Garry Barnes says he joined the pharma industry for job security—but don't believe him. During the last 25 years, Barnes has worked for four pharma companies and built five sales forces in therapeutic areas ranging from contraception to organ transplantation.
Pharm Exec: What was your first experience in developing a sales force?Barnes: Although not directly tied to sales, my first real accomplishment was building the medical science liaison group at Fujisawa Healthcare [now Astellas]. The belief was that, in such a clinically-driven area as organ transplant, high-science experts would be useful in pre-launch efforts. I had no experience in recruiting this profile of employee, so I learned what I could and then just went for it. Was I scared to assemble something that didn't exist or that I had no experience in doing? Absolutely—but I guess I was more risk averse back then than I am now [laughs].
Were sales force allocation tools a part of that success?
We certainly relied on some targeting tools that were typically available. But we also proactively surveyed the transplant community. We knew that if our customers rated us the highest in professionalism, knowledge, and contribution to the treatment area, we could own the market. They did—and within the first two years, we acquired a 65-percent market share within our indication.
What issues do specialty companies share with Big Pharma?
All companies want to provide innovative products to their marketplaces that will have sustained growth and, if possible, protection from generic intrusion. Intellectual property is essential in our business today. After all, even the most innovative and successful drug is just a whisper away from destruction if it is not wrapped in trademarks and patent protection.
What Big Pharma issues don't affect you?
Honestly, not many. Our industry is in a credibility crisis with consumers. It's far from being lost forever, but big and small companies alike need to monitor themselves closer with regards to fair balance reporting of clinical data outcomes, corporate governance, and general good business practices.
Another issue created by large pharma that small companies are confronted with is the concept of the sales pod. Many offices are starting to limit or prohibit pharma reps from having quality time with the staff and doctors because of the pod tactic.
What tactics do you use to gain access with physicians?
We spend a lot of time learning what our customers want and how we can satisfy those needs. We bring value to the doctor by understanding dermatology, understanding their patients, and offering quality niche products.
We try to be innovative in virtually all areas of our business. I even ask reps, "How did you differentiate yourself and our products today?"