Have we been focusing on a "one-size-fits-all" approach to sales force effectiveness? As the sheer size of a typical pharmaceutical salesforce comes into focus and as budgets are under pressure like never before, the pharmaceutical consultant may find that senior management is beginning to ask questions, just like this. While it is always true to say that the 80/20 rule is a fantastic indicator throughout the business world and we know that a certain proportion of our sales force is going to be highly productive while many are not, it’s high time that the typical sales company and pharmaceutical consultancy addresses exactly how salesforce effectiveness is – well, just not effective.
Consider many of the metrics that are traditional in our world and consider the approach that is often used as a sweeping, across-the-board approach to the issue. There is far too much generalisation and far too little segmentation, resulting in "below par" results. For example, high-volume prescribers are almost universally targeted, purely due to the fact that they spend a lot of money. Often, an approach to this particular doctor will be based on an assumption that he or she is inclined to spend in this particular niche, without regard to that individual's particular circumstances, triggers, drivers, likes, distastes or motivators. It's almost as if they are treating the professional as an automaton and this is surely not what pharmaceutical marketing training seeks to teach, is it?
Industry intelligence can be very valuable and can show how effective a company's competitors are at reaching a particular professional. It's not acceptable to use this metric alone when deciding to target, yet this kind of broad brush approach is often used. Results may have been incurred, but the results could have been far better and perhaps more fruitful if the professional had been approached from a different angle. This is why it's important to analyse the behaviour of different groups of end-users, so that the most appropriate drivers can be targeted. It's time to stop making assumptions and to start digging deeper, to really understand what motivates a particular professional into making a buying decision. Once these groups have been segmented, they can be placed into appropriate categories, potentially leading to far more productive results. This is where the pharmaceutical consultancy should practice diversity and ensure that pharmaceutical marketing training for the modern era involves fewer generalisations.
In the past, it may have been acceptable to buy potentially valuable “intelligence" data, lists and resources from traditional sources. These could well be the same lists used by competitors and this practice could well have contributed to the overload experienced by certain doctors, due to that style of targeting. There is far too much at stake to take this generic style of approach and a pharmaceutical consultant needs to help management determine a way of “dialling in" data, in order to determine a far more targeted solution. Members of the salesforce itself may already have a lot of this data and intelligence, due to their one on one interaction over the years. Use this kind of intelligence wisely.