Pin Down Your Territory

March 1, 2002
George Korol

George Korol graduated from the United States Naval Academy in May of 1993 and served as a 2nd lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps as an artillery officer for six years. He left the United States Marine Corps as a captain in July of 1999. Korol is currently a sales representative for Raritan, NJ-based Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceuticals' Women's Healthcare in the West Palm Beach territory.

Pharmaceutical Representative

Every pharmaceutical sales representative, whether he or she is new or experienced, must learn to think of territory management as a vital tool for success.

Every pharmaceutical sales representative, whether he or she is new or experienced, must learn to think of territory management as a vital tool for success. Many representatives do not view territory management as a necessity, but rather as a tool for their managers to use as a coaching session. By following the steps below, however, territory management can become a valuable asset for the individual field sales representative.

Routing a territory

There are several ways to route a territory, but no one way is the "best way." Each individual must determine which method he or she is most comfortable with. This will eliminate the difficulty factor and allow representatives to focus on the overall goal of effectively routing their territory.

There are four basic methods of routing a territory. The first, and perhaps most common, is the "pushpin method." This method involves tacking a map (or several maps) to a corkboard and using pushpins to indicate each doctor's location. This method may require the use of several maps in order to have each specific area of concentration visible at once. Some people go so far as to use colored pushpins to represent the volume (total market share dollars) for each doctor (e.g., red pushpins may represent $50,000 in new prescriptions or yellow pushpins may represent $40,000 to $50,000, and so on).

There are two main advantages to this method:


•Â It provides an immediate overview of the territory and the different concentrations of doctors.


•Â It allows the representative to easily route outlying or satellite offices with areas of higher concentration.

The disadvantages are that:


•Â Corkboard is too bulky to use in a mobile environment.


•Â Although it provides an immediate overview of the territory, it does not show specific addresses.


•Â Depending on the scale of the map, it is most likely too small to view side streets in order to help with determining primary and secondary routes to each doctor's location.

The second method of routing a territory is similar to the first method. This method is the "trip ticket method." The only difference is that, rather than using pushpins to depict each doctor's location, a marker is used to place a dot at each location. Again, these dots may be colored to represent different volumes.

The method works well because:


•Â It is more mobility-friendly than the pushpin method.


•Â It provides an immediate overview of the territory and the different concentrations of doctors.


•Â It allows the representative to easily route outlying or satellite offices with areas of higher concentration.

However, the disadvantages are that:


•Â Although it provides an immediate overview of the territory, it does not show specific addresses.


•Â Depending on the scale of the map, it is most likely too small to view side streets in order to help with determining primary and secondary routes to each doctor's location.


•Â Unless it is laminated, the map will need to be replaced over time.

The third method is the "computer map method." This entails the use of computer-generated maps, whether they are derived from one of the many internet mapping sites or from computer software readily available at any software store, office store or large discount chain. This method is relatively new and requires some in-depth discussion.

Figure 1 illustrates an overview of one complete territory. Obviously, it is too congested to be utilized as an effective routing tool. However, it does provide an immediate overview of the territory similar to that of the pushpin and trip ticket methods. Figure 2 illustrates a potential zone, which may require one, two or three days in the field (note the scale is similar to many folding maps available). Figure 3 shows an enlarged view of a specific geographical region, which may represent one or two days in the field. Figure 4 simply illustrates how enlarging specific offices will help in navigating throughout the territory.

A computer map works well because:


•Â It provides a very detailed depiction of a territory.


•Â It allows the representative to input specific information for each doctor's office, like names and addresses).


•Â Maps print on standard paper and can be placed in document protectors in a binder to allow easy access for navigational purposes.


•Â Representatives can easily route by day with an overview of a specific day, and then enlarge geographical regions for navigational purposes.


•Â Routing can be easily updated because it is saved on a computer or disk.

The problems with a computer map are that:


•Â Initial routing (inputting addresses and printing maps) can be time-consuming (though many software programs allow data to be imported from a spreadsheet, which is easily generated).


•Â It can become frustrating for representatives who are not comfortable with computers.

The final method to be discussed is the "global positioning system method." This method involves either a GPS receiver (much like those used by fishermen; these receivers are now available for travel) or a personal digital assistant (such as a Palm Pilot) with a GPS attachment. This method simply involves inputting addresses into the device and making them way-points. This will allow the representative to navigate to a specific office from any location, regardless of where he or she starts.

The advantages of this method are that:


•Â The compact device allows easy access to office locations and detailed directions.


•Â Routing is saved in the GPS receiver or PDA, and routing can be updated easily by changing way-points.


•Â Maps can be printed out after downloading to a personal computer.

The disadvantages are that:


•Â This technology is more expensive than other methods.


•Â Initial routing (inputting addresses and printing maps) is time-consuming.


•Â It can become frustrating for representatives who are not comfortable with newer technology.

Weigh the pros and cons of each method and decide which one will work best for you.

Tools for analyzing territories

Routing a territory is a necessity, but it is also the most basic step of territory management. To successfully manage a territory, one must answer the following question: "Am I seeing the right customer, with the right message, the right number of times?" This question can be broken down into three components:

"Am I seeing the right customer?": The right customer is the customer who affects your market share. This means the representative must have a thorough understanding of each office, the role of the staff, and who has the authority to write prescriptions or change prescriptions when a patient calls with a complaint. Uncovering this information requires two simple steps: ask questions and then listen.

"… with the right message?": The right message is a message that meets the needs of that specific physician or nurse. Determining the right message takes a lot of questioning and listening. Perhaps the most important aspect of determining each doctor's specific needs is keeping track of all conversations (or at least the last conversation). This can be accomplished through the representative's laptop, or a personal journal or diary. Over time, the representative will build a historic record of each doctor's needs. This will better enable the representative to deliver the right message.

"… the right number of times?": The representative knows he or she is seeing a specific doctor the right number of times when the representative sees an increase in market share for that doctor. There is no set number of times a doctor needs to hear a message, but some studies show that a doctor needs to hear the same message six times before any impact is made on his or her prescribing habits.

A representative can utilize any number of readily available tools to help ensure that he or she is managing the territory correctly. Market share shows the end result of territory management. If market share is stagnant, then the representative is not meeting all three of the criteria listed above.

Various companies have different tools available to track the number of times each physician has been seen in a month, quarter, cycle (four months) or year. It is easy to grow content thinking a certain office is being visited routinely without taking into consideration who is being seen with what message. This will directly impact market share. It is important to review this information at least bi-weekly to ensure the desired coverage is being achieved and the right people are being seen with the right message.

Keeping a record of all conversations with each physician will help the representative meet the needs of each physician without having to remember all the details. A simple review of the last call (or two) will help the representative develop a valuable message for the next call.

Continuing actions

In order to be successful, a representative must routinely and passionately review established call plans, market share and evaluation of every call. In an industry where doctors' time is more and more valuable and it is increasingly difficult to deliver a solid presentation, territory management becomes the representative's most valuable tool.

Territory management requires constant evaluation, practically on a daily basis. At a minimum, representatives should review their previous week's activities and ask one question: "How could I have been more effective?" By answering this question, representatives will sharpen their message, become managers of their territory and run the territory as opposed to having the territory run them. PR

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