The role of the pharmaceutical consultant is changing along with the size and shape of the industry in general. Recessionary forces have caused some significant developments in almost every major industry and the healthcare business was certainly not immune. Indeed, the recession has forced pharmaceutical sales companies to change the way that they approach their clients. Budgets were coming under increasing scrutiny and this meant that there was a trend away from hiring sales representatives. The pharmaceutical consultancy business recognised that innovation was necessary and that healthcare professionals were beginning to turn to other ways of educating themselves and reaching out for their pharmaceutical needs. Company executives need to fully understand what the social media revolution means, while they are also looking for more productive and efficient ways to sell a product.
The market research firm Cutting Edge Information tells us that a quarter of all healthcare professionals are really interested in pursuing the concept of e-detailing. This was up from maybe only one in 20 just four years back. It's possible that doctors could be far more accessible this way, and that they could be less resistant to communication, consequently.
Pharmaceutical marketing training needs to change in line with the media revolution and the outgoing effects of the great recession. Many companies may begin to put less emphasis on the hiring and training of sales representatives and more emphasis on Internet skills and social media communication.
In the past, it was not uncommon for a typical doctor to be inundated with communications from sales reps, often from the same company. When you think how different reps may have different levels of training and may not all be able to communicate as effectively, it's easy to understand why the average doctor would become overloaded. This approach to communication was, after all, far from efficient and we can now see why there has been so much backlash. Doctors became less and less accessible, even as sales representatives became too numerous. Add to this the slowdown in the release of new products and it's not difficult to see why the sheer number of sales representatives has decreased so much. Indeed, it is estimated that in the last three years, the total number of pharmaceutical sales representatives in the United States has shrunk by 20% or more.
Not surprisingly, pharmaceutical marketing training must recognise that the newer sales representative is far more likely to be in touch with his or her generational approach to communication. We can expect them to be far more at ease with the Internet and the social media revolution. As these new reps infiltrate the company, the pharmaceutical consultancy should help company bosses to change the way that they approach their marketing, so as to not fight this ever emerging trend.
We're yet to see the scale of the challenge facing the industry ahead, especially the effect of the new US federal health-care regime. There are certain to be more pressures on companies to cut their overheads and as such, we can expect the pharmaceutical consultant to concentrate more and more on "e-detailing" and the way that this wave of the future can help to restructure pharmaceutical sales.
Alan Gillies is the Managing Director of L2L Consulting, specialising in enabling pharmaceutical companies to achieve new heights of productivity and performance, throughout all levels of management and revenue generating activities.