Biopharma Sales Operations stabilizing after years of cost-cutting

TGaS Advisors' study predicts more sales ops budgeting--but more operational challenges

TGaS Advisors (East Norriton, PA) collaborates with a network of over 50 pharma companies, providing surveys and guidance on a variety of commercial and marketing functions. In a recent TGaS Commercial Operations Landscape Study, data show that operations teams’ efforts to absorb change and new capabilities while reducing levels of overall investment have stabilized. Findings also point to the need for sales operations to evolve more rapidly than ever to stay ahead of continuing changes in the pharmaceutical landscape. 
“From 2010 to 2013, spending in Sales Operations functions declined by 30%,” says Curt Staab, SVP at TGaS. “However, TGaS noticed a single digit increase in 2014 over 2013 and, while the 2015 data has not yet been completed, we anticipate levels similar to those of 2014.” Staab notes that the functional responsibilities of Sales Ops is changing: It is “supporting an ever growing number of different sales forces and data sets, together with sales management’s desire to constantly experiment with different sales force structures. The net result is that even though resource levels have stopped declining, Sales Operations teams supporting all these demands may be stretched just as thin as they were when resources were slashed so drastically.”
Surveys by organizations like ZS Associates showed a comparable decline in the size of field sales teams in recent years, dropping to around 62,000 in 2014; so it makes some sense that Sales Ops would experience a similar decline. But with the evolution of nonpersonal communications between pharma marketers and the prescribing community, along with the restrictions that sales reps experience in meeting face-to-face with physicians, industry managers are challenged to handle the new marketing environment.