The current pharmaceutical sales representative is an endangered species
It’s no secret the changing healthcare environment is forcing pharmaceutical marketing to adapt, most notably sales organizations. While the typical pharma sales model may look very different in 5 years and barely recognizable in 10, there are still plenty of feet on the street today. These feet belong to sales professionals who still interact with prescribers and their staff every day, an interface which is crucial to the perception and success of any brand. Face time with prescribers is no doubt limited. According to our recent study with Quantia MD, 64% of physicians restrict access to pharma representatives. With such limited access, how does today’s sales representative bring real value to medical practices? One thing is certain, the time of the “detail rep” has come and gone; reps need more robust skills and knowledge right now, leaving a big job for training organizations. The good news is there are some quick wins to help sales reps today.

Current pharma sales training is doing nothing to help reps survive
The current healthcare environment along with the less than flattering physician outlook of pharma sales requires the rep skill set to be much more advanced than ever before. Currently, representative training in many organizations complements the antiquated reach and frequency model, programming a set of pre-determined messaging complemented by a few canned clinical support and objection handling paths returning predictably to the same messages. What’s missing is a working knowledge of all the factors that affect each medical practice and prescriber, and the ability to recognize and address individual practice needs. External factors including the national healthcare environment, managed care, and current trends in each therapeutic area are undeniably important to grasp. Internal factors including patient population characteristics, physician beliefs and history, and office staff nuances and their influence on patient care are also crucial to appreciate and navigate.

Evolve your sales force or face extinction
Recognition of all the relevant issues facing prescribers is only half the battle. The value to each practice is truly added with a working knowledge of how to partner with the entire office to leverage the benefits of each product line and its manufacturer. This includes a working knowledge of internal manufacturer resources readily available to prescribers and their staff. This can include clinical and medical affairs, medical science liaisons, and market access management among others. When you look at the list of additional skills as a whole, they simply boil down to better account management.

What can training organizations do to stop the bleeding?
With this lengthy list of additional skills and knowledge sales reps are pressured to obtain, training must evolve to provide reps with learning opportunities. So how can training assist Pharma sales through this transition? As mentioned, with limited access and a poor reputation, pharma sales reps must bring much more value than ever before. While better account management is a skill developed over time, many of the key tools can certainly be obtained in short order. With many of the skills and knowledge developed being territory specific, the ability for the user to define much of the curriculum is key. Many of these topics are subjective, with each challenge materializing itself individually in each territory. This is best accomplished with a blend of savvy forward looking skill and knowledge development and user defined, territory specific learning.

The place pharma needs to get to is clear, the tactics for getting there less so. Next week we will look deeper into the “how” for training organizations, including the need to leverage today’s technology to create relevant customized learning paths to improve each rep’s chance of survival. In the meantime, if you have any questions please feel free to contact Doug Moore, Dan Becker or Kelly Wagner

Capgemini Consulting Life Sciences Blog Editors: Joe Medel and Jeremy Golan