Can Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives Still Add Value?
If we are trying to figure out how sales representatives can add value, we must start with those who will determine whether or not there is value being added… the customer. This may be obvious to some, especially sales representatives, but over the past several decades pharmaceutical industry management has characterized the “value added” in the context of what sales representatives can do for the company or the product and not what sales representatives can do for the customer. So let’s start with the customer (which is not just physicians in the evolving new healthcare market) and what their needs are and how we can add value by meeting or exceeding those expectations.
I don’t want to get off on a tangent but the needs and expectations I’m talking about here are not for things like lunches being delivered or a return of the tchotchkes. Unfortunately, the industry trained physician offices into developing these expectations in lieu of meaningful clinical discussions about products.
So let’s review some of the evolving market expectations for pharmaceuticals that the industry must be ready to meet, especially in light of healthcare reform:
- Safe and effective products that can be differentiated (clinically proven and with label claims where possible) from currently available treatment options (including preventive medicines)
- A clear understanding with supportive data for the basic science behind the product, its mechanism of action, and rationale for efficacy and potential side effects and adverse reactions.
- Clinical data to support “comparative efficacy” and other claims of differentiation or even superiority (justify the premium pricing)
- Personalized medicine supported by biomarkers and companion diagnostics that can predict response, determine extent of response, and anticipate side effects and adverse reactions with specificity and accuracy
- Real world pharmacoeconomics data to support the economic value of the product and pricing that reflects the value being delivered. Again, justify the premium pricing.
- Hospitals will want data and methodologies to demonstrate the impact of products on newly established quality metrics and outcomes data that will be used to force rank their institution performance against national standards.
One of the first implications of meeting these more demanding market expectations is that pharmaceutical companies must readjust their thinking to be more selective in their pipeline evaluations and a lot more comprehensive in their approach to research and development. In the past, you could just find a compound, identify the potential indications for use, do the clinical studies, get approval, and go to market. This traditional “get it to market” approach to R & D will deliver products and data that fall short of market expectations and hamper commercial viability of products in the evolving new healthcare market.
It also becomes apparent that regardless of the representative’s scientific or technical expertise, even the best of sales representatives will struggle to address these market expectations if the research foundation and data are lacking. I believe this is one of the reasons sales representatives are struggling today. Pharmaceutical research has not kept pace with the demands of the market and sales representatives are being asked to compensate for limited regulatory product labeling, a lack of product differentiation, and minimal real world clinical data that can be used in product discussions.
But let’s assume your company is committed to a much more comprehensive research approach to deliver truly innovative new products with robust data packages. This has significant implications for how pharmaceutical sales representatives can add value for customers. You might be surprised by some of the implications we’ll discuss in our next post. email@example.com