Previously, Jim held variety of Sales and Marketing positions within the Pharmaceutical industry as well as Global Strategic Marketing in Medical Devices.
Q1: What would you say are the two biggest changes going on in the overall healthcare space, which are impacting the pharmaceutical commercial model?
If you look at the last 20 years, the sole decision maker was the physician. Now look at the landscape. You have big providers, payors, government, PBMs, among others all have a hand in the decision process. Some companies see these entities as obstacles to the customer (physician); to be successful, you need to look at each of these groups as customers and look to satisfy their needs as well as the physician.
The second area is Evidence Based Medicine. With the investment in Electronic Health Records, many providers have access to a robust amount of clinical data. These provider systems are using that data to make decisions about pharmaceutical products. The upshot is that the Randomized Clinical Trial is no longer the only source of evidence on the block. How are the commercial organizations going to deal with a customer that may have more data about your product than you?
Q2: Do you think that social media, and DTC communications, may eventually erode the need for substantial sales forces?
Actually, no. I think the market is continuing to increase in complexity. With that, a commercial organization needs to apply resources across the market. I do think that the “detail” rep will need to continue to become more savvy about the evolving pharmaceutical market.
Q3: How do you see current regulatory trends impacting the way pharmaceutical field sales will occur in the coming years?
I actually think that after the shock wears off, you will see an increase in the importance of the pharmaceutical representative. Notice I did not use the term sales. Given the increase in areas such as Evidence Based Medicine and the increasing complexity of treatments with biologics and a move towards personalized medicine with an increase in theragnostics, the representative will be looked upon to have access to the right evidence to help the doctor-patient interaction.
Q4: If you could pinpoint one way in which sales training has had to change the most substantially in the past 10 years, what would that be? What do you think it will be in the next 5 years?
In the past ten years, the sales representative needed to understand the business side of medicine with the advent of Managed Care. Going forward, the operative word will be transparency. Data will be generated and available for your product from a variety of different sources. The representative that embraces a world of complete transparency will succeed. That means really knowing when and where your product should be used and where it should not.
Q5: What is the best thing that a pharmaceutical company can do in the current environment to create a more positive perception in the marketplace?
As an adjunct to the previous answer, we need to embrace an environment where there is more knowledge about the real world performance of your products outside of your company than inside. One word of caution: Before you decide to live in a house without window shades, you better go to the gym first.
Browse through some prior Impact Interviews here.