Pharma Sales Reps Facing a Hostile World

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samrtconsulting's picture
Pharma Sales Reps Facing a Hostile World

The medical world is showing its ugly, hostile face to pharma sales reps.  The number of doctors that are willing to meet with pharma sales reps on a regular basis is dropping alarmingly, and the group that doesn’t want to meet with them at all is growing even faster.

ZS Associates, a marketing consulting firm, has issued a report showing that just 58% of doctors are open to reps, meaning that they meet with 70% of the sales people who visit them.  This percentage shows a drop of 18% from last year.   
In the same way, doctors that completely refuse to meet with reps account for 9% of the total, while last year they were 6%.  In one year, the percentage has doubled.

But the trouble doesn’t stop there.  The doctors that are open to sales reps are getting pickier, almost all of them are not willing to see reps more than once a month, not even their favorite ones.  

According to this data, it is estimated that about 8 million planned sales calls are worthless, since companies are assigning reps to call on doctors who absolutely decline seeing them or who won’t see them as often as management would like.  To put it simply, this is a waste of time and money, more exactly, a waste of $1 billion a year. 
How does this leave pharma marketing? 

On one side, it kind of exonerates pharma sales reps, because management should be able to accept that doctors won’t open up just because they are forcing their reps on them.

On the other side, it is an indicator for the need of a more efficient sales model, where marketing efforts are adapted to local conditions.  In places where doctors are very unfriendly, it may be more beneficial to establish new strategies like online detailing, for example.  Doctors who want to see reps only once a month should be respected and contacted only within the time frame they consider acceptable.
Your pharmaceutical consultancy firm will confirm it; the worse you can do, image, money, and employee satisfaction wise, is to force yourself on others out of desperation; that will only bring you down faster and more painfully.
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Nigel Smart
Nigel Smart is a pharmaceutical consultant and founder of the pharmaceutical consulting blog.

Sami Tuomivaara
Sami Tuomivaara's picture


Hehe... This is all wrong... There is nothing ugly and hostile to decline meeting sales rep if you don't want to. How about letting the doctors who are not interested in getting information shoved down their throats by biased and pushy reps have get their information from peer-reviewed medical journals?


Jason King
Jason King's picture
Maybe there should be a

Maybe there should be a distinction made between sales and marketing functions. Marketing is (supposed to be) about understanding what your customers want, tailoring your offering in such a way that is satisfys this demand and ideally "delights " them. This positive experience would then motivate customers to maintain good links to that company.

In most hospital situations, physicians are working on the same type of pathologies and thus tend to use the same drug classes. Reps might be able to persuade a doctor to start using their drug instead of that of a competitor, but even if this results in a cheaper bill for the hospital, it is not really in the individual doctor's interests as he doesn't pay for the drugs. Ultimately, if the encounter with the rep doesn't improve the way the doctor works or patient health, there is no reason to see the rep. More frequent rep visits can therefore only result in customer annoyance and reduced margins. Pharma needs to develop new and better products - then the reps would find themselves being invited in the door.