Crossfunctional collaboration: what are MSL managers looking for?

If you’ve gotten to my chapter on “Critical Attitude for Aspiring MSLs” you’d have read that crossfunctional collaboration is a key to your attractiveness as a MSL candidate.

But what exactly does “crossfunctional collaboration” mean?

In the MSL world, crossfunctional collaboration can happen between the MSLs’ team residing in a medical affairs function, and other functions within the pharmaceutical company.

These other functions can include the clinical operations function, sales, marketing, and medical communication / drug information. As a MSL you may interact with other functions I didn’t list, depending on the role that the company has established for its MSLs.

For the most part, isolating oneself is easy even in a corporate setting. You hang out with your teammates and may have special projects where you form smaller groups. For field based MSLs, they are often “out of sight, out of mind” unless there’s a problem.

MSLs who advance in their careers are the ones who have learned to establish a working relationship both within their team and with people from other functions.

In the field, the most natural “crossfunctional interaction” occurs between field-medical and field-sales, but this is also the most precarious and gives rise to the most conflict. This is because:

– many MSLs do not like to work with sales reps, in case they may be seen as glorified sales reps themselves

– some companies have strict rules of how MSLs and sales reps should work together, because of compliance reasons

– many MSLs do not want to risk giving sales reps the perception that they are there to support sales

Whatever your personal stance on field-medical/field-sales interactions, you must demonstrate an ability to manage these types of relationships and set expectations.

One of the ways you can demonstrate this without prior MSL experience is to give examples of past projects where you may work in departments that appear to compete with each other, and therefore pressure is high and relationships can be strained. Were you able to successfully navigate these tricky waters and create a successful outcome? Did you have to solve conflict in order for everyone on the project to productively move forward?

If you don’t have these types of examples to give, then you will not have convincing evidence to crossfunctional collaboration.

Thus it may be time to step out of your comfort zone and see how to broaden your sphere of working relationships. Then, you will have many excellent examples to show as evidence.