6 Tips to Increase Pharmacist OTC Recommendations

June 17, 2015By Articles, Independent Pharmacy

Written by and published in Elements magazine, June 10, 2015

How often do you recommend front-end products to patients?

Pharmacist recommendations are vital to improving front-end sales, according to Pharmacist and Patient Conversations at Independent Pharmacy, a recent report from Hamacher Resource Group, a research and marketing firm specializing in consumer health care, and the Healthcare Distribution Management Association (HDMA).

Now’s the time to start suggesting front-end products to patients. Pharmacy front ends are doing well overall. Eighty-six percent of pharmacies reported that their front-end sales are growing or holding steady when comparing sales from 2012 to 2013. This is an improvement from an earlier study, when only 73 percent of independent pharmacies reported increased or holding front-end sales.

Boost front-end sales even more by increasing the number of front-end product recommendations you make to patients. Here are some tips.

1. Make use of time

You only get a few moments with patients in your pharmacy, so it’s important to make the most of the time.

“Assess how time with patients is being spent and consider using it more efficiently to include non-prescription recommendations during patient conversations when appropriate,” said Tom Boyer, director of national sales at Hamacher.

Incorporating a recommendation can make your conversation more profitable. If you’re not sure where to start, consider endorsing one of the product types that the survey found pharmacists recommend the most, like adult internal pain relief, vitamins or supplements, or adult allergy relief.

2. Strategically position products

The area surrounding the pharmacy counter is valuable retail space. The surveyed pharmacies with the highest recommendation rates made nearly six out of 10 recommendations for products that were moved closer to the pharmacy counter or were already near the counter.

In your pharmacy, move categories that are commonly recommended or frequently asked about closer to the pharmacy counter.

Placing products close to the counter can help remind pharmacists to make a recommendation. According to the survey, 71 percent of pharmacists make a recommendation for an over-the-counter pairing with a prescription less than 30 percent of the time. Simply having a vitamin or supplement close can help increase that number.

Boyer suggests taking it a step further. “Use small countertop displays that feature frequently recommended supplements that replenish nutrients depleted by certain prescription regimens,” he said. These displays can remind both the pharmacist and the patient about complementary add-ons.

3. Be proactive

Conversations about front-end products only accounted for 14 percent of exchanges between patients and pharmacists, according to the survey. Moreover, patients initiated the conversation about recommendations 61 percent of the time. Take the initiative to start a dialogue with patients and improve your number of recommendations.

Starting a conversation about recommendations doesn’t have to be boring and stale. “Seek out creative avenues to boost recommendations other than the traditional, verbal, ‘Have you tried this product?’” Boyer said. “‘Ask Our Pharmacist’ signs are very effective and can get the conversation started. Personalize them with the name or picture of the pharmacist when possible.”

4. Use pharmacists’ knowledge

Tap into pharmacists’ knowledge on front-end products by training your front-of-store staff to direct patients to pharmacists for questions. According to the survey results, independent community pharmacies make only six to 10 non-prescription recommendations each day on average. By training your staff to prioritize recommendations, you can quickly grow that number.

Preparing staff can also help. “Use store meeting time to discuss categories that are most often asked about,” Boyer said. “Provide staff with ideas for the best ways to engage customers.”

5. Create a most-recommended display

Put together a display of your pharmacy’s most-recommended front-end items. Boyer suggests using end caps near the counter to highlight your most-recommended items.

“End caps have enough shelf space to display products from several categories and are easily changed when popular treatments fluctuate by season,” he said.

6. Use resources from partners

Take advantage of the resources offered by distributors and manufacturers—like planograms or end cap displays—to boost front-end sales.

Focus on resources that promote categories poised for growth, like vitamins and supplements, cough and cold, digestive health, pain relief, and first aid and wound care.

Also, scope out fresh in-store displays at tradeshows or other industry events. “You’ll find new and unique ideas you can bring back and utilize in your store,” Boyer said.

Numbers to know

Front-end sales are growing. Take a look at the trends in independent pharmacy today and see how your pharmacy compares.

86 – Percent of independent pharmacies indicated their front end was growing or holding steady

61 – Percent of recommendation conversations are initiated by the patient

14 – Percent of conversations between patients and pharmacists are about ancillary products

71 – Percent of pharmacies make over-the-counter recommendations less than three out of
10 times

Source: Pharmacist and Patient Conversations at Independent Pharmacy; Hamacher Resource Group, Healthcare Distribution Management Association