PE: How can pharma companies do that? How can their sales forces align themselves more closely with what doctors want and
MV: Consider the way a message is usually crafted: Ad agencies work with the marketers; they conduct focus groups in order to
find the best way to promote their product, and they get comments about the information that's been presented. It's a very
sterile environment, and the companies are looking at it from the aspect of, "Does it meet my corporate needs?" What the companies
should be doing is asking, "How can we craft and deliver the messages in a way that clearly demonstrates a value to the doctors
and helps them to achieve their clinical goals? How can we offer our products as solutions to the doctors?" It's not a leap
of faith so much as a change in perspective.
The goal of the company, from a financial standpoint, is to improve product utilization. But if that is the sole driving purpose
behind your messaging, and your sole driving purpose in training your representatives, then you lose the focus on the fact
that there is another part of the equation, which is the doctor and the doctor's role in solving the clinical problems he
or she faces on a daily basis.
PE: What sorts of reactions do you hear doctors having to the typical sales calls they get today?
MV: Frustration is a big one. They see more people in the company's rush for reach and frequency. There's a sense of frustration
about not only the number of reps and the number of different messages they're hearing, but there's also a frustration with
the value of the information.
The one thing that doctors really ask for, in terms of what they want from that relationship between the representative and
the doctor, is valuable, balanced, applicable clinical information. "Help me solve the problems of my patients." Without that
information, it's no more than a product presentation.
PE: Do docs ever feel that sales representatives may as well be trying to sell them a new type of laundry detergent? In other
words, do some reps pitch docs in a way that feels really rote or run-of-the-mill?
MV: If you look at the buildup in the sales forces over the last 10 years—from 35,000 back in 1995 all the way up to 110,000
in recent years—many people were hired with no science background and with no knowledge of the marketplace. That's fine, because
you expect the companies to provide the necessary scientific information. But there's been a focus on utilizing sales models
that come from outside of the pharmaceutical/biotech industry. And when you take an individual who has no knowledge of the
industry, and add a selling model from outside the industry, it really does ring less true with medical professionals.
PE: What are some of the best characteristics of a great sales rep, and what is a great sales experience for you as a doctor?
MK: The reason that doctors are limiting access these days is because the representative is walking in the door and in a sense
saying, "Doctor, I want you to stop everything that you're doing. I want you to now involve yourself in my process." Then
what I have to do as a doctor is change gears all of a sudden to accommodate the rep. And I don't have time, I don't have
the willingness, and frankly, there's no value in me doing that anymore.
What's of value to us is that a sales representative can walk into our office and get us involved in the process. That way,
we know what's going on, we're both thinking in the same way, we can understand better what the rep is saying. This all has
to do with what we were talking about: the misalignment that exists between the sales representative and the doctor.
Sara Donnelly is Pharmaceutical Executive's associate editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org