Sales Management Redefine Top Performers - Pharmaceutical Executive


Sales Management Redefine Top Performers
Incentives should be based on behavior, not prescription writing.

Pharmaceutical Executive

Mark Baer
It's also helpful to put some type of noncash incentive or reinforcement into play. The goal is to raise reps' mind share, which in turn will raise the mind share of physicians. Some companies already conduct incentive programs, mostly when they have a family of products that are either underpresented by reps or underutilized by doctors. We've seen managers who use incentive programs to get reps passionate and more focused on detailing doctors or looking at new ways of presenting multiple products. But in times of a merger or acquisition, which are huge distractions, managers must turn up the heat on those programs.

How long should companies run reward and recognition programs?When they look at merger and acquisition strategies, companies want to deploy incentive programs before the merger scare hits the field. Typically, companies should start the program 30 days before the merger officially takes place, run it through the heavy merger activity that usually lasts about 90 days, and then for the 30 days following.

How are pharma's incentive programs different from other industries? The pharma industry is one of the last to still reward, compensate, and give incentives for end result. It defines top performers based on prescriptions written by doctors in their territory. Companies put all of their levers, recognition, incentive, compensation, and bonuses on the end result—the autopsy. But that list is a lagging indicator.

What do you advise to increase sales reps' performance? Companies should define top performers, not as the reps whose doctors prescribe the greatest market share, but reps that are increasing their brand's market share the most. Sales managers should go back and look at reps that were in those markets when the greatest increase in prescription writing for a particular brand took place to understand which reps obtain the greatest level of adoption. That's particularly helpful for brands like Viagra (sildenafil), where the whole marketplace took off.

Sales managers should capture those reps' best practices because those are the behaviors that they want their other reps to copy. Then, sales managers should conduct the observations and reward others for doing it like them. By focusing more on behaviors, they can have a significant impact.

What industry can pharma look to for best practices for incentive programs? From a merger-acquisition standpoint, banking has had the most severe financial impact—and consequently, it now has one of the best incentive programs. Six years ago, when a bank merger took place, 14 percent of the customers would leave. So that industry had to make sure that it was engaged with customers and that every employee was customer focused.


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