Back To the Future, But
With a Twist
Doctors Demand a New Breed of
Sales Representatives—and Industry
Leaders Learn to Adapt
Rick Keefer, President and CEO, Publicis
That’s the big news that jumps out of a recent survey conducted by Publicis Touchpoint Solutions and
Sermo, the online physicians’ community. According
to the survey, more than half of all those who responded actually want more sales representatives calling on
their practices. (See accompanying story, What Doctors Really Want, page 49) That’s nearly double the
number reported in 2008.
Moreover, the increase is not just from primary care
physicians. Among specialists, more than nine out of
ten are asking for more representatives to call on them,
provided that those representatives have in-depth scientific knowledge of the disease states and the therapeutic options available to treat them.
But before sales and marketing executives break out
the champagne, they need to take a good look at the
details. Today’s healthcare professional is busier than
ever, thanks to the increased administrative burden
due to formulary controls, the growing shortage of
primary care physicians and the Affordable Care Act,
which has generated a huge influx of new patients into
As a result, doctors are asking for a new breed—or
even several new breeds—of sales representative. They
want representatives who are well-educated, highly-trained and capable of providing support for every part
of a busy practice.
For themselves, physicians are looking for evidence-based information on patient outcomes; for the office staff, they want customer service, such as patient
education materials, medication access information,
starter samples and vouchers. And for patients and
caregivers, these doctors want nurse educators and
practical tools for improving health outcomes.
What’s more, they want all these things when they
want them, where they want them and how they want
That’s a tall order for our industry, but I’m not surprised.
Those of us who recruit, train and manage representatives know that times are changing. The days of sending
in an army of traditional sales representatives, armed
with a single sales message, are fast disappearing.
Instead, companies like ours are creating blended teams,
designed to meet the specific needs of a disease category,
brand or market. A blended team, for example, might
combine a traditional sales representative with someone
who specializes in office support and a clinical nurse
educator. This team, working in the field, can then be
augmented by a contact center, where other teams are
able to interact with doctors and patients day and night,
using a variety of non-face-to-face channels.
Cross-channel solutions are vital. They allow key
messages to be integrated in a way that uses the chan-
The results are in. Pharmaceutical sales representatives—whose ranks
have shrunk to nearly half of what they were a generation ago—are
once again in demand.