Each day it seems like another pharma company is cutting more of its workforce including sales reps. BMS announced the latest just yesterday and Sanofi-Aventis the week before saying they could cut up to 10% of its field sales force. These are just a few of the many cuts announced this year. Overall, it’s apparently been a tough year for pharma employees, especially sales reps.
Some questions to consider:
Question one. Are there too many reps out there? Are they all needed? There are about 900,000 doctors in the US and about 100,000 pharma sales reps. 1 rep per 9 doctors. That’s always seemed like a lot to me.
Question two. Does quantity equal quality? I don’ t know the answer and I’m not going to cite a bunch of fancy research. I can tell you that many companies have quotas for the number of face to face calls required each day for a rep and it can be as many as 10 or 12. Considering that only 25% of visits actually result in a face to face call, that’s a lot of visits to get 10 in a day (40 for those doing the math at home). That doesn’t seem mathematically possible to me considering how long a day is. Those that do get a face to face often get about 90 seconds according to the Hay Group.
Question three. Are reps worth the cost? Each rep costs a pharma company about $200k a year. That includes salary, bonuses, benefits, car, etc. That’s a pretty big fixed cost. Consider a drug that costs $50 per month. To generate $200k in incremental revenue (not even profit, revenue), each rep would need to get about 77 additional prescriptions a week or about 15 a day (5 days a week, no vacation either). Remember that a lot of prescriptions would be written whether there was a rep or not. Are your reps getting 15 additional prescriptions a day? I doubt it.
Apparently, some companies are starting to figure this out and that’s where the cuts come in. As I said, I’ve always thought that there were too many reps. You probably noticed too just by looking around your doctor’s office some days.
So what does all this have to do with digital? Well, these pharma companies who are cutting back on one of their most beloved (to them anyway) and effective (to some degree) promotional tools still have the same lofty sales and profit goals. That means the remaining reps likely need to deliver the same revenue as they always have. This means increasing effectiveness. With less people, you need to increase each rep’s reach, ensuring that they’re around even when they’re not physically there.
One way to do this is through e-detailing. While that means a lot of things to a lot of people, here’s how I define it. It’s an online detail (product sales pitch if you will) that allows the doctor to view the detail at his or her own pace whenever they want online. I’m not talking about a detail with a live video feed of an actual sales rep. Different story for another day.
Let’s be honest. The vast majority of pharma e-details are terrible. Most of them are simply electronic versions of their paper visual aids. The doctor is expected to click through each page with no interaction, no accounting for the doctor’s needs, and no customization. Who wants to sit through that? Basically, it’s like me asking you what you hate about this blog. You say it’s the seemingly never ending length of some posts. And instead of addressing this, I tell you that it has an amusing header picture. How would that leave you? Annoyed. At best. You’ve got to address what’s relevant. It’s what these companies expect their reps to do live and in person, but they don’t expect their e-details to work that hard.
Fortunately, there is a simple answer to this. For example, my company, Bridge Worldwide, has developed an e-detail platform that has the following features:
- Customized tracks based on physician choice (you tell me what you want to know)
- Objection-based tracks (addresses the physician’s biggest issues with the drug)
- Current product usage behavior (what does the doctor use now for select patients)
- Interactive quizzes
- Peer to peer knowledge challenges (did your doctor friends know the right answer?)
- Post detail effectiveness tracking (did the detail change your opinion, why or why not?)
- Message tracking (which messages have the biggest impact)
- Field sales alerts (so they know what messages are working the best)
If your e-details don’t do all of this (at a bare minimum), they’re likely not having an impact. It’s also likely that you don’t know whether they’re having an impact, because you’re not tracking the effectivenes if you’re like most companies.
Why do e-details need to be like this? Simple. Doctors are human beings whose online behavior is very similar to everyone else’s. So, your competition for the doctor’s time online isn’t other e-details, it’s everything online from YouTube to email to news to Hulu and so on. Doctors, like the rest of us, have an expectation of how things should work online. This applies to everything including e-details. “In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king theory” may work in some cases, but not online. Just because you have the best of the e-details, you still might have one of the worst sites when taking the Internet as whole as your competition. So, don’t just do one better than your pharma competition. You’ve got to do better than everyone else online to get the physician’s attention.
You’ve got seconds to do it. Think: would your current e-detail make you stop?