Sales Management: Get Committed - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Sales Management: Get Committed
By better managing relationships with physicians, pharma companies can develop a base of dedicated prescribers.


Pharmaceutical Executive


Relationship Optimization

Managing from the physician's point of view begins with communication. Companies must talk to their target audience to gather information on doctors' behaviors, relationship views, and needs. With this information in hand, pharma companies can structure a physician sales-and-service experience plan that will build stronger relationships and help optimize prescribing and market share.

Here are three basic steps for creating a physician-centric sales plan:

  • Evaluate and assess Companies must first assess physician relationships. This involves determining the strength of current relationships, documenting physician needs and how well they are being addressed, and relying on decision-support tools to identify which improvements will yield the greatest benefits. Typically, surveying physicians and combining the results with in-house sales and promotional-activity data can accomplish this. For example, some companies have discovered that their prescribers want more than just a better detail. They want more information services or education programs.
  • Resource allocation and execution Once all the information is gathered, pharma companies must tailor a plan that will both build patient share and improve physician satisfaction. Companies can establish relationship-experience plans on varying levels, from a district and territory level down to a granular physician level. There are new tools available to help companies evaluate the impact of improving elements of the sales experience, so they can allocate resources more productively. Sales and marketing executives can look at alternative investment options—such as speaker programs and patient education offerings—and determine the incremental value they'd gain in terms of commitment, share, and dollars, from raising their experience scores in each area. As a result, they can quantify opportunities to improve physician experiences—and focus on prescribers who will deliver the greatest performance gains.
  • Track and improve In order to continuously evaluate brand performance, companies should design and implement a tracking capability, such as Internet surveys. Return on investment is gauged by constantly resurveying doctors to determine whether they are using a brand, where their commitment stands, how they're evaluating their experiences, and if they've switched to or from a different brand.

Sales Reps: The Final Link

The final stage of this approach is defining the role of the sales rep. Are reps simply visiting physicians to provide a quality detail, or is the sales rep the conduit between the physician and the products and services that the company offers?

The rep provides or influences much of the physician's experience with a pharma company. So all the collected commitment data eventually trickles down to sales force management and training. What physicians expect from their sales rep can be custom tailored in a behavior profile (included in a relationship-management system), and driven by basic sales rep training.

Commitment also can be used for providing incentives to district sales managers. If the district managers are being asked to improve commitment and performance on a set of key drivers, companies can build performance-improvement expectations into their incentive compensation program.

Will this relationship-management approach pay off? Evidence shows that investing in the right experiences will drive brand commitment and grow share. In today's competitive environment, it is not enough to have high prescribers. For long-term success, companies must have committed prescribers—doctors who not only write prescriptions for their brand today, but also stick with it tomorrow.

Jeffrey Zornitsky is senior vice president of sales performance optimization at TNS Healthcare. He can be reached at


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