Most survival guides provide useful hints and tips for increasing your chances but don’t necessarily guarantee your survival. Survival may also result in you surviving but not necessarily in the same shape as you were before the life threatening ordeal (e.g., appendages lost to frostbite or post traumatic stress from the ravages of war). For pharmaceutical sales reps, one of the most likely outcomes of your survival will probably be that it will not be in the context of your current job function as a “detailing” sales person.
Survival also requires that you do things differently than you otherwise might. For example, you might be thinking some of the suggestions below are the responsibility of the managed care executives and not yours. Also, these suggestions are probably not going to be condoned or approved by the District Sales Manager who wants you to focus on delivering the 3 message points per product to your targeted high volume prescribers.
With those caveats, the suggestions that follow may provide you an opportunity to survive (in the pharmaceutical industry) where others might not.
- Be aware of your environment and the changes taking place. You’ve probably been told someplace in your past that you are responsible for the “business” in your territory. Your survival tip is that you have to take this to another level of market understanding and forge relationships beyond your call list.
- What insurance companies are operating in your territory? Who are your contact people for that insurance company?
- Which PBMs are driving the most business in your territory? Who are your contacts?
- Do you know the people making the formulary committee decisions that affect your territory?
- Do you have a good understanding of what they are looking for, what they are expecting from the pharmaceutical industry, and how you might be able to accommodate those expectations?
- If you were managing this managed market for the company, what would you be doing? What would you be doing differently?
- Are you making calls or developing field intelligence? Your ultimate survival depends more on the field intelligence you gather and assimilate than the number of calls you make. It provides you a knowledge base and level of expertise beyond your current job function. Most importantly, your field intelligence can help you anticipate changes and the impact of those changes on you and your company.
- Do you have enough local support, contacts, and relationships to help you do your field intelligence gathering effectively and efficiently? Do you have a good relationship with company managed care executives in your area? How valuable is your rolodex in the context of the evolving new healthcare market? Managed market contacts and relationships will be worth a lot more than your collective physician database. Even if you have to go to another pharmaceutical company, your managed market relationships, knowledge, and expertise have far greater value in the evolving new healthcare market.
- Are you developing and strengthening your technical expertise across therapeutic categories? This goes beyond just knowing your product but also knowing competitive and pipeline products as well. Do you have disease as well as product expertise? Do you know the literature? Like in most survival situations where physical strength and endurance are often tested, in pharmaceutical sales, the strength of your relevant technical expertise increases your chances for survival.
- Based on survival tips 1 through 4, have you drafted a plan? Putting it in writing makes it real and will help you identify any shortcomings and gaps that you need to attend to. As with any survival situation, one slip up or oversight can be disastrous while one right move at the right time can mean the difference between life and death.
Good field intelligence, strong managed market relationships, relevant technical expertise, and a well thought out plan will increase your chances for survival. Again, your survival may be in a different context, but at least you have a better chance of surviving.
For all those dedicated pharmaceutical sales reps out there today, you have a difficult job in an increasingly challenging market and I genuinely wish you the best of success and hope this helps you at least to start thinking about developing your own personal survival plan.