Salesforce Roundtable - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Salesforce Roundtable
With industry-wide layoffs, how will pharma companies staff their sales organizations? Pharmaceutical executive and its sister publication, pharmaceutical representative, convened an executive roundtable to find out.


Pharmaceutical Executive


GO-GO-GADGET REPS

Herman: Within the sales organization, where are companies finding the most success with new technology?

Stickler: We have only 51 representatives across the country, divided into two different sales forces and two different therapeutic areas. We've made a decision to go with the tablet PCs and electronic promotional material.

One of the quick learnings is that sit-down meetings are by far the most attractive venue to use tablet PCs and promotional material. There's a lot of intrigue by the healthcare professionals, and they're giving us a lot more time. In other situations, that doesn't work as well—like when reps have hallway conversations and other quick, impromptu meetings.

Snow: We've broadly deployed tablets in specialty and in primary care and have been working with the technology for over a year.

Traditionally, sales reps used printed promotional material about 25 to 30 percent of the time. With interactive technology, that can be substantially higher. But what we've seen is about garbage in/garbage out—if the interactive materials are good, then you can have impressive results.

Breitstein: Has anybody had a different experience with tablet PCs?

Rosenthal: There's been a lot of hype around tablet PCs and how they are going to transform the sales force. But we've been trying to measure exactly what it is that they do—what do they transform? Most physicians have participated in a detail that included a tablet PC. And we know, with the exception of oncology, most specialists don't prefer it. In fact, they much prefer to view patient assessment and education materials, or clinical reprints, or visual aids, in a call.

In just trying to dig into this a little more, we think that that's because a tablet PC doesn't make a rep any more effective anymore than a telephone makes you a better communicator. It's still only a tool.

Stickler: Tablet PCs look like they can have other benefits though. In particular, we think it can really have an impact in terms of dollars and cents as we look into the future and the concept of rapid delivery of new promotional materials. For instance, think about product launches. The sales force can simply download the materials, which can shave off a number of days between the customary paper launch and electronic launch.

The other thing is in the hospital selling environment: It's not uncommon for providers to ask reps off-label questions. The standard approach would be for the rep to give the doctor a business reply card, and the physician would sign it and fax it in. With tablet technology, we can capture a signature, confirm that the physician is, in fact, asking an off-label question, and then send them an answer to that question right then and there. It's a nice value-add.

Snow: One thing to watch for here is FDA's capacity to review these materials. It is a real challenge, and we certainly hope FDA can move forward on the digital materials, because that's a real area of opportunity for the industry at large.

Breitstein: How do companies view electronic-detailing efforts as compared with the more traditional approach to sales?

Lambert: One-to-one is still going to give you the greatest impact and the highest return.

Rosenthal: The number of rep-guided e-details has been consistent over the last couple of years. But we are picking up a trend toward increased acceptance by physicians for self-directed e-details. The acceptance rate by physicians is marginally higher than it is for dinner programs the reps invite them to.

If that trend continues, companies will see that channel as worthy of investment. The effectiveness of them, I can't speak to yet.

Jennings: It's given small pharma companies—those that simply can't afford to put representatives in practices—a chance to act big. They are building platforms where doctors can have an e-detail with a rep, and then go online and order samples, or sign up for a net conference.


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Source: Pharmaceutical Executive,
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