Minimizing the Negative Impact of Sales Rep Vacancies

February 29, 2020

Brand Insights - Thought Leadership from Marketers I Paid Program

The impact of vacant sales territories on overall brand performance is often underestimated within pharma and biotech companies.

The impact of vacant sales territories on overall brand performance is often underestimated within pharma and biotech companies. There are varying causes of vacancies, including rep promotions and transfers, resignations, terminations, and organizational restructuring. These vacancies have significant impact on pharma and biotech brands. The most obvious impact is a decline in sales and market share as competitors take advantage of no personal selling SOV for affected brands. This can result in a 25-50% decline from baseline market share. In addition, there are significant declines in service-based items such as samples, copay cards, etc., which are critical to driving new patient starts.  Business declines for brands begin very quickly following a vacancy occurrence and even once the vacancy is filled, new reps require training and a ramp-up period while they get familiar with the territory and its customers.

One of our major customers requested a comprehensive marketing solution to address the negative impact of territory vacancies on their key brand. They had two major objectives for the plan-protect as much market share as possible during vacancy periods and provide valued services to their key HCP customers for items such as copay cards and samples. They also asked us to coordinate our non-personal promotion plans with their tele-detailing and alternative sampling partners.

The first step was to integrate with our customer’s human resource team to develop a process for becoming immediately aware of when territories became vacant and were subsequently filled. We then coordinated our plan with the sales management team to ensure that we factored into the plan any temporary sales rep coverage within the vacant territories. We then integrated with their sales force automation system to identify relevant called-on HCP targets within vacant territories who would participate in this plan.

Our customer made the decision to include all called-on HCPs in the Vacancy Management Plan, as well as HCP targets who were not previously in the call plan, as the cost for this six-month initiative was extremely low, approximately 10% of the cost for a single HCP sales call. To achieve organizational alignment within our customer’s various involved departments, we developed a comprehensive communication plan that included training and development for the various stakeholder groups.

A core element of the Vacancy Management Plan was our brand messaging campaign with personalized journeys delivered to HCP targets through our internal marketing automation platform. These brand messages were delivered through multiple channels, including email, direct mail, and banner ads. In addition, our comprehensive plan coordinated tele-detailing and delivery of service items to HCP targets such as samples and co-pay cards through their designated partners.

Our client’s primary objective in minimizing business loss by the brand was to maintain the same market share trend in vacant territories that existed prior to the vacancy occurring. This objective was met. It was measured by evaluating the market share trend during the 12 months preceding the vacancy and comparing it with the first six months of the vacancy. Results showed that for the overall HCP target group, there was no significant change in brand prescription trend during the six-month vacancy period when the Vacancy Management Plan was in effect.  In addition, HCPs who received minimal calls pre-vacancy or were not previously in the call plan, showed a positive upswing in brand prescription trend during the vacancy period. It was also noted there was significant usage by the HCP targets of both tele-detailing and the sampling program. Our client was extremely pleased with the results of this Vacancy Management Plan and requested it for additional brands.

Vacant territories are a significant challenge for pharma and biotech companies, resulting in loss of business, as well as additional negative impact on company and brand image with HCP targets; these negative factors can linger for a significant period of time after the territory is filled. Through successful implementation of our Vacancy Management Plan, we maintained the overall business trend for the brand during the six-month timeframe and actually showed increases in business with some target HCP subgroups.