Managing the Middle - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Managing the Middle


Pharmaceutical Executive


Integrated Account Teams

Other cost-effective approaches to field coverage encompass an account team focused on group practices, representing a complete portfolio of appropriate brands from their company rather than one or two lead brands. This team could include a customer service representative, a primary or specialty representative, and a clinical nurse educator. With this approach, the team is able to leverage existing relationships within various practices, and integrate brands where appropriate for a treatment protocol.

Regional teams have also made a comeback, with several large biopharmaceutical companies taking the lead. The industry is recognizing that regionally focused teams are better able to address the managed-care environment, differences in disease prevalence and incidence, and patient and provider demographics within their region. Yet being flexible enough to deploy the different rep requirements now necessary at a regional level is difficult with only an in-house team.

Pulsing/seasonal representatives and syndicated or shared teams are two popular models often supplied by outsourcing partners due to the need to rapidly respond to market conditions, or minimize the disruption of the internal team, particularly when short-term engagements are needed or maintaining cost efficiencies is a priority.

The Strategic Move to Outsourcing

While this internal restructuring is important, it is a stopgap. Creating a permanently flexible and scalable sales organization that can withstand the strain of changing market conditions is the true challenge. Most of the industry is now responding with an emphasis on outsourced promotional services providers, which can build in this flexibility at a more favorable cost profile, while maintaining high standards for quality and impact.

Outsourced promotional service providers have undergone a shift in perception by the industry since their inception, when they were viewed simply as Contract Sales Organizations (CSOs) or "rent-a-reps." Five years ago, outsourced sales representatives accounted for a respectable percentage of the total industry-wide biopharmaceutical sales force. By 2007, their numbers were reduced significantly as the industry cut outsourced representatives first, when they had to address falling margins. However, in light of the various pressures now faced by the industry, outsourced promotional services providers have evolved from a simple vendor-based solution into long term strategic partners. As a result, the numbers of outsourced sales representatives are again climbing, and their role is now more integral to the promotional mix. Expectations are that the number of outsourced representatives will continue to grow, overtaking earlier highs by 2013, as the industry further reduces its internal teams.

Why this dramatic shift? When sales outsourcing first came to the marketplace to meet the growing need of the industry, outsourced reps were deployed mostly in bolted-on, mirrored team situations to support a launch or growth brand. Teams were self-standing, using outsourcer-provided or client management, or both. Performance expectations were set strictly on the number of details made—reach and frequency—rather than the impact of those efforts on sales. Despite the demand for outsourced sales personnel, many in the industry viewed the CSO representative as inferior to the company's own personnel. Although results often proved contrary to this belief, it was a hard impression to shake, and utilization of sales outsourcing lagged way behind the industry's outsourcing of research, development and manufacturing.

Today, that has all changed. Due to the availability of downsized, highly skilled sales professionals in virtually every therapeutic category, the quality and ability of an outsourced representative to drive impact are now on par with internal reps. Major biopharmaceutical companies hesitant to use CSO teams before the downturn have now found reason to strategically partner with outsourced promotional service providers. In fact, most of the major biopharmaceutical companies are now working with at least two different outsourced providers to meet their varied field requirements. Many smaller, emerging companies almost exclusively use outsourced sales reps, not having the resources or risk-tolerance to support the infrastructure necessary to field an in-house team.


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Source: Pharmaceutical Executive,
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