In Sales We Trust - Pharmaceutical Executive


In Sales We Trust
The survey reveals a shift toward sales volume—and away from training and competencies—as performance metrics.

Pharmaceutical Executive

In addition to providing enough rungs on the career ladder, companies should give careful consideration to their criteria for determining an employee's level on that ladder. In 2003, respondents reported using a variety of factors—experience, performance, specific competencies, fulfillment of training, and achievement of goals—to make level/promotion decisions. The number of mentions for each of those factors was fairly evenly balanced for all positions from general physician rep to regional managers.

A year later, a tectonic shift had occurred. In 2004, far fewer companies report that they look beyond performance level and experience in determining job levels. In 2003, 71 percent of study participants used level of competency and 63 percent used fulfillment of training requirements in determining promotions for general physician sales reps. In 2004, these percentages declined to 32 and 16 percent, respectively. Interest in using competencies and training to determine job levels is down markedly and training is consistently the least used measure in the mix. (See "Pressure to Perform,")

The message conveyed by this practice is: If you've been on the job long enough and are delivering results, you can be promoted, never mind the training you've had or the other skills you've acquired and demonstrated."

Organizations that employ such narrow criteria for advancement may not have completely identified or developed the capabilities that result in sales success and sustained vitality. This can be a shortcoming of trying to make one-size-fits-all competency models—which have not been developed using the rigor that true outcomes management requires—work for various sales roles. By focusing reps on short-term results at the expense of longer-term development and growth, this "promote by numbers" approach could spell trouble for the future.

Back to Basics One indication that companies are looking to simultaneously cut costs and increase productivity is the change in perquisites offered. Although the availability of personal data assistants (PDAs) went up, the ability to have a single room at sales meetings went down, as did the ability to earn upgrades in car options.

Leather car seats aside, pharma sales reps are still "sitting pretty" and earning total compensation packages that are the envy of sales people in other industries. The mechanics of how that package is calculated to attract the best and the brightest, to fairly and accurately reflect achievement, and to motivate extraordinary contribution are the subject of much trial and tribulation in the industry. In a strengthening economy, pharma companies must keep one eye on the employment market and the other on providing an equitable and opportunity-rich environment to attract and retain talent.

ABOUT THE SURVEY The Hay Group's 14th annual Sales Force Effectiveness Study (conducted in partnership with Pharmaceutical Executive) surveyed participants from 52 US pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Respondents included 55,000 incumbent employees in sales, sales management, national accounts, marketing, sales administration, sales training, and business development. They were surveyed in the Spring of 2004, cutting across a broad cross-section of industry players in terms of sales force size, revenue, and type of ownership.

Michele Goldberg is a senior consultant with Hay Insight, and Bob Davenport is vice-president and managing director for Hay Group. For more information about the survey, contact Bob Davenport at (201) 377-5845 or


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