I don’t think so. But a lot of the mainstream press wants to portray pharma sales representatives as valueless leeches on the healthcare marketplace, seeking for all the wrong reasons to influence doctors to prescribe drugs for all the wrong reasons.
There are plenty of articles on rep/cheerleaders, on office lunches, on giveaways, on off-label promotions – and, of course, it’s not difficult to find troublesome examples. One can easily conclude that the demise of the drug rep would be a welcome development for many in our society. And, of course, many reps are disillusioned with the current climate.
I was talking to a business partner the other day, who has a long background in the pharma sales/training business, and we were wondering if Darwinian natural selection was going to inexorably lead to the extinction of the rep-as-we-know-it. What we should be thinking about, however, is how can companies adapt to the new business climate? What is the new value proposition for a professional representative of a drug company?
All companies need to promote and sell their products in some fashion – that’s just an inescapable element of plain old common sense capitalism – and drug companies are no different. But if you could start all over with a clean slate, how would you design a “new” sales representative – a “new” sales force – modeled not after the old legacy structure, but built strictly to the specifications of our current and evolving marketplace? Would you do a total radical makeover, or do you think only tweaks are needed?
Envision a blank screen in your mind’s eye. Project up on the screen the long-term commercial, medical, regulatory, political, and P.R. trends that are shaping our healthcare market. Put yourself at the head of a brand new company, with no necessity to shape things according to “the old way.” What would you do? Feel free to whiteboard your ideas in the Comments section above!