Updated: Jun 25, 2020
"People respect and value your product because it will improve care" - CEO, Patricia Trifunov
How can this be? We’ve got four Federal Account Managers in these channels? What are they doing all the time?
For most companies with teams that call on Federal customers such as the VA or DoD, the structures tend to be similar – one or two people focused at the national level and four to six focused at the regional level. Often, there is a piece that is missing… the local level.
Both the VA and DoD have many layers of decision makers that need some level of attention. At the National level decisions are made that impact the entire system such as policies, treatment guidelines and formulary. At the regional level (VISN in the VA), decisions are made on how to implement the national decisions as well as setting their own guidelines for drug use and interaction with manufacturers.
That’s why the Federal Account Managers (National or Regional) have responsibility for creating access and working with the leadership within the National and Regional levels. The National Account Manager usually has contracting responsibilities as well.
Both the VA and DoD are the largest integrated delivery networks (IDNs) in the country. This means that they are all connected within, up and down, and across the system. If you want to ensure that you have utilization of your product, it is important to call on all the stakeholders within both IDNs, not just the National and Regional decision makers.
You probably have federal accounts that are assigned to the various field representatives within smaller geographic areas. Do they understand the nuances, culture and regulations of this customer type? It is very intimidating to drive up to a military installation and try to negotiate your way past soldiers with guns at the gate. Can you blame them for their hesitancy? Equally - well maybe not equally but close - it is intimidating to walk into a VA and have the information desk tell you that you are not welcome. How much tenacity does a rep have or need to have to continue their day? How well do you hold them accountable to pulling through the business? Is it okay if they just turn around
at the gate or the door?
Providers in both organizations will have certain choices when it comes to prescribing medicines for their patients. Everything is based on the needs of the patient. Yes, there are formularies that are generally followed; however, if a patient has tried and failed other medications or has unique treatment needs, physicians can get the meds they need for their patients through non-formulary requests. If the physician is not aware of your product, how will they know it is an option? How will they know to ask for it for their patient?
The most successful companies in this business have either a dedicated VA/DoD sales team or they have amped up the training for their field teams so that the representatives know and are comfortable with the customer. It is critical that anyone in the walls of a VA or DoD medical facility know what they are doing. There is a lot at risk, but even more to gain by engaging federal clients.
Our present and former military and their families deserve the efforts we give to them. We are discovering medicines and tools that will help them, so it is our duty to ensure they have the access they need to be able to use the best that medicine has to offer.
Knowing and understanding how to work this market is challenging, but ultimately very rewarding. It takes people that have commitment to these customers, and this commitment grows as sales consultants understand the environment, gain confidence in the channel and have the strategic focus to know when and where to apply resources.