It’s a new world for pharma sales reps

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Much is being written about the reduction in the number of pharma sales reps – down 25% from their peak in 2005 with additional declines expected. While the economy certainly is behind these declines, other reasons are cited. A tighter regulatory environment provides more restrictions on what reps can say and stiffer penalties when reps slip up. Docs have less time available to talk and in some cases docs are changing their prescribing practices because of influence by insurance companies. 

Let’s take a deeper dive. Today most primary care docs treat approximately 40 patients each day to make similar margins to what they made 5 years ago. One fall out is they simply don’t have the time to meet with pharmaceutical reps. By the end of 2011, it’s estimated that fewer than one in four docs will still be willing to meet with reps. A second implication of the changing pharma market is that many docs now view pharma sales reps solely as sales reps rather than experts.  While subtle, this is a critical distinction. It is at the core of how much perceived value the pharma rep brings to interactions and it affects both access to the doc and sales rep effectiveness.  

As we posted in an earlier blog, the void is being filled by digital sales tools like websites and iPad apps. Although they’ve been used in pharma for several years they are becoming more viable as docs are more comfortable using computers and accessing information electronically. With these tools docs can ask questions about drugs, order free samples and find out which insurers cover certain treatments. The changes are designed to cut costs and to reach docs in ways other than the office visit, which many docs say they find intrusive and annoying. 

For example, Novo Nordisk’s biopharmaceutical business in the U.S. reported that 72% of U.S. doctors own a smart phone, and 95% of them use it to download medical applications. The company now has several iPad/iPhone applications for docs. Eli Lilly now is considering “on-demand portals” so docs can access information instantly as they are treating patients. 

ePromotions, including online detailing, online events, and other ways to engage docs electronically, make up only 3 percent of total pharmaceutical promotion spending in the U.S. today; however, that’s triple the amount spent six years ago, when it made up just 1 percent of total spending. Yes, technology is playing a small role today, but it’s growing. 

©2011 Sales Horizons™, LLC  

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Janet Spirer
For more than 30 years Janet Spirer has worked with the Fortune 1000 to craft sales training programs that make a difference. Working with market leaders Janet has learned that today's great sales force significantly differs from yesterday. So, Sales Momentum offers firms effective sales training programs affordably priced. Janet is the co-author of Parlez-Vous Business, to help sales people have smart business conversations with customers and the Sales Training Connection.

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