POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Can Digital Tools Replace the Sales Force?

This post is part of a series of point/counterpoint arguments proposed by different members of the Pixels & Pills staff. Were strong believers that healthy arguments can yield the best solutions, and we hope that you enjoy our series. Feel free to add your own arguments in the comments section below!

by DJ Edgerton (@wiltonbound)

Many pundits have pointed out that recent months and years, pharmaceutical sales representatives have become something of an endangered species. Their numbers are falling, and as with any endangered species, theres a force to blame for their decline. In this case, its primarily because physicians are changing their world.

Market research is showing the numbers of reps sinking by about 25%, and the number of “no-see healthcare professionals growing by about that same number.

Thats dramatic, and the statistics do bear it out (as seen in this WSJ article), but there are still about 75,000 sales reps in the industry. That doesnt exactly make this species rare.

When youre buying something whose efficacy really matters, you want information. You want details. And particularly when youre vastly overworked, and have a lot of people who are depending on you for their well-being, you dont want to have to take on a side job as a researcher in order to find out your answers. What you really want is someone who can help you get all of that. You want, in short, a sales rep.

Talking about digital tools replacing people is usually based on well-meaning excitement about technology and its uptake, and corresponding opportunities for gaining efficiency and saving money. What people forget, though, is that technology isnt self-propelling.

The big difference that sales reps make to the HCPs they call on is that they are, in themselves, a “push technology. Their presence puts information-gathering in the context of a cheerful relationship. Thats something that technology just cant do yet.

So: can digital tools completely replace a sales force? I sure dont think so. But can they help? Absolutely. The role of technology is not to replace, but to benefit the sales representative. Thats why Zemoga created PADFORCE ONE, an application that makes it possible to securely place and update all of a sales forces multimedia materials on iPad. These tools do exist and should be taken advantage of. They dont replace the people behind them – they just make the people that much more effective.



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