The Pharm Team Speaks Out

By Malcolm Fleschner

In 1995, if you had asked the typical pharmaceutical sales rep to assess how crowded the field had become, you probably would have heard back a reference to either a sardine can or one of those 1950s-era stunts where college students crammed themselves into phone booths. Yet at that time there were only 40,000 drug reps operating in the United States. Today, by contrast, that number stands at 90,000.

Unquestionably, this influx of new reps into the industry has had a major impact on promotional practices, customer reactions and the salespeople themselves. To get a sense of reps’ perspectives on the changing sales environment, Indiana-based G&S Research surveyed 430 reps from more than a dozen different healthcare companies, asking questions about physician access, industry trends, product marketing and employer image. Some of the key results of the survey, called RepReview, include the following.

Asked about the greatest challenge they face, 67% of the reps responded: access to physicians. Additionally,
– 78% said they do not get adequate time to detail their physicians. Of these, a significant majority said the reason for this was competitive representatives taking up so much of physicians’ time.
– 42% said they spend less time with physicians today than just 12 months previously.
– 82% said their primary competitor had become more aggressive in the past year.

Asked about specific industry changes,
– 69% said the new PhRMA guidelines regarding physician promotion have affected their ability to do their job. Of these, 96% rated the effect as negative, noting more limited access to physicians and their staffs as well as difficulty with program recruitment.
– 40% said they currently are involved in co-promotions with other companies’ salespeople, but 55% rate those efforts as either neutral or highly ineffective.

Most respondents felt that despite the growing challenges they were getting adequate support from the product marketing teams. Nevertheless, only 39% indicated they felt the product marketing department was very aware of what went on in the field. Of those who felt product marketing was out of the loop, 44% blamed a lack of time and experience in the field, while 16% said product marketing did not solicit feedback.

Finally, the RepReview survey concluded with two questions. Reps were asked to identify the healthcare company they have the greatest respect for and the one they feel has the best healthcare sales force in the world. Despite generally feeling they are well prepared and given the best resources, only 56% of the respondents identified their own company in response to the first question and only 57% identified their own company for the second question.