Sales Management: Get Committed
To strengthen the tie between pharma and physicians, companies must add new metrics and insights to their sales management and decision-support systems—metrics that look at the company's relationships with prescribers. A key metric is commitment, a measure of the underlying bond between doctors and the brands that they prescribe.
Commitment drives near-term performance gains and ensures long-term stability. Research shows that committed physicians deliver more than double the patient share of their uncommitted colleagues (see chart, right). In addition, committed doctors are more resistant to competitive efforts and less sensitive to drug pricing, which translates to more prescriptions over time.
The effort to manage commitment depends in large part on how well the company understands what physicians need and where the fulfillment of those needs is falling short. This insight is key in developing a physician-centric sales approach.
What Physicians Really Want
What does it take to build commitment? TNS Healthcare recently interviewed nearly 400 doctors (including PCPs, cardiologists, pulmonologists, and oncologists) in the United States and asked them to identify the pharma-related services they value (see chart).
PCPs and specialists alike agreed that industry is not meeting their changing requirements. They cited gaps in several key areas, such as patient-management programs, education and information services, and detail quality. Clearly, physicians are not finding value in the experiences pharma is delivering.
Despite these low average ratings, some companies are doing better than others at meeting physicians' needs. Pfizer comes out at the top of the list, across all sales and service categories. GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis tie for second, with relatively high scores in most areas.
One way to improve these scores is for pharma companies to adopt a physician-centric approach to managing physician relationships. By moving from just selling products to becoming educators, knowledge providers, and business partners, companies can improve relationships with doctors. This approach requires customizing the total sales experience to physicians' expressed preferences—and in the process, ensuring that the required investments will yield positive ROI. Achieving this requires a new set of decision-support metrics, tools, and delivery mechanisms.
Managing from the physician's point of view begins with communication. Companies must talk to their target audience to gather information on doctors' behaviors, relationship views, and needs. With this information in hand, pharma companies can structure a physician sales-and-service experience plan that will build stronger relationships and help optimize prescribing and market share.
Here are three basic steps for creating a physician-centric sales plan:
Sales Reps: The Final Link
The final stage of this approach is defining the role of the sales rep. Are reps simply visiting physicians to provide a quality detail, or is the sales rep the conduit between the physician and the products and services that the company offers?
The rep provides or influences much of the physician's experience with a pharma company. So all the collected commitment data eventually trickles down to sales force management and training. What physicians expect from their sales rep can be custom tailored in a behavior profile (included in a relationship-management system), and driven by basic sales rep training.
Commitment also can be used for providing incentives to district sales managers. If the district managers are being asked to improve commitment and performance on a set of key drivers, companies can build performance-improvement expectations into their incentive compensation program.
Will this relationship-management approach pay off? Evidence shows that investing in the right experiences will drive brand commitment and grow share. In today's competitive environment, it is not enough to have high prescribers. For long-term success, companies must have committed prescribers—doctors who not only write prescriptions for their brand today, but also stick with it tomorrow.
Jeffrey Zornitsky is senior vice president of sales performance optimization at TNS Healthcare. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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