Why add flex-force reps to sales teams?

July 1, 1997

Pharmaceutical Representative

A look at the new face of part-time sales.

Flex-force representatives are professional salespeople who work under contract to pharmaceutical companies. Flex-force companies, such as Professional Detailing Network, PDI and Innovex, contract with pharmaceutical companies to provide sales services. The contracts are usually one year in length and may be for full-time or part-time services. Employees have impressive backgrounds and unique employment needs. Most are registered nurses, pharmacists or former full-time pharmaceutical sales representatives. Most companies require a strong sales background and a bachelor's degree in the health sciences to be considered for employment.

COST-EFFECTIVE ALTERNATIVE

As you have probably guessed, flex-force reps don't make as much money as their full-time counterparts. It's the tradeoff they make for flexibility and freedom. The contracted company pays them hourly or per-call wages. In most cases, there are no benefits. This also means no vacation or sick leave. It's simple. Flex-force reps only get paid for the work they do. They are required to use their own vehicles to make calls. In exchange, they're paid monthly car allowances or are reimbursed for mileage. This is cost-effective for the pharmaceutical companies.

TIME BENEFITS

With flex-force work comes "flex" time. That means that sales reps can work the days and hours they want, as long as they get their jobs done. Usually there are a set number of physicians to call on or a set number of hours to work per week. Flex-time reps determine their own schedules within the constraints of the doctors' schedules. This gives sales reps the luxury of customizing their work schedule to fit their personal needs. Some are former full-time reps who were tired of the evening and weekend programs they were required to sponsor and attend. They were willing to trade the company car and benefits for personal freedom.

Flex-force reps offer a great deal to companies and to the companies' full-time employees as well. Consider the following benefits:


•Â Experienced, professional sales reps when necessary.

For instance, if a pharmaceutical company has a new product launch, it can hire and train a flex-force team to work with its regular sales force. Together, they can make a lot of noise about the new product, resulting in greater impact. Once the initial launch is completed, the flex-force employees are no longer needed and the regular sales force can be responsible for promoting the product. The pharmaceutical company doesn't need to recruit a large number of employees and then lay them off.


•Â The flex-force company manages the employees they provide.

Flex-force companies handle all the paperwork and payroll. They also supervise their employees on sales calls. Although the pharmaceutical company provides samples, product distribution is tracked by the contracted company. The benefit is that the pharmaceutical company can have a temporary addition to its sales force without adding responsibilities to its own field managers' workloads.


•Â Flex-force reps can be utilized to conduct market research.

Areas that aren't being covered by the regular sales force can be called on by the flex-force rep to "test the waters." Without pulling regular reps from their valuable accounts, a pharmaceutical company can expand its coverage of physicians and use this form of test marketing to see which physicians will be cost-effective additions to the territory. In the meantime, regular sales reps can concentrate on current accounts rather than looking to expand business.


•Â Flex-force reps can target hard-to-see physicians.

Sometimes flex-force employees are used to access hard-to-see physicians or areas. For example, it may be difficult for a regular sales rep to call on urgent care clinics or physicians with multiple offices due to short, limited or unusual office hours. Flex-force reps can be hired to specifically target these areas. The regular sales rep saves valuable time but the desired area is still targeted.


•Â Flex-force employees can sample products to physicians not being sampled by the regular sales force.

For example, one pharmaceutical company quit sampling an older product after the company felt it had a strong hold on market share. But it began to lose market share and the company wanted to see if samples had any impact. Flex-force sales reps went into these offices to detail the staff and leave samples. Some physicians claimed that what they prescribed was directly influenced by what samples were available. This was a cost-effective way for the pharmaceutical company to pinpoint these physicians. At the end of the contract, the regular sales reps could continue to sample those physicians and regain market share.


•Â High-volume prescribing seasons can be specifically targeted by flex-force employees.

For example, allergy medication is prescribed heavily during the spring and fall, and antibiotics are commonly used during the winter respiratory season. Adding flex-force reps during these busy seasons can give the regular reps the assistance they need, when they need it.


•Â Flex-force reps can help regular reps gain access to hard-to-see physicians.

Some difficult physicians won't sit down with reps and spend much time after the initial contact, but rarely will they refuse to meet a new rep. Medical staffs see the same sales reps over and over. Sometimes they enjoy a different face. Introducing yourself as a new rep is a good excuse to see a physician. The flex-force rep can use an introduction with a physician as a fact-finding mission about the doctor's prescribing habits. Sometimes doctors give different information to different reps. Everyone can benefit from the information the flex-force rep is able to obtain.


•Â Flex-force sales reps can add enthusiasm and creativity to a sales force.

To flex-force representatives, every product is fresh and new. This can create enthusiasm that flex-force reps carry with them on sales calls. Their enthusiasm can spread to a regular sales force. Flex-force reps, like their full-time counterparts, have learned to be creative to get in to see physicians. They may have different ideas about how to handle objections or new angles for details. Everyone on the sales team can benefit from the sharing of field success stories.

A WINNING PROPOSITION

Flex-force reps can add many benefits to a pharmaceutical company's sales force. Besides freeing up time for regular sales reps, flex-force reps can increase market share and add to the overall sales team's bonus by generating more sales. At the same time, they can save companies money. Working with flex-force sales reps is a cost-effective way to temporarily add to a sales force. And all this is accomplished without adding to the responsibilities of current sales managers. It's a win-win proposition for everyone! PR

Flex-force representatives are professional salespeople who work under contract to pharmaceutical companies. Flex-force companies, such as Professional Detailing Network, PDI and Innovex, contract with pharmaceutical companies to provide sales services. The contracts are usually one year in length and may be for full-time or part-time services. Employees have impressive backgrounds and unique employment needs. Most are registered nurses, pharmacists or former full-time pharmaceutical sales representatives. Most companies require a strong sales background and a bachelor's degree in the health sciences to be considered for employment.