This post is meant to promote discussion. I’m not going to presume to think that I have anything close to all the answers. But a discussion needs to take place about the current sales model in pharma.
It’s common knowledge that the current pharmaceutical sales force model is inefficient, expensive, and poorly designed to meet current healthcare practitioner business needs. So, here is the question…what would be the IDEAL model for a pharma field force that would actually meet both drug manufacturer, and healthcare practitioner needs?
I’ll throw one idea out there. Feel free to comment, critique, eviscerate, refine, make suggestions, and have a discussion in the comments.
Let’s look at the mass market field force model – sales reps visiting multiple doctors’ offices in a territory. That one rep is meant to provide clinical/product information, business/managed care information, samples, other company information, and build relationships with healthcare providers…all in the space of, say, 3-5 minutes of face-time (if they’re lucky) with any given doctor on a given day, during busy office hours.
Ummm…is something wrong with this picture? Can one person (often starting out quite young and inexperienced) actually do all this? In competition with the increased demands and decreased access marking doctors’ offices?
What if the model included 4 key players that serviced physicians? They would be:
- A territory account manager, whose role is to bring samples, discover needs, and coordinate all other channels of influence for that account (see below for other channels). This account manager would also give basic product information.
- A regional clinical specialist, who is more highly trained (say, a MSL-lite) and able to speak much more in-depth with physicians in the territory about the complex issues of the drug’s usage and clinical challenges (this person will add greater value because much more time is spent acquiring deeper knowledge than just driving around doing “details.”)
- A regional business specialist, who is deeply trained in managed market issues and able to bring genuine in-depth value to the office staff about health plans, prior authorizations, reimbursement issues, etc.
- An on-line detail rep who is available for off-hours (I said off-hours, not off-label!) promotional discussions with doctors, when significant interaction time is much more likely.
What are the advantages of a coordinated structure like this?
- The account manager would cover a larger territory, need to be somewhat less trained initially (they now have “experts” on their team backing them up), and would have new avenues of professional growth that could keep them in the field (they could become product or business experts). This role is now partially sales rep, partially account manager and partially team coordinator.
- The on-line resource would greatly increase the opportunity for getting (virtual) face time for product messaging, esp. during non-office hours (nights and weekends).
- The pharma company would be providing genuine, in-depth value by having clinical and business specialists available for visits.
- If one member of the team is promoted or leaves, there is still continuity with the account, as the team is multi-faceted.
OK, there’s one idea. I’m sure many holes can poked in it. What would you come up with if you had to design the “ideal” setup from scratch??