New But Not Improved

Last month’s Pharmaceuticals newsletter featured the first installment of a two-part interview with Advantage Performance Group senior consultant Steve Gielda on the lack of attention many pharmaceuticals manufacturers dedicate to the sales force during the rollout of new products. Click here to view part one.

Having identified the key problems facing pharmaceutical sales organizations during new product rollouts in the first part of the interview, Gielda now turns his attention to prospective solutions.

The first potential solution, he says, is for manufacturers to recognize that while a one-size-fits-all approach might work well for cap day at the ballpark, it’s a much less effective strategy for bringing new drugs to market. Instead, he says, companies need to develop a rollout plan based on such critical factors as whether the drug is targeting existing or new customers and whether it addresses existing or new needs.

“For example,” he says, “if the new product is targeted to address the existing needs of current customers, the objective is to develop a strategy of market penetration. In this case a successful launch to the sales force is not about providing new skills – it’s all about activity, discipline and focus. It’s a sales efficiency issue. On the other hand, if the objective is to break through to a new market segment with different needs, then the sales force will require additional skills and a broadened knowledge base. Achieving this objective usually requires substantial and sometimes innovative training of your sales team. The major point is that ramping up your sales force to sell a new product is not a one-size-fits-all process.”

Looking downstream, Gielda says front-line sales reps need not be passive participants in new product rollouts. He believes the key to success lies in taking a more comprehensive approach to adding value rather than simply focusing on moving product.

“In classic pharmaceutical sales the seller’s focus often is on what is being sold rather than on who it is being sold to,” he notes. “Even though physicians look to pharmaceutical reps for knowledge about new drugs, the concept of adding value as part of the sales process is not embraced universally. As more and more sellers and buyers look to establish business relationships that encompass more than selling specific drug products, the issue becomes how to sell to accrue immediate benefits to seller and buyer as well as to develop long-term relationships.

“Successful pharmaceutical reps focus not on their products and services, but on their clients’ problems. Discussions are oriented toward developing a common understanding of those problems. Then, and only then, does the successful salesperson offer solutions. The result is that the solution is perceived as valuable and unique, which positions pharmaceutical reps and their company as top of mind. In a marketplace crowded with me-too players, this is the sine qua non of sustainable competitive advantage.”