“Toto, You Are Not in Kansas Anymore!”
Picture what our promotion options will be in 7 years, with new technology surfacing each month. While we can’t predict the future, one thing we can predict is that the pharmaceutical sales force - as we have traditionally known it – will become a smaller component of the total promotion mix.
The sales force has long played a key role in the introduction, promotion and support of branded Rx products. They have played a critical role in pre-launch, launch, growth, and maintenance of market share as branded products mature and reach the “patent cliff”. They have maintained the critical face of brands and companies among the top tiers of physicians that write in a given therapeutic area. Their relationships with Health Care Professionals (HCPs) have long opened doors for new products and new insight.
Pharmaceutical sales reps have typically cultivated and nurtured relationships with HCPs, who may have been key opinion leaders, respected specialists in a given field, high volume clinical therapists, or simply health professionals who enjoyed a break from the rigors of diagnosis. While these HCPs certainly contributed to revenue targets, they also provided feedback on therapeutic efficacy under varying circumstances, discussed the virtues of specific products with their peers, and most definitely accounted for a dramatic percentage (Pareto’s 80/20 principle comes to mind) of total product sold. Fewer and fewer of HCPs that match this profile exist.
To this end, while the tactic of targeting HCPs with in-the-field sales force will continue to be integral to overall communication strategy, it is safe to say that the frequency of contact between these two groups will continue to decline. We all know the reasons:
- New products aren’t achieving the market penetration anticipated, and are more likely to be specialty focused with less interest to the general practitioner
- Many physicians don’t have the time to see reps
- They may not be permitted face to face exchange with representatives
- With more HCPs seeking insight “digitally”, the variety of channels available to stream new insight in a timely fashion continues to grow diluting the power of the in-the-field sales force
There will be no return to “the good old days”. The pharmaceutical industry is struggling with the challenge of sales force management and alignment, as we continue to see more staffing reductions across all companies. Sales force planning of the future will be less about assigning call plan optimization scenarios, and more about integrating face to face visits with the multitude of other channels and tactics available. Watch for our next blog on this topic when we present the planning cycle of the future, the tools, tactics, metrics and potential impact. Goodbye Kansas!