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Posts Tagged ‘specialty pharma’

d-grazOver the years, I have had countless discussions with training leaders about training for specialty field forces vs. primary care. But my recent conversation with Dave Graziano (AVP, Immunology Sales) was particularly enlightening. Dave has held multiple roles in both sales leadership and sales training with several companies and he has strong views about how companies can – indeed, must – evolve to better equip their specialty sales forces.

Any good discussion begins with clear distinctions, and Dave had a very specific place where he wanted to draw the line between sales forces. For our purposes, “primary care” would consist of Pills/Creams/Prescriptions – the classic model of making enough calls to doctors who would generate enough volume to meet sales goals. This promotional approach involves little or no patient or process assistance, and focuses on the typical tools of influence that we’re all familiar with, including selling models, scripted messages, etc.

And – here’s the thing – it doesn’t necessarily prepare sales reps for success in a specialty market.

By contrast, we have Injections/Infusions/Buy-and-bill, including Biologics, Immunotherapy, and Rare Disease areas. These types of products will often require a company representative to roll up their sleeves and get involved in a process – as Dave put it, “owning the prescription all the way” to actual usage. As we discussed the skill set and activities involved here, it resembled what we might typically think of in a merged role of salesperson, account manager, project manager, and consultant.

Dave uses the analogy of a machine – the complex inter-relationships of the patient journey, the HCP/staff pathway, the specialty pharmacy, and the various other cogs involved in actually bringing together a patient and the specific treatment. Understanding and operating a complex machine (instead of just delivering messages) requires a whole different approach to training, because the nature of the role is more sophisticated and multi-faceted.

In fact, one area of best practices Dave underscored was better, and deeper, training on both the patient journey and the full HCP pathway for the use of these products. Simple sales call simulations cannot adequately cover the breadth of knowledge and situational awareness needed. Multi-stage scenarios which include the range of people and processes that are actually involved will prove to be of far greater value, and specialty training should adjust to those realities instead of mimicking the more basic primary care approach.

Many companies have given lip service to the term “consultative selling” (which may be little more than improved listening and questioning skills), but this part of the marketplace does, in fact, require that company representatives evolve into true consultants and active partners. The competitive advantage of becoming hands-on trusted advisors who understand the complexity of the landscape and who “own the prescription” as it moves all the way down the field should be quite evident.

Hopefully, our training will evolve to include a richer palette of business acumen, including environmental awareness (uncovering of client challenges and pain points), directed communications, and process facilitation. Specialty sales joined to consultative, operational implementation. That’s a real value-add.

One question that this opens up is quite interesting – how will companies alter their hiring practices to reflect the needed skill set for this type of client relationship? And should we be far more hesitant to shift primary care sales reps into specialty roles without a major shift in how we view transitional training?

Food for thought – feel free to add your input in the comments.

Impactiviti is devoted to improving the craft of life sciences training, through strategic consulting, vendor recommendations, and network-building.

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Novartis to cut a bunch more (sales) jobs; does another management shuffle – As reorganizations go, this one reaches most parts of the company. First, the drugmaker is cutting 550 sales reps, although half of the jobs are said to vacant, as part of a new business model with five new regional units for reaching doctors and insurers called “Customer Centric Initiative” (back story). The move should save $80 million annually as of 2010…more

But, at least Novartis is making some profitIn good times and in bad times, people will get sick. That reality has helped Swiss drug maker Novartis post strong earnings for the third quarter on Monday, in spite of the banking crisis and global economic slowdown. Yet even as the pharmaceutical sector sticks to the pattern of being insulated from greater financial troubles, growth at Novartis will not be as robust as last year…more

Is specialty pharma the place to be? – Here are some interesting numbers to chew on…

B-I has some interesting stuff in the pipeline – Boehringer Ingelheim announced that patients and physicians may have several innovative Type 2 Diabetes treatment alternatives available in the coming years. At its Second International Research & Development Press Conference, Boehringer Ingelheim unveiled a pipeline of unique oral anti-diabetic compounds in phase II and III, establishing the company in the Type 2 Diabetes arena…more

Genentech sales soaring – It seems Genentech made the right choice in turning down a takeover bid from its majority holder, the Swiss pharmaceuticals company Roche Holding: its sales are soaring and investors apparently don’t mind that its latest earnings missed Wall Street’s estimates, possibly because of costs associated with defending itself against the bid…more

New study: Vioxx does cause heart risks – An analysis of an infamous Vioxx study found the notorious painkiller does, indeed, double the risk of heart attacks and strokes, although the likelihood of a serious cardiovascular event lessened one year after people no longer took the pill…more

Pfizer’s desperate times/desparate measures – As the big drugmaker grapples with its big slowdown, the board and top management are exploring a number of interesting ways to jumpstart business, according to sources. The moves may involve laying off still more employees – a large number of reps, for instance; plans to sell off some of the R&D units that are being eliminated and possibly purchasing a brand-name biotech, our sources tell us…more

Effient: wait ’til Feb – Members of the FDA’s Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee have been contacted about their availability for a February panel meeting specifically on prasugrel, sources tell The Pink Sheet. And the agency’s Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee may also be convened…more

Fred Baron to receive Tysabri after all (this human/medical interest story is a bit involved, but brings up important issues about experimental/compassionate use).

High-dose Zevalin with stem-cell infusion leads to strong survival results for NHL.

Abbott’s experimental bioabsorable stent looking very interesting – Abbott today announced two-year data from 30 patients in its ABSORB clinical trial, demonstrating that its bioabsorbable drug eluting stent successfully treated coronary artery disease and was absorbed into the walls of treated arteries within two years, leaving behind blood vessels that appeared to move and function similar to unstented arteries…more

FDA becomes FDelAy – Takeda drug, others stalled at agency. Who needs those stinkin’ deadlines?? But, next-generation Astelin (from Meda) does get an approval.

Wisconsin Medical Society bans pharma gifts – The doctors’ group, which boasts 12,000 members, has joined a growing number of academic medical centers, professional societies and legislators that have decided gifts from the pharmaceutical industry are questionable, if not unacceptable forms of influence…more

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