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Sales Reps – Pharma’s Lost Assets

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A new survey by SK&A (Physician Access Survey) makes sober reading. Remarkable in its coverage, according to  IN VIVO (Don’t Come Knokin’ On My Door) nearly all active practising physicians in the US were surveyed with a response rate of 94%, the results show that 24% of all physicians in the US now refuse to see sales reps at all. The numbers are particularly bad in large practices and hospital linked clinics; worryingly, the situation is getting worse.

Why does anyone chose not to meet with a sales person? Speaking for myself there are three common reasons: a) I do not want to listen to the person, b) I am not interested in what the person is selling, or c) I am already using the product

In terms of pharma sales, I think the first reason is where the interesting discussion lies.

Of all the relationships in healthcare, the one in which trust is most central is the Dr-Patient relationship. Drs really cannot afford to lose the trust of their patients. Unfortunately the public does not hold the pharma industry as paragons of integrity, and as a result sales reps are being banned from clinics. Drs have found themselves too closely and too publicly tied to us. They are attempting to reclaim the moral high ground following a spate of scandals involving Drs accepting large amounts of money and perks from the pharma industry; the last thing a Dr wants is to be too closely associated with our negative reputation.

But why is this changing now? The codes of conduct which our industry follows are getting ever tighter. In the US we are not even allowed to give pens away anymore (unless they are educational in nature!). Things that went on in the past would not be dreamed of today; and if they do happen then we are exposed to fairly significant legal consequences.

Some say that reps in the old days were better trained than today and in those days they were invaluable partners. Perhaps. But possibly Drs used to put up with us because they benefited considerably from the perks of the relationship. Those perks have now gone. Coupled to this is a new call for transparency which is being embraced by the healthcare industry as never before. At a time when we are trying to clean up our act, Drs are also trying to clean up theirs.

Our mistake is in making it too easy to lock us out. When Drs balance the positive and negative effects we have on their work, the balance is coming out as negative in more and more cases. We are not needed because we add too little value today.

The relationship needs to be redefined. The focus must be on integrity first and then on finding a way to be useful to our customers.


Written by Pillhead

February 15, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Sales Reps

Tagged with , ,