As the sales model evolves, are reps returning to something they did before or moving to something new?
No doctor in America or anywhere around the world is going to lose their right to practice tomorrow if they don't see a sales
rep today. We have to understand that doctors can stop seeing sales reps just by saying, "no appointments," and the whole
world in that practice stops. It's not the doctor that is the source of the problem—the vast majority of doctors still have
time available. If you travel on the road with a sales rep, the doctor often will say, "What have you got for me today that's
new?" It sounds like a trite welcome, but it actually embodies the core of why the doctor let the salesman in. They want to
know what's hot in the market, not read a new brochure on a nine-year-old product that doctors have already been using.
And every time we can answer that thoughtfully, we can have a meaningful detail session with the doctor. And that's where
I think many of the companies are coming back to that core value: understanding.
Think of the incredible changes the Internet has made in the rest of doctors' lives. They use e-mail and buy stuff on e-Bay.
When they're buying a new car, they get a competitive price on the Internet. They know exactly how to use the computer the
way everybody else does.
But they don't use it for product-related research as much, and part of this is just habitual and a lot of it is because sales
reps do a good job when they've got new things to sell. And so I think that this core value of relationship between the sales
rep and the doctor is behind a lot of the thought processes.
To build relationships, some companies reduce the number of sales reps and territory size, or just concentrate on group practices.
Other companies treat a doctor as though it's an account—the sales rep's objective is to understand the needs of that account,
and service it as an account—not as a push sales opportunity.
We'll see different facets of this, but it's not tied to the size of the sales force. My generation was a time when reps and
territory managers had to maximize the value of the territory. In today's environment, we could use that philosophy with the
thought of total coverage and exposure. That's going to be one of the premises that every company works within the next couple
of years, and you'll see different ways in which companies address it. But improved intimacy with the doctor will become the
catch-cry of the next generation of sales force.
Looking at the industry in general, it looks like while the capability of doing the detail scientifically rose, the desire
to do so may have declined. One reason could be that sales reps in mirrored territories were just reading from a script. Is
that your view?
When the first articles about mirrored sales forces were published in the early '90s, it was explosive. People moved away
from the premise of intimate contact with the doctor and of being focused on content and value, and they moved into reach
and frequency marketing.
But when that happens, you run the great risk of the trivialization of the science which is being delivered. And, of course,
when a new product comes out, say the new vaccines from Merck, or any product based on new science, it is hard to imagine
how to convey that to opinion leaders and then for the mass market without thoughtful communication from the sales rep.
People talk as if the transformation of the sales force can be done relatively quickly, just by right-sizing the sales force
and having the right strategies. We're talking about a different sort of a catalyst affecting what we're doing. We've played
a model to its full extreme, and as a result of that, we need to find different approaches. That's why you'll see different
companies try different ideas. But at the core of these ideas will be the need to create the relationship with the customer,
the doctor, and ultimately the end user, the patient. We'll see what happens when several companies try different ideas—the
range of experiences should distill a whole new philosophy.