Reap more from your territory

August 1, 1997

Pharmaceutical Representative

What should a rep do six months after a launch? Try a territory management concept called phased targeting.

As a veteran of several new drug launches, I don't know of a better way to spend the months surrounding a new drug launch than to target the top 20% of prescription writers. But what should a rep do six months after a launch? I suggest a territory management concept I call phased targeting.

Phased targeting is a plan which alternates between highly focused selling, or launch targeting (see "Launch-targeting tricks" in the July issue of Pharmaceutical Representative), and a more relaxed, expanded coverage of one's territory that I call blanketing. By phasing between these two methods on a six-month rotation, you can expand your core of top customers.

The concept is not unlike farming. In farming, a farmer prepares the best part of his field, plants seed and then reaps a harvest. During a pharmaceutical sales launch, most reps isolate the top 20% of doctors who write 80% of prescriptions and then target them for a "harvest." Not a bad approach if you need your food right away. But what about the rest of the field? Isn't there potential food there too?

Consider the numbers: If you have 500 prescribers in the territory and target 100 to call on, then you block yourself from developing 400 potential customers. True, each of these non-targets has significantly less ability to help your sales than the 100 targets, but how many of those 100 targets do you really sell on using your drug regularly? Half? I doubt it. One quarter? Not likely. 5% to 10%? Okay, this I'll believe. So, you have five or 10 top writers of your new drug after six months of intensive launch selling. This is a great start and you should feel proud. But what now? Are you going to spend the next six months trying to find creative ways to sell the other 90 to 95 non-users? That's one option, but consider phased targeting: alternate from classic launch targeting to blanketing.

Blanketing

Blanketing is simply not targeting. It's the process of presenting your drug and yourself to non-targeted physicians. Does that mean you call on every physician in your territory? Probably not, but blanketing greatly expands your call list to include roughly 80% of your total census. Obviously you can eliminate certain customers such as podiatrists when you're selling ophthalmic drops, but otherwise, consider everyone.

Consider those on whom you have no data. Consider university and industrial clinics, emergency rooms, hospital staff, private practices and anyone else who could possibly use your product. It's a luxury of our industry that we don't prospect like most other salespeople.We have a defined customer base. Blanketing challenges us to expand our idea of the "normal" customer and consider all users of our products.

Once the expanded blanket list is defined, reconsider your territory management plan. If you're already doing all that you can, then something has to give. Stop putting good efforts after bad. If you've been calling on 100 doctors and have determined 10 steady users and 10 trial users, then these 20 prescribers are your core customer base. For the next six months, put the other 80 on a back burner and make time to call on your "blanket" list.

One important note of warning: Never neglect your core when blanketing! I can't emphasize this enough. It took you six months to find these valuable customers, so don't lose them. It takes five times the effort to gain a new customer as it does to maintain an existing one.

Another objective - and benefit - of blanketing is networking. As you expand your base, you'll meet certain people whom you enjoy being around. Some great friends can be made in this low-pressure environment. Through these new friends, you may uncover new business opportunities.

Blanketing is not a territory management method to be used indefinitely. It is meant to be a temporary means of trolling for new business. After six months of blanketing, stop and assess your progress. Remember the 20 prescribers who were your initial core? What have you added to this? Besides the soft business opportunities (meetings, formularies, friendships, etc.), you should have picked up a few new prescribers.

Harvest time

Now it's time to harvest your new, larger field. Return to classic launch targeting. Only this time, call on your expanded core plus the 80 elusive top writers you put on the back burner. Your sampling and expenses should return to levels commensurate with the potential in each office.

That's phased targeting. In the first six months of a new drug launch, you are launch targeting. You are rolling out a new drug so all other priorities rank second to this pursuit. Focused and aggressive, you target the top 10% to 20% of high-potential customers. Entertainment expenses might be educational dinners and "thank you" lunches. In the next six months, you blanket. You call on every conceivable user of your product in search of new business. Expenditures of money and samples per office are low. Your focus is on quality relationships and an expansion of your core customers. In the six months after that, you return to highly targeted and focused selling. Only this time, you have a larger core of regular prescribers. And you can reap more from what you've sown. PR