The doctor is in, but not for pharma sales reps

Pharmaceutical CommercePharmaceutical Commerce - May/June 2010

Study finds doctors becoming even less accessible when it comes to meeting with drug reps

The number of physicians willing to meet with pharmaceutical representatives has fallen again this year, according to the latest AccessMonitor report, a study conducted by consulting firm ZS Associates (Evanston, IL) that examines how often physicians and other prescribers will meet with pharmaceutical sales reps.

More than 20 percent of the physicians deemed "rep-accessible" in a late 2009 AccessMonitor study have fallen to "rep-neutral" status, and 11 percent of those previously considered "rep-neutral" are now rated as "rep-inaccessible." Additionally, the study found that the physicians considered "rep-accessible" have become more discriminating in regards to who they will meet with, and the number of "rep-inaccessible" prescribers rose from 6 percent to 9 percent.

To deal with the rapidly falling number of physicians who will meet with their reps, the pharmaceutical industry is adapting its sales and marketing strategies.

"Sales management should accept that you can't reach these doctors simply by telling the reps to 'try harder,'" says Chris Wright, principal and leader of the pharmaceutical practice at ZS Associates. "Instead, managers must modify the call plan to connect best with each individual physician."

Many progressive pharmaceutical companies have responded to the increasing difficulty in gaining access to physicians by adopting a new sales strategy called "differential resourcing," which matches sales resources to local conditions and is more versatile than the traditional "one-size-fits-all" sales models previously used.

"While [differential resourcing] requires a rather complex change to existing sales models, companies who adopted this approach quickly reduced their sales force-related costs by as much as 20 percent," says Wright. "Collectively, these companies now save themselves more then $500 million a year... In our view, implementing this practice across the board can save sales forces in the U.S. another $2 billion annually—all while giving individual representatives much-needed flexibility."

The AccessMonitor study tracks sales rep-related interactions of more than 500,000 physicians, nurse practitioners and other pharmaceutical prescribers nationwide, and monitors the planned and completed sales calls of more than 41,000 pharmaceutical reps.

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