The pharma sales rep an integrated Channel | The evolution of the Pharma Representative is still work in progress. Previous predictions of being a ‘curator of content’, or an ‘orchestrative representative’, still is yet to be seen as the industry standard.
Duties of the Pharma Sales Representative often include: arranging appointments with doctors, pharmacists and hospital medical teams, which may include pre-arranged appointments or regular 'cold' calling; making presentations, providing education and conducting training to doctors, practice staff and nurses in GP surgeries, hospital doctors and pharmacists and their assistants in the retail sector. As products become mature in their lifecycle, HCPs become more interested in the services that surround the product and the support for the patient, than in the product detail.
Many believe that drug pipeline challenges, structural changes in the industry, and the rise of digital channels are heralding the end of the pharmaceutical sales rep role. But there’s no need to mourn the death of the sales rep model. There are many reasons, in fact, to celebrate its rebirth. [Accenture 2016]
Opportunity for reinvention
However, the rebirth of this role is not a given. The trick is typically to be more relevant than ever, in a changing market place, where our position is being challenged by disruptors and government interventions, plus by the customers themselves. As the HCPs’ measurements change, so should our focus, services and conversations. If the HCPs are being measured on health outcomes, we should be providing services and conversations on how our offerings can achieve these measures in partnership.
The sales rep can potentially engage across multiple channels and across multiple stakeholders if strategically planned and supported with the appropriate tools and resources. With the standard inclusion now of digital channels, empowering the rep to curate content across channels guided by customer preferences, and incentivizing them to drive engagement, not just education and messaging, could reveal a new leverage point.
The HCPs are stakeholders in a complex network. Working across the network is where the opportunity lies. Specialists inside the Pharma company operations have become more common place; for example, a sales force calling on the HCPs, a market access specialist calling on buyers, medical managers calling on KOLs, patient relations managers calling on patient groups etc. A coordinated effort across the go-to-market multifunctional approach is therefore essential to ensure it all works seamlessly in the eyes of the customers.
Sales Force Effectiveness
In order to be part of this new ecosystem, the sales representative requires new skills and training, along with new tools and resources. This includes understanding the broader ecosystem and enlisting new sales talent like Key Account Managers (KAM) to assist in meeting market demands. In addition, expand and elevate the use of digital channels to increase reach and services, in what Accenture calls ‘a multi-speed sales approach’ aimed at optimizing the customer experience. The sales reps have the potential to cause a multiplier effect - by driving traffic to the other channels as necessary.
A recent cross industry study in 2016, by ZS Associates, published a central finding that investments in a single sales force initiative can yield an average increase in revenue of 4 to 8%, and investments in multiple initiatives, through a sales force transformation, can see average increases in revenue and profitability of 9 to 10%. However when the Study drilled down to separate the Pharmacuetical industry out, unsurprisingly, they found slightly lower average revenue increases for investments in SFE - in the 1 to 7% range. However, remember we benefit from a much larger revenue and profit base, than many other companies, so a small return still can represent a significant value. [The author proposed that the results could equate to an incremental 200% ROI through a 1% increase in sales.]
In addition, the spreading of awareness is still more impactful through personal channels than non-personal channels, but the sales force impact also varies according to product life cycles. During the initial years of a product’s life cycle, the impact can be extremely high (70% or more), while in the final years of a product’s life cycle, when it is about to go off-patent, the sales force impact can be below 5%.
A multichannel approach, where the sales rep remains integrated, can deliver more granular insights and assist in the development of more targeted services and messages.
Alternative types of Sales Reps
With the evolving customer base, along with product maturity and shrinking margins, outsourced or alternative sales forces like virtual sales representatives, can be part of the channel mix. The new types of representatives can be aligned with the varying needs of the stakeholders, as it changes with the brand life cycle. The deployment of different types of sales representatives in different channels, offers the company even more flexibility than the expansion of new functions within the business to meet market demands and deliver a superior customer experience.
If you are interested in our mobile learning solutions on digital channels, contact Actando.
The Actando Consulting Team