Saving Sales - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Saving Sales
As the sales force shrinks, the pressure on reps increases. How do you combine new technologies with old-fashioned face time to maximize sales?

Pharmaceutical Executive


What way can it be changed to improve the reps' methods of selling?

We're big proponents of more systematic understanding of what will drive and appeal to physicians. There are a lot of people that grew up in the industry and have a lot of experience. The old model worked for them in the 1980s. Now they're general managers and senior managers and they're judging messaging and sales aids and sort of subjectively saying, "I think this is a winner."

Can you give me some examples of what's being done or what could be done?

First, we're seeing a movement to a much more metric-driven approach, a more systematic measurement of execution with more proof of what's effective with physicians. Now there's greater pressure on ROI, and that means you have to measure and you have to be systematic about evaluating what's working or not and making adjustments.

The other movement we've seen pretty consistently is the trend toward fewer reps promoting any given brand to any given doctor. I think Pfizer started that a few years ago when they said they'd have no more than two Pfizer reps promoting any single drug to any single doctor. And a number of other companies have followed suit.

Where does the Web fit into the grand scheme of things?

The jury's still out, but I think there's some promising things happening. When you look at WebMD, they've got a lot of physicians interacting. If you look at their press materials, they've got more than a million physicians visiting a month. And they're doing various services, like e-detailing. It looks like they're starting to crack the code on how to use the Web channel. I think the final pieces of code need to be cracked to find out how to do it more effectively.

How can sales reps maximize the amount of face time they have with doctors?

Be really well prepared. Physicians' calls are longer, and doctors are much more likely to prescribe when they believe a rep has good product and disease knowledge, when they believe a rep is well prepared for the discussion, and when they feel that a rep has listened to what they've said and built on it in future calls.

In addition, we know that helping the physician understand the right patient type for a drug is a huge driver of satisfaction and utilization. It's a way to help physicians get value and use from that information and translate it back into their practices. One of the things doctors are really concerned about is staying current with all the advances in medicine. And to see a rep, all they have to do is break stride in the hallway. They don't have to plan for it, and if they don't want to do it they can keep walking. But when they stop for maybe two or three minutes, they can get good perspective.

Finally, where do you see industry going? Do you see more layoffs in the near future?

Using rough math to tally it up, you're probably talking more than 95,000 reps even after the layoffs. We think that's still significantly overweight. I think it's going to continue as people get comfortable and they see that those who have made the reductions have not gotten crushed in the marketplace. So you'll continue to see the sales force sizes come down a little bit, which I think would be a good thing for the industry.


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Source: Pharmaceutical Executive,
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