4 key success factors for integrating the partnership approach into the future of the pharmaceutical sales reps

Published on 17 April 2023 Read 25 min

The digitalization of medical information, the perception of health professionals of medical promotion and the constraints of access to healthcare facilities have pushed pharma laboratories to rethink their go-to-market model and the methods of interaction and customer engagement. This fundamental trend implies a transformation of the medical representative profession. The challenge is to differentiate themselves by creating a solid relationship with high added value with healthcare professionals. Thus, the role of the medical representative is evolving from a commercial approach, centered on a promotional speech presented to the targeted SDPs, to a co-construction approach. The latter is based, upstream, on the identification of needs and expectations. The aim is to provide a tailor-made response and of course to strengthen the relationship. To carry out this evolution, Alcimed has identified 4 key success factors.

Key success factor #1: give meaning to the transformation of the pharmaceutical sales reps’ job

Giving meaning to the transformation of the medical representative’s job is essential because it has a significant impact on practices and daily life, and modifies well-established habits. For this, a long-term transformation program is essential. Medical representatives must be supported in the progressive and iterative learning of their new role and realize that what is asked of them is possible. Thus, moments of experience sharing between peers and regular monitoring by managers are two keys to enable this evolution.

In order to engage medical reps, it is essential to make them aware of the benefits of these changes, on an individual level: a better relationship with their customers, a higher perceived value of their interactions with health professionals, their contribution to the improvement of the care pathway and patient management, more accessible customers, the acquisition of new skills in the context of their individual development, etc.

Key success factor #2: clarify the implications for changing sales force practices

First of all, the evolution of the future job of pharmaceutical sales reps requires the development of their skills.

Indeed, new skills need to be acquired in order to implement a more partnership-based approach with healthcare professionals, such as

  •  The ability to investigate in order to understand the ecosystem around the health professional (who are the decision-making players, what are their specific roles, what is the care pathway, etc.)
  • The art of questioning to identify the needs and expectations of their clients
  • The ability to formulate an adapted value proposition in response to identified needs and expectations (operational support, local project to improve the care pathway, etc.), which is no longer limited to providing information about the product
  • Project management, more numerous and complex than before

Secondly, a medical representative is expected to have a broader view of the context in which their clients operate. This allows a better understanding of the needs and expectations of healthcare professionals and the identification of topics on which to bring differentiating value. Thus, medical representatives must extend their interactions to new interlocutors beyond prescribers (nurses, pharmacists, etc.) in order to better understand the issues of coordination of care, the complexities of patient care, etc.

Finally, this evolution in the role of the medical representative requires a new mode of coordination and collaboration with other teams in the field and at headquarters. Because it is becoming even more critical to have a detailed understanding of customers’ needs and expectations, it is necessary to ensure a fluid exchange of information between pharmaceutical reps, MSLs and other players with a direct link to health professionals. Moreover, the development and management of collaborative projects requires the involvement of potential additional resources (budgets, skills, tools, etc.), which medical representatives alone are not able to activate. In this case, the feedback to the head office teams and their support in implementing the partnership approach must be encouraged. The implications for the organization therefore extend beyond the scope of pharmaceutical reps alone.

Read also: The evolution of the role of medical sales representative : new opportunities for pharmaceutical companies

Key success factor #3: equip pharmaceutical sales reps to facilitate changes in practices

In order to support the change in practices, it is essential to provide medical representatives with tools. These tools can help to :

  • Prepare interactions with healthcare professionals according to their profile and the center in which they work, for maximum impact (interview guide, practical knowledge sheets, help in structuring the speech, etc.)
  • Define an adapted and efficient action plan in the field (approach by priority centers, key steps, required resources, etc.)
  • Consolidate and analyze feedback from the field in order to be able to send it to headquarters (customer knowledge management tool)
  • Sharing best practices and experiences internally from projects carried out (summary, project referent contact, etc.)

In addition, the provision of these tools must be accompanied by training in their use, and their implementation must be monitored. Above all, it is important to make the use of these tools an opportunity for medical reps to meet the objectives of their new role.

Key success factor #4: measure the impact of the change and value it

In order to make this change a lasting one, it is key to measure its impact and to promote it internally. In this context, the mechanisms for evaluating the future performance of pharmaceutical sales reps can no longer be based solely on the quantity of products sold.

The satisfaction of the relationship and the value brought by the customer become essential dimensions to account for the new role of medical representatives. Thus, performance indicators must be aligned with the new expectations of healthcare professionals integrating a more qualitative dimension (improvement of the care pathway, quality of life of patients, patient experience, perception of the relationship with the healthcare professional, influence of the center or the healthcare professional among his peers, etc.).

Learn more about the challenges of optimizing care pathways >

Rethinking the interaction model with healthcare professionals is a reflection that affects all players in the pharmaceutical industry, beyond medical representatives. This transformation implies an evolution at the level of all field and head office teams. Leading this transformation is of strategic importance for pharmaceutical companies in order to differentiate themselves from the competition. Nevertheless, such an evolution requires adapted means to accompany the future of pharmaceutical sales reps handling a new version of their job. Alcimed can support you in the deployment of this transformation, according to the specific stakes and needs of the concerned markets. Do not hesitate to contact our team!

About the authors,

Lambert, Senior Mission Manager in Alcimed’s Healthcare team in France

Tak-Wai, Senior Consultant in Alcimed’s Healthcare team in France

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