the MSL continually expands and evolves, how can we ensure that they are equipped with the necessary tools and training needed to excel?

At Succinct, we pride ourselves on being experts in educating and equipping MSLs in an engaging way to maximise their potential. Our approach utilises our strong understanding of the needs of the MSL based on the latest trends and insights in the industry.

A survey conducted by the MSL Society on MSL and MSL manager performance reported that, although scientific and technical expertise is seen to be incredibly important, it is viewed as inherent to all MSLs and thus considered to be one of the least important factors for driving business growth in the current healthcare environment. The results of the survey highlighted the importance of other competencies including relationship management, with MSLs stating it is on par with scientific and technical expertise. Interestingly, MSL managers indicated that ‘excellence in communication’ was most important in terms of driving success in today’s era, yet this is where MSL managers feel that MSLs are least effective.

This finding was also supported by an anonymous survey on MSL training needs conducted by Succinct this year. While scientific knowledge is essential for their role, MSLs now place more value on effective communication skills.

When surveyed, over 60% of MSLs listed their biggest challenge as ‘internal alignment’. While there is a degree of separation required from their commercial counterparts, the MSL community may feel distant from company strategy and culture.

In addition, about 70% of surveyed MSLs do not feel they receive adequate training from their employer. When questioned about training priorities, 100% of MSLs felt that ‘skills training’ was most important, including presentation skills, handling difficult conversations and leadership skills. Finally, all respondents requested training in multiple formats to suit different learning styles and time demands.

When considering how the results of this survey can model our approach to MSL training, three key points were highlighted:

  • Owing to the expanding role and value of MSLs in the current landscape, MSLs would benefit from further individualised training to drive performance
  • Although a focus on scientific expertise is essential to the MSL role, this alone is not enough. MSLs can differentiate themselves from the crowd by building their communication skills and confidence, as well as knowledge base
  • There is a need to align internal stakeholders and build MSL communities for internal engagement and sharing of best practice

If you want to discuss how Succinct can build excellence in your teams, please contact Louise Carrington, Client Partnerships Lead.