Contract sales organizations are evolving alongside the companies they serve
Last year saw a few reports pointing to the current buoyancy—and major forecasted growth—of the contract sales organization (CSO) in the life sciences space. Visiongain valued the 2020 global pharma contract sales market at just over $5 billion and reported that it is set to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% by 2031. Transparency Market Research’s 2021 Pharmaceutical Contract Sales Outsourcing report placed the market’s 2020 value at $7 billion and forecasts a CAGR of 7% to 2031. India’s Maximize Market Research expected the market to reach $14.5 billion by 2026.
Firms offering contract sales services range from those well known in the pharma support space to others more focused on the sales operation. Companies include Promoveo Health, IQVIA, Ashfield Engage Medical Sales, and Syneos Health. As Visiongain noted in its 2021 report, however, many firms are now widening their service offerings, “simplifying their customers’ operations and gaining the maximum share of their outsourcing budgets, driven by the willingness of pharma to reduce the number of outsourcers they use.”
Jennifer Meldrum, co-founder and managing partner of PEAK Pharma Solutions, agrees that the CSO market is strong. The pharma industry is evolving, she says, and while this evolution began before COVID-19, the pandemic forced the industry “into a revolution of sorts.” As such, she explains, “organizations are looking for flexible solutions and partners that allow them to remain nimble, adjust course of action quickly, test new concepts, and prove return-on-investment (ROI) before significant investment of time, effort, and financials.”
And just as the pharma landscape has evolved, so have the CSO services provided. While “CSO” is widely recognized as an acronym for contract sales organization—traditionally providing contracted sales teams to supplement an organizations’ existing structure—at PEAK Pharma Solutions, for example, CSO “actually stands for ‘contract solutions organization,’” says Meldrum. She explains, “This is because we provide solutions that go well beyond the sales function, including medical, marketing, project management, training, recruiting, etc.”
In EVERSANA’s case, the company offers solutions to support commercial growth across the pharma and life sciences, “helping manufacturers deploy field deployment teams—comprising both sales and medical professionals—to accelerate brand awareness and grow their prescriber base.” It really comes down to efficiency and costs, says Greg Skalicky, EVERSANA’s chief revenue officer and head of global commercialization. “If a brand is launching a product and needs a dedicated sales team to connect with clinicians to educate them on the product, manufacturers must determine the costs to find, onboard, train, and manage a sales team, versus partnering with a company to outsource the same solution.” The right outsourcing partner, he says, can bring experience and knowledge of a therapeutic area, training, and other infrastructure support that can help manufacturers focus on their product launch while knowing the outside sales team is being built and managed by a proven entity.
Partnering with a CSO also allows new firms to set up their footprint in a strategic way, says Meldrum. “CSOs like PEAK are in a position to support, adjust, identify gaps, and provide timely and curated solutions for the ever-changing industry,” she says. CSOs can help pilot concepts and ideas and demonstrate proof of concept for partners. “You can essentially test out a strategy, with the ability to initiate and execute relatively quickly, and evaluate the outcomes before launching such a concept internally.”
Size doesn’t matter
Pharmaceutical companies of all sizes can benefit from outsourcing sales. For small startup biotech and pharma companies, an outsourced partner “can really help scale growth quickly to meet the company’s needs as they evolve,” says Skalicky. “Initially, a manufacturer may launch a therapy in one market and need a team of six sales reps, but as they grow, an outsourced partner can quickly help ramp up the team to meet demand while providing consistent training without having to invest in larger training and development teams.” The same holds true for large pharma, which faces the same challenges but may just need larger volumes of reps based on the depth of the therapy’s impact. However, using a data-first strategy can help companies understand that a large team may not be needed, adds Skalicky. EVERSANA’s approach allows its field deployment teams “to make educated, informed decisions based on patient and healthcare provider (HCP) populations, [and] create a more customized plan for an outsourced sales team," he says.
Meldrum agrees that all kinds of pharma companies can be served by a CSO. For example, for a startup company or a new affiliate to a particular country looking to evaluate the response to their company and brands in a new market, a CSO can step in and tackle much of what is required. PEAK also partners with pharma companies that have a small footprint/infrastructure but are now looking to grow to the next phase, with the move toward growth achieved “in a flexible manner allowing for rapid adjustments if need be," says Meldrum. PEAK serves large, established pharma organizations as well, which may not require additional support services, such as training, analytics, etc., but are “looking for opportunities to capitalize on market dynamics quickly,” she explains. By having the option to add share of voice in a variety of ways, these organizations can quickly implement strategies to ensure they do not miss unique opportunities. In addition, says Meldrum, with the significant restructuring that has occurred across the pharma industry, “There can be many brands, perhaps later in their life cycle, that have been left unattended." This is where a CSO can “jump in and offer solutions to still provide share of voice to that audience, for that brand, in creative, customized ways,” she notes.
Achieving goals together
In all engagements, a good CSO will sit down with companies and talk about goals and objectives from the beginning. “We dig deep into the therapy that will launch and carefully analyze both current and historic data sources. From there, we can work together to build a program to drive maximum success that will ultimately help patients,” says Skalicky. EVERSANA works with companies to understand what they hope to accomplish in years one, two, and three. They ask how many patients the therapy will impact. How strong are the pricing and reimbursement models? And what will the patient and HCP experience be like when the product launches?
CSOs work with companies to “solidify strategies, fine tune tactics, and implement and execute programs allowing for the best chance for their success,” says Meldrum. PEAK, for example, can use a client’s existing IT/CRM systems and training and integrate with the client’s sales/marketing team. Alternatively, CSOs can work more as a stand-alone, arms-length partner. “This is where we would be responsible for all aspects of the program/mandate, including but not limited to, recruiting, on-boarding, managing, CRM, IT, sample accountability, analytics, training, etc." The key, says Meldrum, is that the CSO works closely with its clients to ensure they are fully aware of all that is transpiring with the program, how it can be improved, and where there are opportunities to increase ROI.