The Changing Role of Pharma Sales Reps Reaching Physicians Requires a New Level of SophisticationA conversation with Nancy Lurker, CEO of PDI, Inc. (See guest bio), about the challenge of developing and deploying new types of pharmaceutical sales professionals as part of flexible, scalable field teams designed to meet changing market conditions.
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Although the pharmaceutical industry has been historically slow to embrace change in its sales approach, decreasing margins are driving even the most reluctant to find more flexible approaches at a lower cost to meet the needs of its ever widening customer population. Discussions with industry leaders testify to this fact, and although each company interviewed may have its own perception on how the sales models will evolve, they all agree that strategic partnerships with outsourced providers will play a significant role.
At the very minimum, this means moving away from the deep reach and high frequency approach of countless details to a call approach based on “value outcome selling,” according to a Senior Director at a top-ten pharmaceutical company. Indeed this evolving sales approach calls for representatives to have a much higher clinical capability and a more progressive service mentality; in other words, be more responsive to the needs of their customers. As one Executive Director at a privately held pharmaceutical company expressed, “We can no longer afford to sample drop at $100/call and we can’t afford to lose any more physician face time. We need to find a new way to engage the physician and deliver our clinical content in a thought provoking, highly intuitive manner.”
- How brand managers need to shift from a silo approach in health care provider outreach tactics to a multi-channel approach that optimally reaches physicians with messaging how and where they want it.
- The ability to capture Customer Relationship Management (CRM) /Customer Service Management (CSM) information with digital and personal communication smart technology will allow the industry to become more and more intelligent on what the HCP needs and wants to know and can then craft their messaging in a more impactful way. (Other industries are already using such tools to great advantage.)
- Messaging will become less and less obtrusive, and be part of an overall information flow tailored to the particular desires of the HCP. Essentially the HCP will drive the message delivery versus pharma.
- Personal sales visits will remain part of the mix but the role of the sales rep will continue to evolve and become more effective as they optimize the data collected on HCP preferences and deliver to those preferences.
- Many brand managers will look to outsourced providers for guidance in these areas and to take advantage of the expertise these providers can bring to the table.
Nancy Lurker, a veteran in the biopharmaceutical industry, joined PDI in November 2008, as Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Company’s Board of Directors. Ms. Lurker has more than 25 years of experience in pharmaceutical sales, marketing, and commercial operations.
Prior to joining PDI, Ms. Lurker was Senior Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer for Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (the U.S. subsidiary of Novartis AG), where she oversaw a product portfolio in multiple therapeutic areas representing multi-billion dollars in annual sales.
Ms. Lurker was also President and CEO of ImpactRx, Group Vice President-Global Primary Care Products for Pharmacia Corporation, and a member of Pharmacia’s U.S. Executive Management Committee. She began her career at Bristol Myers Squibb where she quickly rose from Senior Sales Representative to Senior Director of Worldwide Cardiovascular Franchise Management during her 14 year tenure.
Ms Lurker graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. in Biology and Chemistry from Seattle Pacific University, and holds an MBA from the University of Evansville (Evansville, Indiana).