The Economies Of Sales

By Malcolm Fleschner

Last month’s pharmaceutical sales newsletter featured the first installment of a two-part series based on an interview with David Balekdjian, a partner with The Bruckner Group (www.brucknergroup.com), a Wakefield, Massachusetts-based brand strategy and research firm in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries (click here to read). In part one, Balekdjian noted that a growing gap exists between what physicians want from the detailing process today and what most pharmaceutical sales reps are offering. As a result, physicians are opting to spend less time with drug reps at a time when pharmaceutical companies are deploying ever more salespeople.

There are alternatives to this counterproductive cycle, however. Balekdjian says the solution, which is supported by The Bruckner Group’s substantial research, lies in providing physicians what they want – information about the comparative healthcare value of the therapeutics they use.

“Our research clearly indicates physicians are seeking to understand, and are increasingly concerned about, therapies’ pharmacoeconomic value and comparative healthcare value, not just their clinical value,” Balekdjian explains. “While this physician need may be a surprise to many manufacturers, it makes perfect sense considering the significant pressures physicians face from their employers (private practice groups and hospitals), insurance companies and other payers to practice not just clinically effective medicine, but cost-efficient medicine as well.”

Put simply, pharmacoeconomics is the study of the overall cost implications of health outcomes. Until recently few people outside academic environments needed to concern themselves with this seemingly esoteric field. But that’s no longer the case, says Balekdjian, as pharmacoeconomics plays a critical role in the development, marketing and sale of drugs that are not only clinically effective and safe, but also offer compelling healthcare value – a critical need of payers.

“While payers were the initial driving force focusing on the pharmacoeconomic value of products,” Balekdjian says, the fact is physicians are clearly indicating, across disease areas, that this information has great relevance to them. It represents an amazing detailing opportunity few companies have grasped, let alone acted on.”

To help companies maximize this opportunity, The Bruckner Group developed a solution for pharma and biotech manufacturers that incorporates a pharmacoeconomic approach to detailing that increases product sales and sales force access to physicians. Called Pharmacoeconomics and Sales Effectiveness (PASE), the program trains pharma and biotech sales professionals to incorporate a pharmacoeconomic perspective to increase detailing success and effectiveness. Balekdjian says one client in a highly competitive yet relatively stable disease area enjoyed a 15% market share jump in a six-month period that was directly attributable to implementation of the PASE pharmacoeconomic sales approach.

Balekdjian firmly believes in the value of pharmacoeconomic training for sales professionals, unequivocally referring to it as “the next big thing in pharma sales.” But even if he’s convinced of the value of incorporating a pharmacoeconomic approach in detailing efforts, Balekdjian acknowledges that realistically not all reps will be able to effectively use this approach.

“We know from studies we’ve done with physicians that this is what they want,” he says. “But when sales reps walk into physicians’ offices, they need to make sure they have the ability to have a real conference with the physician so they don’t simply sound like a parrot because these discussions work when physicians understand they can ask a question and have a meaningful discussion and that the salesperson will recognize the issues, process them and be able to respond accordingly.

“In every sales organization you have a set of star performers and you have a set of people who perform reasonably well. For the star performers this tool will significantly enhance their performance. For reps who perform solidly, this approach will produce measurable results. It won’t take poor performers and make them stars, but overall the results in aggregate have exceeded everyone’s expectations.”