Under the Influence - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Under the Influence


Pharmaceutical Executive


Increasingly, the industry is using another type of specialized field rep: the service rep. Service reps do not concentrate on detailing physicians, but rather, on supporting healthcare professionals and their offices with samples and patient-education materials. The service rep frees up the sales rep, who is focused exclusively on education and dialog with the physician and staff, from duties that are important, but that take up a significant amount of time and can be done by a rep with less medical or science background—and at a lower pay scale.

(4) Use strategic outsourcing for competitive advantage

Today, Big Pharma companies use outsourcing to become nimble, quick organizations that can effectively respond to changing market conditions with minimal disruption to their organizations. Emerging pharma companies use outsourcing partnerships to achieve commercialization and to maximize profitability and control. In the share-of-influence model, companies will continue to outsource, as responding quickly and with relative ease to changing market influences becomes more important.

In fact, the industry as a whole may find that it increases the use of strategic outsourcing as certain tools—such as patient-level data and quarterly retargeting—become a reality and call for changing activities to most effectively influence key physicians. For example, under the share-of-influence approach, a company may want to quickly deploy a supplemental sales force to communicate about a major new clinical finding, or to respond to specific changes in managed markets, in order to gain a competitive advantage. In that way, companies can respond to these types of shifts in key market influences without disrupting their core infrastructure and without taking on the significant risk of using critical company resources to permanently hire in-house.

Companies that have moved toward the influence model are also beginning to outsource functional areas that almost certainly would have been handled internally just a few years ago, such as medical science liaisons (MSLs).

Some reasons companies are increasingly outsourcing include:

  • adaptive experiments of pilot initiatives—testing various selling approaches, either nationally or regionally
  • expanding to influence markets outside of a company's core competency—for example, a primary-care company outsourcing a specialty sales force
  • rapid response to a new or emerging market influence—such as using an outsourced sales force to augment the efforts of the company's primary sales force during a launch
  • influences with a short-lived impact—such as a sales-force effort based on competitive activity or seasonal impact.

(5) Individualize your sales force

While each company's new sales model will share a number of similar characteristics, moving to the share-of-influence approach marks the end of the one-size-fits-all model. Indeed, what's best for Pfizer might not be best for your company. Instead, individuation will be a key characteristic of new sales forces, liberating companies to bring rationalization to their approaches. Influences driving the specifics of a sales force's blueprint include:

  • the impact of managed markets
  • geographic considerations
  • the company's pipeline and existing product line
  • the relevant disease states and specialty audiences
  • competitive landscape
  • other market factors that influence prescribing and dispensing.

Companies must also look within therapeutic franchises to orchestrate the optimal sales deployment for each product, depending on the relevant influencers. In particular, companies are increasingly using SWAT (strategic work assignment teams) reps who address the needs of specific ethnic markets, managed markets, and urban initiatives that focus on influences unique to a given geographic area. They often deal with issues that a national strategy simply cannot. For example, a small emerging-biotech company may find that its sales model includes MSLs, high-level sales reps, and SWAT reps for high-population areas that most dramatically affect its business. In that way, just as modern medicine is focusing on more targeted therapies that affect particular receptor sites—oncology, for example—pharma sales is allocating promotional efforts in a more targeted, precise, and tailored way.


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