Pharma Sales – an ultimate art of convincing
Pharmaceutical sales is very different from other industries. The industry follows a product distribution chain to reach the actual consumer and a field force to engage medical practitioners who essentially are influencers in this process. The distribution chain links are the depots the stockists and the retailers. The sales team does not wield significant influence in this chain which interacts with the actual consumer of the produce. This line of process seems to be solely engaged in ensuring availability of the produce in the shelf. It is here that the volume is managed and there by the fund flows and profits. There are not much efforts taken or need realized for incentivising the retailers as against most marketing processes in many other products. On the other hand the industry goes all out to win the medical practitioners and influence the community to prescribe their produce. Even the “over the counter” drugs do not seem to have any aisle preferences or high end store level promotions. This manufacturer-to-consumer produce flow model with no effort to win over the actual consumer doesn’t seem to exist in any other industry. Interestingly the marketing activity and the field force are all focused on winning over the influencers, the doctors in this case.
With the sole focus of field force to impress the medical practitioner community, the singular effort is to win face time with the prospective physician. The difference in the sales or promotion process here is again the target segment is not an organised industry or point of sale. In most cases it would be a single room consultant physician with no systems to manage appointments. The long queues of patients determine the probable time and duration the medical representative would be able to get. The share of attention of the physician during detailing on such situations would also be subjective. With the growing competition, the pressure to win over the physician community, to interact with the nearest chemist to check on prescription levels and stock availability, to keep a check on the stockist level of stocks and to be at least one step ahead of the competitor colleague in catching up with the physicians and specialists is consistent. To cap it all, the medical representative has very less control over the environment he works in. In these circumstances, the pharmaceutical field force would need help in building some predictability in their routine, some method in the madness.
A bit of prior knowledge of the area he is visiting. The physicians, the chemists and the stockists in the area; a fair view of the promotion materials on hand and the gifts to be delivered; clarity on the acceptance of his travel allowance claims are a minimum need for a medical representative to wade through his daily uphill tasks.
Managing a highly spread field force though paperwork is even a greater challenge. Imagine sifting through hundreds of tour plans of all his directs and trying to sync his plans to each one of his MRs. The objective of working with the field force to win over some key opinion leaders or meeting up with a leading specialist to impress the features of your product will be a dream come true in scenarios of managers handling a large field force.
And at last what is the objective of all these activities. If the idea is to collate all available information from the grass root level, what are we going to do with it after collection? The data is in multiple interpretations and in reams of paper. How much of effort would be required to transform them to a structure and form that would help analysis of performance. Performance of both people and product. Pharmaceutical sales are at the threshold of moving the automation way irrespective of the size.