Under the Influence - Pharmaceutical Executive


Under the Influence

Pharmaceutical Executive

New types of technology will enable this integrated approach. Currently, companies measure sales activity and provide data on targeting and sales performance, but fall short of linking available information from other sources and offering it to reps. For example, if the marketing department conducts direct-mail and telemarketing initiatives, and a different functional group is conducting a series of regional promotional events, that information is not necessarily easily available to the field in any kind of holistic or integrated way. Instead, reps should be able to access, in a central location, company-generated influences that have affected a given physician—such as noting a physician's response via a business reply card to a direct-mail campaign, the physician's e-detailing activity, or a particular provider's telemarketing activity and response. This type of closed-loop marketing creates a more customer-centric approach that provides better influencer-level insight by connecting each resource, providing direction and metrics, and continually re-evaluating key influences and ROI.

This allows companies to mix and match their selling efforts with reps and other types of non-personal efforts by identifying the particulars of influence on a given prescriber and allocating resources accordingly. It also allows for a better analysis of impressionable sales—how much impact can be had on a given physician's prescribing—by varying the level of resources based on the degree of influence. For example, companies can experiment with service and tele-reps with lower-volume prescribers, who otherwise may have minimal or no sales-rep coverage, or support sales-force efforts with high- and intermediate-level prescribers.

(3) Create real value for physicians

Of course, when it comes down to leveraging influence, companies must invest where the rubber meets the road: their sales reps. While information on key influences (and direction on how to best communicate with prescribers based on those influences) will certainly continue to reflect significant corporate input, companies need high-level, exceedingly well-trained sales reps to analyze and interpret the information, to educate physicians with messages tailored to the changing influences, and to engage providers in meaningful dialogs. In that spirit, one common element in any model under the share-of-influence sales approach is a return to creating real value for physicians.

Strong first-line management will provide the foundation for this increased focus on customer value by measuring performance-based metrics (such as market share) and the value-driven methods to get there, instead of activity-based measures (such as reach, frequency, and calls per day).

But in order to get there, companies will have to redefine the profile of the field force. The share-of-influence model puts forth a much more complex world that requires better interpretive and communication skills from sales reps.

Reps in the share-of-influence world don't deliver a consistent standard sales message to everyone. Rather, they work to generate a discussion with the physician about his or her practice, patients, and prescribing, and about how the product may help better manage patients. The sell, then, is geared specifically to that physician's practice.

The level and competence of the new "standard" rep will have a higher skill set and stronger relationships with providers than today's typical mirrored PCP rep. Companies will hire reps with more credentials (for example, former nurses, or pharmacists), reps with more science and/or medical training (such as ones with Master's degrees in biology, for example), and reps with significant experience in pharmaceutical sales. Individual profiles may vary, but at minimum, reps must be able to easily understand and communicate the intricacies of a high-science product, market, and disease state.

To deliver this type of rep, companies must emphasize long-term training and development. While companies now update reps over time about product and medical information, like changes in labeling and in practice guidelines, the share-of-influence approach expands that training to help reps better understand the constantly changing influences. This is especially important in providing value as the Medicare drug benefit goes into effect.

Specialization is a growing trend not only in medicine, but in pharma sales as well. Pharma companies are beginning to use specialty reps to reach primary-care physicians who perform a specialist role, such as in urban or rural areas that lack specialty physicians.


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