We were lucky enough to interview Damon Caiazza of GSW at the e-Pharma Summit a couple of weeks back. Damon’s insights generated a lot of buzz in the industry and he kindly offered to follow up on our conversations with a guest blog post. Read on for some lively and insightful observations from the sales trenches!
By Damon Caiazza
This post is in response to several inquiries about my comments made in a recent interview at the e-Pharma Summit 2010 related to the sales force.
In the wake of a continuing trend that sees drastic reductions in the pharma sales force taking it from a peak of 102,000 in 2007 to 75,000 by 2012, I beg and plead that pharmaceutical companies and their army of agencies dont abandon the sales force. Instead, EMBRACE the sales force in innovative ways that put a new face on the personal selling model that has existed for decades in the industry. If me begging and pleading isnt enough (which is probably isnt) then allow me to make a case for further consideration.
The sales force isnt stupid
Have you ever heard this or even worse, said it? “My sales force cant learn this new technology or “My sales reps cant deliver such a complicated mess.
One thing that drives me absolutely crazy is the marketing teams insistence that their sales force is incompetent. Furthermore, that any solution that is developed should be done so with the lowest common denominator in mind. Lets think about that for a second. What would life be like if we approached other aspects of our lives with the “lowest common denominator mentality?
No automobiles = too complicated to operate
No computers = too complicated to use
No books = too hard to learn how to read
The truth is that we wouldnt have most of what we have today if we took this mentality. The truth is that we as people (the sales force are people) are extremely adaptable and do so readily in our daily lives when things are presented to us that make us better at what we do, make life more enjoyable, etc.
There is the point. The solution is not to do anything. The solution is to make sure that what you do makes the sales force better, more effective at their jobs. So what if they have to learn something new or possibly complicated. The bottom line is they will if it helps!
The sales force cant be replaced by technology
Technology isnt the answer! Sounds sort of funny and contradictory coming from a guy who has spent 15 years developing technology-based solutions. Let me try again. Technology alone isnt the answer!
When developing a strategy for how youll use technology, dont do so with the mindset that it will replace the sales force. It wont. The right approach is to view technology as a complement to the sales force, just as weve viewed other channels (television, print, direct mail) in the past. The right technology solutions in the hands of the sales force provide a compelling arsenal of tools that can make them effective selling machines.
Office relationships are a good thing
Get your mind out of the gutter! Im serious about this. We continue to get more and more data about the most influential people in a healthcare decision. Guess what, there is more than just the physician! In fact, Ive seen several studies where Nurses represent the second most influential person in the healthcare decision making process. Where are nurses? In the office with the physician!
We also have an environment where cost pressures on a practice are at an all time high. Thus relationships with the reimbursement specialist, the office manager, and others in the office are invaluable channels that can no longer be ignored. The truth is, these people influence the physician now more than ever.
The physicians office has become a complicated, well-oiled machine that cant be ignored and cant be addressed solely through technical solutions and static marketing messages. The solution is to continue to have a physical presence in the office so that a relationship can be built, maintained, and grown.
Check my upcoming blog post “Conversation Starters: Rep Access Tools to hear my strategies for growing the office relationship.
What does it all mean?
If you take anything away from this, I hope it will be the fact that the sales force still represents a key communication channel for your brand. During the strategic planning process dont treat them as a second-class citizen. Instead, find ways to embrace them as an extension of your team. Establish a “Use them, dont lose them mentality within your team and see where it gets you. I think youll be surprised!