As competition grows in the pharmaceutical industry, particularly with generic products representing many of today's dispensed prescriptions, sales representatives are under more pressure than ever. Busy physicians are hurrying sales reps out of their offices, allowing less and less time for presentations. Meanwhile, reps are expected to showcase more products. In fact, according to a June 2010 survey by market research firm SK&A, one physician in four refuses to see drug and device sales people under any circumstances, while most of the others prefer or require that sales reps at least make appointments for one-on-one meetings. It's not surprising then that attempting to present and sell products when crunched for time is an all too common predicament for the sales force. This is where the iPad comes in.
Pharmaceutical sales forces are gradually learning that the iPad has much to offer. Need to run down the hall to grab the attention of that physician you've been trying to get a hold of? With a one-and-a-half-pound iPad, this is no longer a problem. Portability is a major benefit of the slick tablet computer for field sales reps used to lugging clunky laptops. In addition to being lightweight, the iPad has other major advantages: Sales reps can show videos, demos, reports, graphs, charts, and other rich media with no boot-up time. With its quick draw, the iPad is ready to go at the push of a button. Its appearance is much more attractive and impressive to the eye, helping grab the attention of busy doctors immediately. First impressions mean everything in this industry. If a doctor eyes another rep coming toward him, he can choose whether or not he will pursue the meeting even before any information has been delivered. Once the engagement is made, that's when the iPad makes the most impact.
The iPad Advantage
A Conversation Starter
While the number of physicians willing to see sales reps is dropping, the number of doctors using smartphones, iPads, and medical apps is skyrocketing. According to EPG Health Media's October 2010 study on smartphone use in healthcare, 81 percent of US physicians own a smartphone. Even more, nearly 40 percent of physicians in a recent survey by Aptilon say they will purchase an iPad in the coming year. And of those physicians already owning an iPad, just about 60 percent say they use it for medical tasks such as reviewing patient data and completing paperwork.
It is evident that physicians tend to like gadgets—and the iPad in particular. Having not only the latest device, but one the doctor is familiar with and interested in, can serve as a new talking point for sales reps. While reps typically struggle to secure two minutes of time with a physician to pitch a product, it is now not so uncommon to see the conversation lasting much longer, although not necessarily focused strictly on the product being pitched. After 10 minutes of iPad talk, a relationship has been established, something very difficult to do otherwise.