5 Keys to Succeeding as a MSL

By Jane Chin, Ph.D.

Field-based professions have unique challenges, one of which is a requirement for you to be a self-starter and often, self-mentor. Here are five keys to succeeding as a MSL – whether you are a newbie or a veteran.

1. Capitalize and Build on Strength. This is why being a good team player is so important – not just to get a good performance review under “teamwork” but to be able to call on the strengths of your team mates in areas where your are lacking.

2. Go Beyond Content for Context. When interacting with thought leaders or internal stakeholders, go beyond what that person is saying and look to understand why the person is saying it. How does this reflect their thinking process, motivators, decision making behavior? Too often we are tempted to take information at face value (“content”), but successful MSLs want to know how the information fits in the big picture and what is motivating a person to behave a certain way.

3. Pair up Planning with Execution. Execution without planning gets you at least some result. Planning without any execution gets you nowhere. Many MSLs are excellent planners and detailed oriented experts. But you need to get out there and act so your talent is put to work for healthcare and patients.

4. Saying Yes all the Time Won’t Make You More Popular. It just makes you a Yes-Man (or -woman). Fawning yes-men don’t last very long or earn much respect; being able to think critically and support your thoughts with evidence makes you a peer when you are willing to challenge. This is most visible when interacting with thought leaders, when you may diplomatically question a person’s assumptions. It also takes a lot of mental steeling. Peer-to-peer does not start with the other person – it starts with you. You determine and control the peer-to-peer process with your approach.

5. Start with a Vision, Mission, or Objectives. The rest are details.

This article was written by Jane Chin, Ph.D. earlier in 2008, as part of research for a manuscript on success factors of MSLs of the future.

Dr. Chin and coauthor Dr. Peter Dumovic’s peer-reviewed journal article, “Marketing Masterclass – Medical science liaisons: A look to the future” was published in the Journal of Medical Marketing (Journal of Medical Marketing (2008) 8, 193-197. doi:10.1057/jmm.2008.12; published online 6 June 2008)