Sales Force Effectiveness : Right Focus?


You ask any Pharma professional around the world – what is the best way of promoting Pharma products? I bet 99% of them will say “detailing products to the medical fraternity by face to face calls”. This practice is well established across the world. From the global leader to a small new comer in the market, every company counts how many calls you made per day, which product you have detailed, what message you have delivered, how did the doctor react to it et al. I am not challenging them – that’s how medicines are sold. We are not talking about OTC products here. Drugs which can only be marketed by “information dissemination” to the doctors and nurses are sold through detailing. But how effective is the 5 min that is spent inside the doctor’s chamber? Let’s take a closer look.

I will take few examples in Indian context here. Majority of the doctors do not have a specific time dedicated for the MRs. Representatives coax the attendant to get entry in to the chamber when the doctor is busy seeing his patients. Sometimes he enters the chamber when the patient is also inside. The doctor looks at his face once and concentrates on the patient again. How does the rep handle it? Since he cannot come back and knows that waiting is pointless, he starts detailing his product. Does he use the visual aid? In most of such cases, no. He takes the name of the product, few key features, take the sample out, keep it on the doctor’s table, bow and come out. One call is gone. He will be back after 1-2 weeks may be.

The other situation can be when the doctor is seeing the MR when no patient is inside. This is comparatively better as the rep will get the attention. He details the product, shows the visual aid, talks about the features and benefits, delivers the sample. I have seen numerous such detailing where text written in the visual aid is seldom used. The conversation is like this “Doctor, nothing new to say about our product X. You have been prescribing our product X for long – will ask for some more support. This month has a high target doctor. Please prescribe. Thank you”. The doctor keeps listening, sometimes looks at his face, sometimes at the visual aid or the sample, sometimes at his own writing pad. The call ends. At the end of the day, many such calls happen. Does the doctor retain all of the products that have been detailed to him? No.

The other situation is for the doctors who provide dedicated time to the MRs after seeing all his patients. He has now seen 30 patients and is tired. 15 reps are waiting outside. When the first rep enters, doctor has already started counting how many reps are there and even if he provides 5 minutes each, more than 1 hr is gone. He is least interested and want them to go fast. The moment the rep starts talking about the features and benefits, the doctor reacts “I know all this”. The rep hurries and the call ends in form of just reminders. 15 reps detail 75 products. The doctor retains 10-15.

All of the above mentioned situations are true and they raise a question about the effectiveness of the calls made. At the end of the month, when we compare our prescription against calls, we don’t find much correlation and accuse the rep of not knowing what he is doing. But do we really see these challenges? Do we train our reps on how to handle such situations? Do we update our communication strategies on basis of these situations? Not really.

When everyone is talking about differentiation and the market place is more crowded than a fish bazaar, investing in IT alone will not help. The way of detailing must be customized to make it more effective. How do we do that? That’s the topic of another column.

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Categories: Pharma-CRM | Tags: | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Sales Force Effectiveness : Right Focus?

  1. I really do think that Pharmaceutical companies who wants to stand out of the crowd have already started reacting to situation that you have mentioned. Detailing using Multi-media, custom made for a 30 seconds call, maintaining relationship with Doctor, ego boosting are some of the tools deployed, and it works for Doctors in India. Soon we would see Social media and CRM playing more effective role. Analytics of Call effectiveness and Customer (doctor) behavior to brand loyalty are now predicted and visit strategies fine tuned.

  2. santosh

    Very busy doctors indeed don’t care. They expect a trip to Goa or Singapore 🙂
    Those who are not very busy don’t matter much. They’d probably prescribe first line analgesics and antihistamines. Here you have so many generics and so many players that a chemist will often give you an equivalent even if a doctor has written the brand name in the prescription. Indian doctors don’t shift to different brand when they have seen a particular brand to have worked with a majority of their patients. And again for a class of drugs there’s often only one drug supplier so you don’t have much choice. I remember my father was prescribed a statin of which there was only one supplier in India.
    In short this system is too complex. Can’t imagine how this can be more organized in India. Shortage of doctors. Shortage of good quality drugs. Probably we need to address this first.

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