Publicis, on Monday, unveiled plans to consolidate its separate sales force, sample distribution, and virtual sales divisions under the umbrella banner of Publicis Healthcare Communications Group.
“In the past, a drug company would have worked with three different companies with three different contracts,” said Betsy Lane, vice president of marketing at Publicis. “Rather than dealing with three companies, they now can have a single point of contact that would manage everything for them.”
This move is in response to the growing paradigm shift away from the traditional “wide net” sales force model to a more multi-channel approach to selling. According to Lane, pharma companies are requesting new, more affordable means of communicating with doctors beyond the face-to-face sales call model.
This includes virtual or inside sales representatives who can reach physicians for traditional sales calls via the phone or Internet. “Physicians really want information, but they don’t necessarily want it at three in the afternoon when they have 50 patients in the waiting room,” Lane said. “These reps are available when and how doctors want them just like a sales support chat on a retail Web site.” Lane said that Pharma companies are using the virtual reps to augment existing sales reps.
Publicis is also seeing an increase in requests for non-traditional representatives, such as clinical health educators and nurses to help patients manage chronic diseases, as well as customer service representatives to make sure that the physicians have all the samples and literature they need to provide proper patient care.
“We are anticipating that this trend will accelerate,” Lane told Pharm Exec on Wednesday. “Pharma is looking for ways to be more efficient, flexible, and to do more with less. With fewer chemical entities coming out on the market, pharma is having to market these drugs later in their life cycle than they have in the past, so they are looking at how to do that best.”
Publicis thinks the approach will work for pharma companies with new drugs too. With money getting tighter and tighter, firms have been using contract sales forces to move new prescriptions. Most recently, Merck announced that it had begun outsourcing sales jobs via a contract sales organization.
“It’s a little too early to tell [if the recent layoffs will mean more contracted jobs], but we have been very busy and we have a lot of discussions going on right now,” Lane said cryptically. “Some companies are retracting and regrouping before they decide what they want to do with their business model, but I can tell you that we are hiring.”