Blog Article

Rebranding the pharmaceutical sales rep? A good idea – when accompanied by real change

Posted by Ian Wilcox

Ian Wilcox

You may or may not agree with the negative portrayal of the pharmaceutical sales representative in recent years. But one fact is irrefutable: the title ‘sales rep’ no longer describes how this role is evolving.

Less and less are these reps really selling a product. More and more, they’re providing value: showing how a drug benefits patients and payers in ways that go beyond clinical efficacy. The passivity of the term ‘representative’ does little to capture this new notion of providing value – a notion that is core to both the future of the role and the effectiveness of the entire commercial organization.

What this new role looks like

More and more, those in this ‘outreach’ role will follow a more sophisticated route to the customer.

  • They will drive value as liaisons and trusted advisors – helping physicians and institutions gain deeper understanding (and appreciation) of both the medical and economic merit of various therapies
  • To accomplish their objectives they will need both a strong scientific background and refined relationship skills
  • As collaborators/problem-solvers, they’ll provide services not only through their own knowledge, but also by tapping others and finding information resources – from within the company or elsewhere.
  • At the highest level, they’ll help develop and introduce a suite of services that extend beyond providing pharmacological information.

The new outreach role truly will be different – not just a close cousin of the traditional sales rep.

Beyond new title and role

How do you find the right people to perform these new and more sophisticated, complex functions?

Just redefining and renaming a job won’t cut it if companies send the same people out there without making sure they are the right people. Sporting a new business card, even for a newly-defined role, actually can be counterproductive if the person in that role doesn’t have the skills, training or competencies to handle it.

In the sales rep downsizing of the past 5-6 years, we’ve seen that more often than not, those who remained on board were vetted by old outmoded measures (e.g., visits made, physician prescription volume, etc.) – measures that will have less bearing on the redefined role. Some of these survivors will be able to handle the new role; others will not.

Bottom line

So, first and foremost, reposition your commercial organization and then make sure you have the right people (no matter what you call them), with the right skills dealing with customers. But a name change might blow a breath of fresh air across customer relationships – a breeze that accompanies a bigger customer climate change ahead.


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