Between 3-D printing, biogenetics, healthcare reform and advancements that haven’t even been made public yet, the pharmaceutical industry is constantly innovating new technologies, medicines and techniques. This makes the sector interesting to work in, but at times, selling products and services can be difficult. With the industry rife with competition and uncertainty in the face of federal regulations, sales professionals have their work cut out for them.
On top of all those big pharma advancements, the healthcare industry is similarly in a state of flux. And as a result, pharmaceutical sales teams must start a revolution and inject new life into old methods.
Revolution in In-Person
Pharmaceutical representatives have fine-tuned their in-person communication skills over the course of their careers, and as time progressed, it seemed that with the gift of gab, some hard evidence and a firm handshake, they could seal any deal. However, what happens when pharmaceutical sales teams are no longer given the opportunity to have face-to-face interactions?
“53% of U.S. physicians put ‘moderate-to-severe’ restrictions on sales rep visits.”
According to the spring 2015 AccessMonitor report from ZS, physicians are increasingly dismissing sales representatives. Since this study of over 400,000 sales records was first conducted in 2008, doctors around the United States have been steadily avoiding in-person interactions with big pharma sales teams. The report noted that 53 percent of physicians in the U.S. put “moderate-to-severe” restrictions on who can visit them and make a pitch. Even worse, some specialties are more stringent than others, meaning that certain sectors of big pharma could be in big trouble.
“In fact, each specialty has further limited access to sales reps since the first AccessMonitor report in 2008,” said Pratap Khedkar, managing principal and leader of global pharmaceuticals at ZS. “The four most access-restrictive specialties in 2008 ranged from 60 percent to 76 percent accessible. By comparison, the four most accessible specialties today land in this same range, while the most restrictive specialties, such as nephrology, fell to as low as 19 percent accessible. This 43 percent drop in rep accessibility for nephrology is an indication of accessibility issues that will have big implications for the pharmaceutical industry.”
Selling to a New Generation of Doctors
ZS’s findings are threatening to pharmaceuticals sales as we know them, but that just means that these practices must evolve and adjust accordingly. Primarily, sales representatives should take the lack of in-person meetings as an indication more so of the times, rather than the willingness of physicians to work with pharmaceutical firms. The world is just different in the 21st century, and today’s younger doctors who grew up in this era have adjusted to the new way of life and healthcare.
“With minimal exposure to sales reps during medical training and fellowship, the new generation of doctors limits in-person visits with sales reps. We’ve watched this trend for nearly eight years and realize its implications for the industry,” Malcolm Sturgis, associate principal at ZS, posited. “There is hope, however, if sales forces can take advantage of the dozens of alternative communication channels available today. These range from conferences, to peer-to-peer programs, to digital channels – such as mobile platforms or social media forums.”
In fact, Accenture discovered that the number digital sales interactions were expected to grow at a rate of around 25 percent each year from 2013 to the end of 2015. Unsurprisingly, to do so, big pharma sales managers are turning to third-party service providers – the likes of which generally provide cloud computing, big data, digital content platforms and managed print services. In fact, 66 percent of sales managers indicated that they will use third parties to improve digital interactions. These teams simply don’t have the ability to generate materials for their sales professionals or build out complex systems for digital content sharing.
“Sales teams should explain the outcomes and benefits of their products.”
Having a Digital Conversation
Outside of going digital, pharmaceutical sales representatives need to change the focus on what they pitch. In a conversation with Medical Marketing & Media, James Crowley, managing director of life sciences at Accenture, asserted that sales teams should focus on explaining the outcomes and benefits of their products, especially directly to patients. This is made possible by providing physicians with materials for the office, such as brochures and posters. Third parties are particularly useful in this regard, especially managed print services, which can deliver marketing and sales materials as well as host them online digitally. After all, Crowley told the source that pharmaceutical firms must empower their sales representatives “with new tools,” and also provide them information that ties their pitches back to fundamental sales models.
New practices, regulations and technologies might be disrupting the pharmaceutical industry, but sales representatives can embrace this change by developing innovative, digital sales strategies that focus on providing physicians with the best products for optimal outcomes for their patients.
The State of Learning and Development 2016 report is produced in conjunction with InSync Training to find out what are current L&D challenges and what the L&D professionals are planning on implementing in the future. Download your copy here.
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