What is Pharma’s Sales Savior?


We’ve previously reported several times on the interaction between physicians and pharmaceutical companies. We’ve also argued to some extent the model is dead. Pharma reps are expensive and pharma has transitioned into a sales business, rather than a research-driven business (some would argue that it has always been that way). The model of a pharmaceutical representative that visits the doc frequently and informs/pitches the physician about the drug is salesy and pushy. But what doctors really need is a partner. The company that produces the drug should know best about the drug. About it’s real efficacy, its side effects and its off- and on-label use. The rep should be a person the doctor can call anytime and ask questions he doesn’t find in the package leaflet. But although pharamceutical companies try do to so, many doctors still bolt when they see a pharma rep approaching. Not another brochure, not another free pen, not another salesman that wants me to prescribe more of the drug.

Now something called eDetailing has emerged over the past years. The idea is to bring old-fashioned drug brochures to life with multimedia presentations that are being distributed via e-mail or newsletter. Another approach is so-called TeleDetailing, where the acutual sales rep is behind a computer and hooks up with the doc over a video conferencing tool. Now this is primarly due to cost-cutting efforts of pharmaceutical companies, but they also envision to bring a closer and long lasting relationship with the physician.

Having a personal visit from a rep though shows that the doctor is being treated as important, that the company cares about her and takes time. On the other hand it can be time consuming, inefficient and repetitive.

Eventually there must be something in between. We do not have an answer and a lot of smart people out there have already put a lot of thought into this, but what’s really the best way that a pharma company approaches and pitches doctors without being annoying? It’s certainly handy to pull up a nifty flash animation that gives you all the background information about a drug, but it’s certainly also nice to have a person visiting you over decades, a person that accompanies your life as a physician.

Our guess is that in the long run there will be a distinction between physicians. This is already happening but not to such an obvious extent. Important physicians (so-called KOLs alias Key Opinion Leaders) will always be visited by real people. Young residents that hustle through the corridors with little income will likely be contact via digital channels. But the goal must be to access the doctor in a pull – and not a push – way. Meaning that the doctor should make use of a service or product that helps her in her daily clinical routine (i.e., physicians should ideally be the ones who “pull” the information from the pharma company). Pharma should start building products (possibly also outside of the pharma arena like apps, web-services etc.) that help physicians AND sales reps do their jobs.


  1. @zinnaglism:twitter  – what an awesome post you have here.  it resonates with me because 1 year ago I founded a startup devoted to re-inventing healthcare sales on a digital platform designed with busy healthcare professionals in mind.  I can’t agree with you more that there is a fine balance to be struck–between the traditional and the modern, between in-person, face-to-face sales and digital social media interactions.  Our  @Qualtrx:twitter solution?  Private social networking communities specific to healthcare institutions.
    I’d welcome a dialogue with you.  We’re in our first pilot at a regional teaching hospital called Hennepin County Medical Center–and we’re rocking.  That said, I’m very interested in learning more about your background and what led you to such conclusions as you described above.



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