What will it take to survive in the pharmaceutical sales industry? Hardly the same approach to the role of sales and marketing "at the sharp end," and more than likely a complete re-evaluation of the way that pharmaceutical marketing training is structured. For far too long now, conventional methods of engagement have been celebrated, where a sales representative is expected to “detail” with a set number of healthcare professionals in a certain region, over a set period of time and according to given parameters. Success was often measured in terms of percentage of penetration and the focus was product-centric rather than client- or problem-centric. As the pharmaceutical consultant knows all too well, the industry is going through a process of regeneration and metamorphosis and such an approach to business will not work. All that traditional pharmaceutical marketing training will become increasingly irrelevant.
While a pharmaceutical consultancy can help the client organisation to develop a new approach to the challenges ahead, it's at the sharp end that the majority of changes need to take place. In short, the sales representative, him or herself, needs to be reinvented. Can this be accomplished with the existing staff of reps? Certainly, entrenched attitudes and approaches need to be overcome and the rep encouraged to develop a more "entrepreneurial" approach to doing business. In many respects, the sales rep should be treated as if he or she was a purely independent contractor, at least in terms of the way that they motivate themselves to generate income.
An entrepreneur finds a solution and does not take the word no for an answer. This will often involve innovative thinking and will require a greater understanding of the problem and, indeed the client. The entrepreneurial sales rep should dig deep to find out what drives the buyer, generate more workable intelligence and then be encouraged by the pharmaceutical consultancy to bring this intelligence back and share it within a newly created “think tank.” This may also require a fundamental change in thinking, as the entrepreneurial sales rep should begin to understand that a pooling of intelligence resources could only help everyone to explain and understand the market better and in turn focus on enhanced sales potential.
There was a time when hunger was created among the sales force by comparing peer performance. The rep with higher revenue was seen as superior and this in turn was used to motivate the remainder of the force. Any pharmaceutical consultant should understand how this could be counterproductive to the end goal and how each entrepreneurial sales rep could, by contributing to the potential for the entire team, end up in a better position. This may certainly require a new approach to the process of motivation and remuneration, but if handled correctly would almost certainly result in a better personal relationship between the rep and the end-user. Goodness knows that any improvements here would be welcome, as the typical practitioner has been ready to turn away from the attentions of the sales rep, due to a perceived lack of care or even apathy.