What does your CEO think about Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives?
In our series about pharmaceutical representatives we have covered factors impacting their job function, market expectations, what needs to be done to launch and market a pharmaceutical product, and what it means to be a professional pharmaceutical representative. Today we are going to discuss the organizational implications and what has to happen throughout the corporation to make this transformation for professional representatives a successful reality.
If we work back from how the market is evolving and what companies need to do to address the changing expectations of a broader and at times, more sophisticated customer (not just physicians), we can see that the implications for change at a pharmaceutical company are organizational and not just for “sales”. This is truly transformational for executives and senior management, R & D, and commercial operations. Companies will fail miserably if they are merely looking at how to change their sales organization (e.g., restructure, new compensation, and new titles).
Of all the issues we could discuss, getting all the functional areas aligned for this change is the one that precludes most pharmaceutical sales organizations from making the fundamental changes they know they should make in light of the evolving new healthcare market. What we are talking about is formulating an organizational strategy that creates a comprehensive culture and support system that embraces the role of the professional representative so they and the company products can succeed in the evolving new healthcare market.
The first change that needs to take place is the organizational mindset from the traditional “sales” position to that of the professional representative. Your CEO and executive team play a huge role in this. They must see professional representatives in the light we have described and not as “expendable field people” deployed tactically to drive sales. This mindset change requires that executives and senior management understand the changing healthcare market at the customer level (not just physicians). They must appreciate how the role of professional representative will be different from that of the sales job they have known for decades and probably did themselves. If executives and senior management don’t understand the difference, it will make no sense to implement any of the other organizational changes needed. In fact, the other changes are probably not going to get their support because they will seem like a waste of time and money to the “sales rep” oriented executive team.
If it is not somebody on the executive team proposing the changes it is incumbent on the person or team that is to make sure the executive team fully comprehends and supports the strategy, organizational implications, and the rationale for the changes being proposed. As bureaucratic as large companies can be, but more importantly because of the multi-functional implications, this is not just a discussion over coffee. It will require well thought out planning with a series of discussions to work out details of the functional implications and to garner functional support.
Each company and executive team will be different. Company strategy, financial position, product pipelines, and even the expertise and competency within the organization will factor into how receptive an executive team might be to the magnitude of change being proposed. Whether or not you can get the executive team to buy in and how to do that may be interesting fodder for another series but in our next post, let’s just assume the executive team is on board. They not only understand and are ready for change but embrace it, expects it, and they are ready to support it. I know this is a big assumption but we can’t get to where we need to be without it so let’s play this out in the next few posts. What else has to change? Stay tuned. email@example.com