There’s been a lot of talk in the past year about how we need to re-think the role and profile of the pharmaceutical/biotech sales rep.
This dialogue needs to happen, given the trends that are rapidly shrinking the size of sales forces. Of course, when you poll the doctors, they are going to focus on the need for greater depth of clinical knowledge. That’s certainly important. And, if you talk to the rest of the staff, then knowledge of health plans and administrative/business issues rise to the surface. As you’d expect.
But now, let’s take a look at it from the shoes of the pharmaceutical company – the executives and managers responsible for outreach to the medical community. What does the new new rep need to look like with their perspective in mind?
The old model had much to do with reach and frequency – getting the message out. Looking ahead, I think it’s going to require a mentality much more focused on opportunity and strategy – that is, approaching one’s job as a business, and intelligently using available information to maximize proper patient use of the most appropriate therapy.
Often this includes training in something like business acumen, but perhaps a more helpful description of the overall mindset would be something along the lines of business opportunism - savviness/insight joined to creative initiative and enterprising strategy (including pulling in other resources) to accomplish the desired business end. And while one means may be messaging with reach and frequency in mind, that is certainly NOT the end!
A business opportunist would look at the accounts in a territory with a thoughtful finger on the pulse of prescribing volume AND current prescribing habits AND treatment practices AND health plan coverage variations AND patient flow AND other important variables, and be empowered to ask this question: “Where is the greatest potential impact for the most (appropriate) patients?” This is a very different mindset than, “How can I make my call numbers this week?”
Better clinical training instead of meal-and-message-delivery services? Absolutely. Healthcare and office process knowledge? Certainly. But perhaps it’s time to re-think the whole sales rep model, and start deploying business opportunists. I’m thinking advanced training for reps who have been in the field for a year or two should be geared more toward strategic business skills. What do you think?
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