Reinventing pharma sales

31st October 2015 |   Nick de Cent

Profound change is sweeping through the pharmaceutical industry. We asked three industry thought-leaders for their insights.

The pharmaceutical industry is facing the perfect storm. Healthcare provider (HCP) no-see policies, field rep reductions, competition, consolidation and technological advances are all factors impacting today’s sales force. Billions are spent on training each year. At the end of the day, it all comes down to three minutes…

Duncan Lonnox

The mobile coach

Duncan Lonnox, CEO, Qstream

“The pharmaceutical industry is facing the perfect storm. Healthcare provider (HCP) no-see policies, field rep reductions, competition, consolidation and technological advances are all factors impacting today’s sales force. Billions are spent on training each year. At the end of the day, it all comes down to three minutes – the average amount of time a drug rep has to educate, influence and transfer value to an HCP. The bad news: 1/3 of sales reps are unprepared or unable to apply the critical information and context needed to sell successfully into their markets.

“Making every minute count with an HCP is a challenge for even the most experienced sales professional. And, turning reps into trusted advisors involves a mastery of knowledge and skills that are changing all the time. Managers need to not only mentor and coach for compliant, high-value conversations but to do so effectively at scale. To put the challenge into perspective, consider each of the following scenarios: your top competitor gains regulatory approval and launches a product; your product comes off patent and must compete against generics; a newly approved merger requires your field to cross-sell acquired products. For each of these events, leadership needs to ready a large sales force to address the threat – or leverage the opportunity.

“To succeed, companies must make course corrections in hours instead of days or weeks. Technologies leveraging mobile and big data are emerging to help. For sales organizations, it is critical to ensure their representatives have the skills and knowledge at their fingertips to make every available second with an HCP count.”

Qstream mobile enterprise software helps build “smarter, more confident sales teams at scale”.

Deirdre Coleman

The editor

Deirdre Coleman, Editor,

“It’s almost a cliché in pharma to profess your desire to get closer to patients, but what does it really mean and how will it impact on pharma’s selling model? What is required is a sincere commitment to focus all our resources to address a single question: do our efforts support a real medical need, across a broad continuum of care, as defined by the patient? Will these efforts impact positively on the patient and the broader healthcare system, and deliver value to the system while freeing the patient of the burden of disease? Value is the trump card and the critical determinant of that value is not the prescriber or the payer but the patient.

“This focus on the patient experience necessitates relationship building with an emphasis on increasing long-term patient satisfaction rather than short-term sales volume. As patients increasingly spend their own money, consumers are no longer passive players in treatment selection and usage. They’re customers with unique priorities and expectations. Patients expect the same experience they expect in other consumer settings: convenience, active participation, real-time feedback and personalisation.

“Pharmaceutical companies that begin to engage patients at every stage of the product lifecycle can create longer-lasting patient relationships and improve chances of product success. This will necessitate an outside-in perspective and a reinvention of how sales performance is measured and rewarded. In acknowledging that for some patients a particular treatment might be inappropriate, pharma is turning on its head the old model of selling as many drugs to as many patients as possible. The successful salesperson of the future will be focused on superior customer value creation, differentiation, and experience.” is the hub for senior-level pharma executives.

Richie Bavasso,

The industry disruptor

Richie Bavasso, CEO, RIMEDIO Inc

“The traditional model of pharma sales is to hire very talented, attractive people and train them to be articulate in pertinent disease and therapeutic options, including branded product features and benefits. Upon graduation, they are assigned territories and directed to call upon on lists of highly targeted prescribers. Through relentless visits and incentives, these sales representatives attempt to influence prescribers to write the product. It has worked well for many years.

“However, the landscape of healthcare has changed. Doors to the prescriber are closing. Incentives are no longer allowed and the highly regimented “action selling” has lost value to the prescriber. They seek trusted advisors to provide useful and unbiased drug information. To adapt to this new environment, the whole process needs to be inverted.

“The prescriber does need product information pertinent to the disease. There are people they trust to receive this information from. In some cases it is a fellow prescriber or clinician. It could be a life sciences agent representing products in the disease category and, in some cases, the branded product representative themselves.

“Regardless, the key to efficient sales is to focus on the individual who already has the trusted advisor relationship. Relationships lead to access and access leads to influence. If a company builds their field force based upon who has the best relationships with the targeted customer, regardless of geography, discipline or training, then they will surely yield sales faster, more consistently, and more cost efficiently than using the traditional model.”

RIMEDIO is the world’s first eCommerce social network marketplace for healthcare B2B transactions.

Founder of the International Journal of Sales Transformation | + posts

Nick de Cent is the founder and editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Sales Transformation. A business journalist for over 35 years, he has been covering sales since the mid-1980s and has been a strong advocate of enhancing its professional status. He has freelanced for the Financial Times and edited the Sales Performance supplement in The Times. He also writes and edits extensively on behalf of corporate clients, including a Big 3 management consultancy and a top four global executive search firm.