Sales Force Survey: Still Too Much Business as Usual? - Pharmaceutical Executive


Sales Force Survey: Still Too Much Business as Usual?

Pharmaceutical Executive

Communicating with the Field

More than three-quarters of participants in the study reported that they had established formal communication programs with their sales force. However, only 40 percent indicate that these programs are "effective"—with most (55 percent) damning them with the faint praise of "somewhat effective."

Where are these programs falling short? Areas most frequently cited are communications around available development programs, career opportunities, and organizational goals. At the other end of the spectrum, only a handful of respondents believe they do not do enough to communicate their salary programs and sales objectives.

Once again, this reveals a somewhat narrow focus for a group that needs to broaden itself in the face of change. While it is critical that sales professionals have clarity around their pay and their objectives, it should not come at the expense of other "bigger picture" communication. This kind of communication has been proven to be key to engagement. The very best of these communication efforts will "activate" this engagement by linking to programs and processes that enable the engaged employee to excel. According to our research, organizations with engaged and enabled workforces see up to 54 percent less turnover than their non-engaged or enabled peers. (See

While national and district meetings remain the most prevalent methods for assessing sales force opinions, most companies in the study also use formal surveys. Surveys are a time-honored way to quantify how employees experience work and the workplace; at the same time, these surveys almost always also allow for verbatim comments that provide detail and context to the numerical results.

Sales meeting are seen as providing the most value in gaining product knowledge, learning new sales strategies/tactics/techniques, and learning about product portfolios and performance.

Evolving Salary Architecture

The overwhelming majority of companies participating in this year's survey use formal salary structures in their sales organizations. Most use ranges and grades, but about one in three use market data to calibrate these structures.

While the average increase in salary structures held steady between 2008 and 2009 at 3.3 percent, and then dipped below 3 percent in 2010, it rose to 4.0 percent for 2011—with 85 percent of respondents indicating that the competitive market was the reason for making these adjustments. Even in a function under siege, several years of lower-than-usual increases in salary budgets will give way to some pent-up need to expand—and this modest increase is probably the result of this demand.

Merit Pay on the Up

Merit increase budgets of 3 percent equal those of 2010, with total salary-increase budgets (which factor in promotions and general increases) average 4 percent across sales rep, sales management, and other sales organization positions.

Reflecting the traditional sales organization pyramid, compensation as a percentage of revenue remains highest for the sales representative position (5 percent), followed by sales management (2 percent) and other sales organization positions (1 percent).

The median base salary for sales reps in our 2011 study is $84,700—up from $81,000 in 2010, $76,900 in 2009, and $74,500 in 2008. Total cash for sales reps in 2011 (2011 base plus 2010 incentive payout) was $114,300, compared to $106,600 last year.

Salaries, of course, vary widely by specific job. At the low end of the spectrum, entry-level general physician reps earn about $60,000 per year and skilled general physician reps make an average of just under $70,000; at the high end, senior specialty reps and senior hospital specialty reps each earn average annual salaries of approximately $112,000.

Base salaries for district managers in our study who were categorized as "advanced" or "senior" received roughly equivalent average annual base salaries of $141,300 and $144,100 respectively. Their total cash averaged $185,800 and $188,900 respectively.

On the other hand, those in district manager roles that were not titled or distinguished as being advanced or senior earned considerably less: $118,600 base and $159,400 total cash.


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