Lilly sales representatives are learning about customer service by observing Disney Animal Kingdom workers as they “[greet] families at the gate and [answer] questions around the attractions,” according to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal (read “Drug Sales Reps Soften Pitches“).

“Lilly’s most recent national sales meeting, held at Disney’s business training institute in Florida in February, was devoted to customer service, not product training,” said the WSJ.

“Increasing physician satisfaction, it turns out, is a much better way to promote a pharmaceutical agent than simply telling them to write more prescriptions or what the benefits” are, said David Ricks, president of Lilly’s global business unit.

I’m not sure it was necessary for Lilly to bring its sales reps to a Disney resort in order to learn about the “new service model,” which I have been writing about for the last few years in collaboration with Kantar Health (a client). You can read the latest installment, “Stakeholder Effectiveness: Maximizing the Value of Your Interactions with Multiple Stakeholders” (here – use discount code ‘101701stake’), which ranks the top 15 pharmaceutical companies on how well their sales reps provide services desired by physicians. Also, you can read the first article in the series, “Reinventing the Sales Model: Moving from Sales to Service” (pdf).

Each year Kantar Health asks physicians in the U.S. and Europe if they have started to notice a move toward a “service model” experience, where other services are emphasized beyond sales reps detailing physicians, such as patient education and information and internet-based services. They quantify this using what is called a TRI*M™ index. The lower the TRI*M, the better service provided and the higher the ranking. The 2009 through 2011 U.S. Primary Care Physician rankings are shown in the following chart (click on it for an enlarged view).

Lilly improved its rank somewhat in the last two but is still not among the “Top Tier” companies such as Pfizer, Merck, and GSK. Hopefully, Disney’s animal trainers will help improve Lilly’s TRI*M index in 2012.

Some Interesting Numbers Regarding US Sales Reps & Budget

As reported in the WSJ (op cit), “the industry has slashed 33,000 sales jobs in the U.S. from its peak five years ago, when 105,000 representatives flooded the zone. Most recently, AstraZeneca PLC said it would cut its U.S. sales staff by 24%, or 1,150 jobs. The industry spent $14.5 billion on marketing in the U.S. in 2010, down about 15% from five years ago, according to Cegedim Strategic Data.”