The MSL Playbook for Creating Value

By Mark Schoeman, General Manager

Prior to and over the course of the pandemic, assessments have shown that scores for MSL teams have remained consistent. This tells us that the mode of engagement, whether remote or in-person, doesn’t necessarily impact the ability of an MSL to share meaningful scientific information and create value for KOLs. The goal moving forward is to optimize this virtual experience and make it as authentic and impactful as possible.

Ask the Right Questions

If you want to deliver a meaningful experience as an MSL, it’s important to go straight to the source of wisdom: the KOLs you communicate with. By asking open-ended questions, whether it’s in-person, over the phone, or via an online survey, you can collect information that will improve your tactics. Here are some example questions:


  • Where can MSLs improve?
  • What types of interactions are most valuable to you?
  • What types of content do you value?
  • What communication methods do you prefer the most? Ex: Phone call, in-person, email, social media, or snail mail. 

Gathering and sharing these perspectives with your team can help to drive improvements that will result in value creation for both your organization and the KOLs you work with. This new frame of reference lends itself to a different way of thinking, and when you think differently, you act differently as well.

Trustworthiness is Everything 

Studies have noted that healthcare sales representatives are viewed as untrustworthy and as not providing relevant information due to their focus on financial gain. They are limited as to what they can discuss with KOLs. MSLs, on the other hand, are quite the opposite. They have the right educational and technical backgrounds that enable them to engage in in-depth scientific discussions and present novel information. For a majority of KOLs, MSLs are viewed as trustworthy peers. As long as they put the patients first and avoid acting in ways that may be deemed promotional, they will continue to have a platform to educate and share information. 

Activity Measures

We’ve had countless MSLs come to us and ask whether or not activity metrics actually align with value creation. The answer is that there is no correlation between the amount of engagement and the value generated by an MSL. The key takeaway here is that regardless of how often an MSL engages with a KOL, whether that be twice a year, four times a year, or 16 times a year, this doesn’t directly drive value creation. It’s the experience that is delivered that drives that value creation. So, if an MSL can deliver a meaningful presentation to KOLs once or twice a year, that’s what we aim for. Quality over quantity is always better. 

Five Key Elements For Value Creation

Now that we know that the amount of engagement does not correlate with the creation of value, how do we actually generate this said value for the KOL? Here are 5 key elements to pay attention to: 

  • Is the information new or novel?: KOLs have limited time on their hands, so the information shared during a meeting must be taken into account. Take care to not be repetitive.
  • Is the information relevant?: Is the information relevant to a particular KOL? Will this benefit those who hear it?
  • Does the MSL put the patient first?: Does the MSL demonstrate the importance of the information in relation to the well-being of the patients? Any scientific education that’s being presented should first and foremost benefit the patient. 
  • Does the MSL follow up?: Every time an MSL has the opportunity to meet with a KOL, it’s important to follow up to see if they have any questions or concerns. This shows that they value the KOL’s time. 
  • Most importantly, does the MSL understand?: In order for a presentation to be beneficial for a KOL, the MSL must fully understand the clinical practice, research, and/or science behind their recommendations. 

Learn More

MSLs are of great value to KOLs– they have the background needed to become a trustworthy and vital source of scientific information. If you’re interested in learning more about optimizing your MSL/KOL engagement, please contact us today.

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