Targeting New Markets to Improve Pharma Sales Force Effectiveness

Pharma IQ

Sales force effectiveness is highly important for companies within the pharmaceutical industry.  Current economic conditions, coupled with increased competiveness, mean that pharmaceutical companies must stay ahead in a changing market. Despite this, it has been suggested by some that the effectiveness of the pharma sales force is, in fact, decreasing.

A report on Pharmaceutical Sales Force Effectiveness Metrics, compiled by Dr Andree Bates, cited figures from the IMS that showed the effectiveness of the pharma sales force decreased by 23 per cent just in the years 2004 to 2005.

According to Dr Bates, the performance of the sales force was actually being impeded by the metrics that are being used to measure its success.

"Sales force effectiveness is a difficult concept to measure, but doing so can push pharmaceutical companies past today's hurdles and into increased productivity and sales," Bates stated in the report.

Pharma Sales Force Characteristics

Bates said that in recent years pharmaceutical firms have been recruiting large numbers of pharma sales reps, which they believed would increase productivity. However, the hiring had no correlation to the number of new products that were being placed on the market.

The growing staff numbers have led to increased pressure on the pharma sales force from a marketing department with an increasingly tight budget. In addition to this, Bates said that the pharma sales force is younger and less experienced, the time it takes a competitor product to get to market has decreased and high-volume clients are being increasingly targeted – which is leading to physicians being swamped with calls from reps, meaning calls are shorter and of a lower quality.

On the subject of the market in Western Europe, Bates said: "With too much of a focus on sales force numbers and efficiency - factors that actually detract from sales force effectiveness - many companies lack standard processes through their sales force activities."

A lack of standardisation among the pharma sales force was said to be an increasing problem, as were issues relating to targeting.

Bates explained that reps were working off random lists of physicians and spending too much time with the wrong people. Customer data about the European region was said to be restricted in comparison to the range of data available in the US.

Changing Markets

In March, a report released by the IMS identified what was described as an "unprecedented shift" within the growth of the pharmaceutical industry.

Some 17 markets across the world were identified as being 'pharmerging', which are expected to grow by US $90 billion (£59 billion) between 2009 and 13 and contribute 48 percent of annual market growth in 2013.

Increased access to healthcare across the globe and the "changing mix of generic and innovative products" were said to be some of the drivers behind this shift.

Murray Aitken, senior vice president, Healthcare Insight, IMS, said: "These are all diverse markets with their own unique healthcare funding, delivery and distribution characteristics. But collectively, they offer strong growth prospects fuelled by rising GDPs, expanding access to healthcare, and in many cases, an improving regulatory environment."

China was said to offer the biggest opportunities for growth, thanks to its large gross domestic product, and was classed as a Tier One market. Much of the demand was said to be for domestically manufactured products, however the IMS said some demand for global innovations could be found in cities.

Tier Two markets included Brazil, Russia and India, which are each expected to add $5 to 15 billion in annual pharmaceutical sales by the year 2013.

Following these in the Tier Three category was Venezuela, Poland, Argentina, Turkey, Mexico, Vietnam, South Africa, Thailand, Indonesia, Romania, Egypt, Pakistan and the Ukraine.

These are the markets which will need to be targeted to improve pharma sales force effectiveness.

David Campbell, senior principal, Pharmerging Markets, IMS, said: "Pharmaceutical manufacturers that lead in building out organisational competencies, tailoring portfolios and adapting business models to these new markets will reap the benefits of differentiation and entrenched presence compared to those that wait."