doctors-medical-rep-objection-handlingObjections from physicians are often seen as “hurdles” or a signal that inhibits a doctor to prescribe your brand. Lets face it, as human beings we find it uncomfortable to handle objections.

However, to overcome many objections it takes a process – not a quick answer. While some objections may simply be factual questions that can be answered easily, others will be far more complex.

This means the medical sales person may need to spend time overcoming the objection instead of answering quickly on the fly.

Types of Obstacles

1. Concern :
“I’m concerned with the dose-related increases in hypertension with VIOXX. ”

2. Misunderstanding :
“I just read a news story stating that VIOXX has a higher incidence of heart attacks than Celebrex . ”

3. Inability to Act:
“VIOXX is not available on our Hospital attached Pharmacy ”

4. Indifference :
“There is no difference between VIOXX and Celebrex. ”


What are possible call outcomes?

1. Yes

Once the doctor answers yes he is to a certain extent emotionally bound to it. However saying yes
is very easy for him and in most cases said automatically the next minute he can forget about it and
do whatever he likes.

2. No

This answer helps you at least to direct whether the benefits of your product are not clear to the
doctor or do not fulfill his needs. The disadvantages is however that if you ask: why not? you let
him restate negatives of your product and general rule is that we should avoid those in detailing
starting arguing about benefits may not be valid at all. Apart from that, this situation brings you in a
defensive position that is something to be avoided.

3. We will see

This answer helps you at least to direct whether the benefits of your product are not clear to the
doctor or do not fulfill his needs. The disadvantages is however that if you ask: why not? You let
him restate negatives of your product and general rule is that we should avoid those in detailing
starting arguing about benefits may not be valid at all. Apart from that, this situation brings you in a
defensive position that is something to be avoided.

4 steps to answer a question properly

  1. Listen patiently until the doctor has finished his question. Do not interrupt.
  2. Rephrase the question, to make sure you have understood it correctly.
  3. Answer the question as well as you can.
  4. Make the doctor confirm your answer or ask him to solve the problem by using your product.

What to do when you don’t know the answer to a question?

  1. Always keep calm and objective.
  2. Do not respond to provocation.
  3. Don’t try to fill in gaps in your knowledge with `invented’ information, this will lead to a discussion beyond your control – and if the customer is aware that you have gone beyond your limits he will lose his respect for you.

What physicians expect from Medical Sales Reps?

Physicians require sales reps to justify the safety & efficacy of a diagnostic or therapeutic intervention through scientific rigor and statistical analysis. Studies reveal that Physicians value information that are based on randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind studies. It’s important to provide information such as statistical significance, the percentage of patients who responded, side effects of drugs and much more.

Even then, when medical sales reps present this information, physicians may come up with objections like

  • “there are not enough people in the study,”
  • “the study was not ‘based on real world”
  • “we used the drug and it didn’t work as intended” or
  • “the study was not published in a reputable journal.

Most sales reps try to overcome these kind of objections by saying:

  • “Well, Doctor, how many people would be enough?”;
  • “Maybe you didn’t use it properly”; or
  • “Doctor, which journal do you feel is reputable?”

But the truth is – physicians have heard such counter replies hundreds of times before, and they get sales reps nowhere but sent out the door.

How to overcome objections?

An objection does not represent a threat to you, but gives you another chance to present the benefits of your products to the customer.

First of all, you have to clarify the objection as: REAL OBJECTION OR FALSE OBJECTION.

Medical Sales reps need to understand why physicians make these objections in the first place. Most medical sales reps don’t know anything more about the information or study they are presenting than what their marketing department tells them. Sales reps often misrepresent data and don’t tell physicians the whole story. That’s why – majority of the physician objections are designed to put sales reps on the defensive and test their knowledge.

So, in order to overcome objections, sales reps must know their information inside and out. Not just the important points, but all of it. This will help sales reps gain respect, show physicians that they are different from their peers and overcome objections.

4 steps to answer a question properly:

  • Listen patiently until the doctor has finished his question.
  • Repeat the question, to make sure you have understood it.
  • Answer the question as well as you can.
  • Make the doctor confirm your answer or ask him to solve the problem by using your product.

 What do you do if you do not know the answer to a question?

  • Always keep calm and objective.
  • Do not respond to provocation.
  • Don’t try to fill in gaps in your knowledge with `invented’ information, this will lead to a discussion beyond your control- and if the customer is aware that you have gone beyond your limits he will lose his respect for you.
  • Know your limits and stay within them. If the doctor takes the discussion beyond your limits, explain that you cannot comment because your knowledge does not extend to that particular area.
  • Be prepared to listen until you can guide the discussion back to areas where you are fully competent.
  • Take a careful note of the question.
  • Transmit it to your department.
  • Let the doctor know the answer as soon as possible

What you should never do?

  • Criticize the customer for raising the objection.
  • Criticize the customer’s use of the competitor.
  • React with “yes, but”
  • Restate blindly a negative remark for your product.

A List of common Objections faced by Medical Sales Reps

1.“I trust your competitor. We’re comfortable with them. why do i prescribe your brand?”

2.“We have a long-term relationship with the competitor’s rep. He has never let us down. Why would we pull business away from her?” – Physician

3.“Your predecessors did a terrible job. We were like a revolving door – five reps in five years. Why should we take a chance on you?”

5.“We’re planning on consolidating vendors. Why should you be one of the vendors we continue to work with?” – Purchase Incharge

6.“I’ve been offered studies by other companies. What can you do for me?” – Physician

7.“We buy a lot from your company beyond what you rep. Shouldn’t we be getting a discount on all of our volume?” – Director, Purchase

8.“I don’t like you offering free samples to our physicians – they get excited, want the products, but I’m the one left telling them ‘no’ because of costs.” – Director, Purchase

10.“You don’t have enough clinical data to support your claims.” – Physician

11.“We did a clinical evaluation with your predecessor and it got a good review, but no one felt strongly about adopting it. So, the consensus was to stay the course with what we’re using right now.” – Head Nurse

12.“Safety is a concern for us. We don’t believe the benefits you claim outweigh the risks.” – Director

13.“Your new product development really seems to be slowing down. When will you come out with something new?” – Physician

14.“I understand you’re the ‘gold standard’, but I think the ‘bronze standard’ may work just fine for us in this case.” – Physician

How to handle objections on a sales call?

Preventing objections

Many objections occur not because of “what your sales team is selling”, but because of “how your sales team is selling.” The underlying reason for objections usually relates back to value. In other words, the customer does not see a link between any problem, need, or opportunity and what the sales person is proposing. When dealing with objections, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When selling your solutions, the key to prevention involves doing a better job in uncovering and developing the underlying needs and helping customers see the link between their needs and the benefits of adopting your solutions. Top sales performers not only lay a strong foundation by uncovering customer needs, they also “connect the dots”.

Handling objections

Too often, when customers raise an objection sales people do not discover what is driving the objection. Rather, they immediately respond to the objection by reiterating the talking points of their offering. While it’s laudable that sales people believe in what they are selling, responding to objections by repeating the same points that generated the objection won’t be successful. By responding immediately they really don’t know what is on the customer’s mind – they only know what they think is the objection … not what is actually at the heart of the objection.

A model to address objections

Although the point was previously made that many objections are caused by how a sales person sells, even the best sales person will still get some objections. So handling objections is still an issue. Several objection handling models exist – all of which have similar principles. If your sales team has not been introduced to a model, ACT is easy to use – and to remember.

ACT consists of three steps:

1. Acknowledge the objection

The worse mistake sales people make is to just continue as if the customer did not express a concern. The key is to acknowledge the objection and then decide with the customer whether to pause in the discussion and address the objection now or to continue and address it later during the call.

2. Clarify the objection

When addressing the objection, sales people should make sure they have a clear understanding of the underlying concerns. Probe for detail. The challenge facing sales people is to make sure they uncover the real objections. Many objections are driven by underlying issues the customer either can’t or is not ready to articulate. If they aren’t uncovered, a sales person’s idea for addressing the objection is likely not to be accepted and the objection will just pop up later in the sales process.

3. Test a solution

Once the objection is clarified; it’s time to propose a way to handle it and test whether the customer understands and agrees with the proposed approach.

Types of Objections

1. Real Objection:

  • An objection raised by-the customer feels is a valid obstruction to his use of your product. It may arise for two reasons:
  • First: Misunderstanding or lack of information. This is easy to deal with.
  • Second: Because your product fails to match an important need of the doctors, or your product lacks benefits, which the doctor considers important. This is difficult to deal with.


  • Doctor: I can’t prescribe Droxil to children.
  • Representative: Is there a specific reason that you can’t prescribe it to the children, doctor?
  • Doctor: Well, whenever possible, I try to prescribe a syrup presentation for children -they can find it difficult to swallow tablet.
  • Representative: so, syrup presentation offers you a satisfactory method of making sure that a child follow the prescribed treatment?
  • Doctor: That’s right.
  • Representative: Well doctor, I am sure that you will be very interested to know that Droxil is available in syrup presentation, which makes it perfectly suitable for children. Does that clear the matter, doctor?
  • Doctor : oh, yes , thank you …

2. The difficult to answer objection

  •  Your product is good, original, unique, but they are not always matching all needs in perfect way.
  •  A good understanding of the advantages and limitations of your product and a good knowledge of the competitors will already help you to react in the proper way in case of such an objection , because
  • You will feel more confident because you know how your product compares to the competitors.
  •  You will be able to expect some objections and to work out your answer before you even start the promotion of a product.

What are the three steps in handling this type of objection?

First step: Restate the objection in question form, without showing agreement.


  • Doctor “But Droxil takes a long time to give its effect”
  • Representative: Do you mean doctor, that the patient gets the optimal efficacy after one to two weeks?

Second step:

  • Minimize the objection: by using one of these methods :
  • The comparison
  • Example
    • Doctor: “your product is expensive“
    • Representative: One pack of Miniten controls your patient’s blood pressure for a whole month for only…….. While using others will cost your patients over…… monthly. I.e. Using Miniten will save your patient 26% of the cost.

3. False Objections

  • These are objections, which the customer knows are insincere­.
  • He is voicing them because he is either trying to test your knowledge or to throw you off the course that you are following.
  • How to handle false objections?
  • If you are unsure whether the customer’s objection is real or false you should treat it as a real objection.

If you are sure that the objection is false then you have two choices

  • Ignore it and carry on with your sales story.
  • Answer the objection as quickly as possible and return to your original sales story.
  • Disposing- of false objections rapidly prevents the customer taking the discussion into areas where you will have little chance to put forward the benefits of the product that you are trying to sell.

4. Hidden Objection

  • There is another class of objection, which is not mentioned verbally by the customer in your sales presentation.
  • Hidden objections can be the most difficult to deal with because the customer, either consciously or ­unconsciously, has decided not to mention it.
  • Whether this is a conscious or unconscious decision, you will not be able to gain a commitment from the customer to use the product unless you overcome the objection.
  • Your first task, before you can overcome the objection, is to get the customer to either state the objection verbally or agree to your suggestion that it may be an objection.
  • When the customer verbally state, or agree with your suggestion of the objection, then you can deal with it, using the techniques described in the previous section.
  • It may takes several interviews before you realize that your customer has a hidden objection and you may need to find out what the unstated objection is from outside sources -receptionists, local, pharmacists, or wholesalers ….etc,

Removing Indifference

If you suspect that the customer is indifferent to the benefits of your product that you have put forward, then you should investigate for areas of dissatisfaction.

  • How can a doctor be indifferent to our product?
  • You will face indifference in the following types of doctors:
  1. Conservative Doctor.
  2. Satisfied Doctor.
  3. Wool Gathering Doctor.

1. Conservative doctor

  • Doctors act
  • Does not like to change
  • Tries to flatter you
  • Makes empty promises
  • Not aggressive
  • Your act “Probing”
  • Use w-questions(question words to ask certain types of questions like why, whom) which do not allow the doctor to get away with a simple yes or no
  • Be precise by giving the doctor the choice of two or three alternatives


  • Representative: when so you think your patients should start treatment with Droxil?
  • Doc: I will prescribe it as soon as possible
  • Rep: will it be four weeks before seasonal attacks or will your patient continue using it with conventional therapy?

2. Satisfied Doctors

  • Doctors act
  • Tells you he is very satisfied with his present therapy
  • Does not recognize the extra benefit of your product
  • He is aggressive
  •  Your act “Probing”
  • Probe for points of dissatisfaction
  • Use w-questions about his patients , therapy and side effects not about his results or problems this is to avoid upsetting the doctor


  • Doc: My patients experience safety and efficacy with product x, so I’m going to change to your product?
  • Rep: what kind of activities should the patient avoid when he is treated with x doctor.

3. Wool gathering doctor

  • Doctors act
  • He is often nervous and restless (playing with his fingers on the desk or playing with his pencil).
  • He is absent-minded
  • Ask many question
  • Gives you plenty of time to tell the product story
  • Your act : “Probing”
  • Ask w-questions which summarize the benefits, indications or clinical studies such summaries give the doctor tome to wake up.
  • Doctor: Turning his chair….
  • Representative : “which one of these symptoms do you see most often,
  • Doctor? Silence
  • Representative: “is it headache or nausea?”

 Trial Close

So, we discussed the first technique to remove indifference, which is PROBING. The Second Technique is to try to make a close using a point, which the doctor agreed upon.


  • Representative: “Doctor, we agreed that pack of 30 tablets is an advantage for Rozax. Shall I ask the pharmacy to order a quantity of 40 packs ?”
  • Doctor: “well…. Eh … I didn’t!”
  • Representative: “was there something that was not clear, doctor?”

Key take-away from this

Of course, you knew in advance that the doctor is not going to accept your proposition, and maybe he will get angry.

  •  However, the doctor now will give the reason for his refusal.
  •  This way, you turned the indifference into an objection, which is comparatively easier to handle.

Use the power of Silence 

The Third Technique Is:

  • To use the power of silence.
  • When you stop talking for a short time, you create a vacuum, which he will try to fill by saying something, and this is when you got his attention back to you.
  • However, this situation might be very embarrassing for the doctor especially when he does not know what to say.
  • As for a skillful salesman like you are, you can help this doctor out and make him feel at ease.
  • Silence can be an important aid to get the doctor to commit further.

What to do when a doctor gets angry as a result of probing?

  • One: Do not apologize.
  • Two: Do not get angry your self.
  • Three: Tell the doctor in a simple way that you are trying to do your job as well as you can. And this requires that you know his needs to give him accurate information.
  • If he is not well understanding. You will have lost one prescribes.
  • but you have kept enough self-respect to win a hundred others .

A Case Study on Objection handling using the ACT model:

Doctor: I just read that VIOXX has a higher incidence of heart attacks than Celebrex .

MR – Acknowledge : Doctor, are you referring to the recent press reports about the incidence rates of heart attacks in separate VIOXX and Celebrex studies?

Doctor: Yes

MR – Resolve : Dr., there are no head-to-head studies comparing the cardiovascular profile of the two drugs . As a result, you cannot compare the drugs and conclude that one drug had fewer events than the other.

Doctor : I see

MR – Clarify : In the VIOXX GI Outcomes Trial (VIGOR), the incidence of MI was 0 .4% with VIOXX and 0 .1 % with naproxen . Upon further analysis, four percent of patients in the VIOXX GI Outcomes Study had experienced a cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke before entering the study and thus met the established criteria for the use of aspirin for secondary CV prophylaxis . In the remaining 96% of patients for whom aspirin was not indicated for secondary CV prophylaxis, the incidence of MI was lower — 0 .2% for VIOXX and 0 .1 % for naproxen. This difference was not statistically significant.

In a separate GI outcomes trial of Celebrex, the CLASS study, Searle has reported that the incidence of MI was 0 .5% with Celebrex, 0.3% with diclofenac, and 0 .5% with ibuprofen. They
also presented data for patients who were not prescribed aspirin . In this group, the incidence of MI was 0 .2% for Celebrex and 0 .1% for the comparator NSAIDs.

MR – Transition : Dr. I believe your concern about the incidence of heart attacks with VIOXX has been resolved. I’m sure you are also interested in the powerful pain relief that VIOXX can offer your patients who suffer from OA . Lets review the data about the once-daily power of VIOXX .


Dipesh Majumder

Dipesh Majumder

Chief Evangelist at Medismo PharmaSoft
I am a Marketing Technologist, a strategist & a visionary with over 8 years of experience in traditional & digital marketing. I have been responsible for the development & execution of sales force effectiveness strategies, tools, processes for global Pharma sales organizations. Lead key initiatives, critical projects & continuous improvement activities.

Chennai, India ·
Dipesh Majumder