Some claim the future for pharma reps is freelance
We all know that the pharmaceutical industry is primed for change. Pipelines are shrinking, budgets are limited, and the way we’ve marketed in the past is simply not going to work in the future. The pharma industry is also notorious for being slow to adopt change, so a recent article written by Craig Sharp took me by surprise. In it, Sharp shares the predictions of Richie Bavasso (President of Exploria Sales Performance Solutions) from the 2012 Sales Force Excellence Europe Conference. Bavasso suggests that in 2012 pharmaceutical reps will start to freelance, working for a mix of pharmaceutical clients, not just one employer.
How will it work? Sales reps will compete for accounts based on past performance. Reps who can provide the strongest ROI will become industry favorites and have their pick of pharmaceutical companies to represent. Other, less seasoned reps will have to claw their way to the top of the pile or perish.
An interesting vision, but I’m skeptical. Yes, pharma reps who are able to create long-lasting relationships with HCPs have a better chance of getting concrete results from their 90-second sales pitch (sadly, this is the length of most rep/HCP interactions these days). Unfortunately, those reps will not have the HCP’s ear for long if they are suddenly pushing half a dozen accounts that they know less and less about.
Bavasso’s vision takes for granted that somehow the reps will willingly educate themselves on the finer points of each brand—and for free. He claims that reps will only be paid for time spent interacting with HCPs, and that they won’t mind this.
To me, there is a gaping hole in that plan. Mainly, it is that pharmaceutical companies spend huge amounts of money to create effective and approved sales training collateral to educate their sales forces. The idea that they should send out untrained, unaffiliated freelancers to “wing it” with those pieces is strange. Stranger yet is that they are supposed to rely on the fact that, of the multiple brands that freelance rep may take on, their brand is going to be given the attention it deserves.
The concept of hiring freelance reps is a nice if you are trying to cut corners. The reality may be a different story. Freelancing works in all sorts of industries because workers are willing to trade company benefits for more freedom. Unfortunately, in a regulated industry such as pharma, freedom for the rep means less control for the company. And less control over what is being said could be perilous.
I may be wrong, and I look forward to hearing more about it. You can read the article, “Pharma Sales Reps Going Freelance in 2012?”, and decide for yourself.
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Jessica is a competitive athlete and the President of Energize HNM, a health and nutrition marketing agency. Jessica is committed to supporting health brands of every size by helping them define their missions and connect with their customers on a deeper, more meaningful level.