Salesforce Roundtable - Pharmaceutical Executive


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


Herman: Are companies redefining the profile for representatives? What are the skills reps must possess to be successful in the new sales model?

Scott Hull (manager of field sales technology, Abbott): We need to make reps smarter and better able to handle multiple products across disease states. But they need to have more than just product and disease knowledge. It's about knowing the payer mixes and the lifecycle of the product, which has relevance to how reps promote and bring value into doctors' offices. That takes a much higher level of business acumen on the part of the rep.

Rosenthal: Based on a study on business acumen among sales reps and regional and district managers, I can tell you that pharma companies generally think of business acumen as a collection of facts reps can recite and knowledge they appear to have.

But what differentiates them from their peers is not what they know, it's what they do with what they know. I would encourage each company to think more about getting people to translate knowledge in their head into the actions they can take.

Herman: How?

Snow: The field sales force has to be more focused on solutions and on patient outcomes. That means that, from a brand standpoint, reps have to be able to convey solutions for the practice and for the patient long term.

Jennings: Before we can prepare our reps, we have to define what the profile of that rep should be and the actual role they're playing in the practice. I see a lot of pharma companies using the tiered approach by having a sales representative, a customer-service rep, a medical-science liaison, a clinical-nurse educator, on-call nurses, and others approach the practice. And as we start to look at doctors' offices more around therapeutic area, we can plug and play those different roles so we can offer the doctor a full understanding of the disease state, therapeutic class, and the offerings to treat their patient population.


Breitstein: Do pharma companies have the necessary training systems in place to ensure that reps have the skills they need?

Lambert: From a pure training perspective, Big Pharma does a pretty darn good job of investing in their people. Having been in specialty, I've looked at hiring Big Pharma people simply because of the rigor and discipline that they've had in their training.

Rosenthal: But training is a temporary state of affairs. District managers are only with an individual rep one out of 40 or 50 days—if they're lucky.

Jennings: It's important to understand how these managers are going to coach the reps. We have a population of first-line managers that don't have the experience around the scientific approach. Even when it comes to business acumen, depending on the pharmaceutical company you've worked for, you might have been exposed to only a very narrow scope of what a district manager might do. We need to make sure the district managers know how to be successful, because they are the number-one reason reps leave the job.

Snow: You also have to consider that the variability of reps across the United States can be quite large. Distance-learning platforms can help the industry in diagnosing individual rep needs, which is different than a one-size-fits-all three-day event.

Keefer: We're also seeing the benefit of new gaming technology that puts very high science into a training format that reps can identify with. That's really starting to mushroom in terms of interest in the industry.


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Source: Pharmaceutical Executive,
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