Sales force awakens
Karen Bell, Director of Business Development at Ashfield Commercial and Clinical UK, on maximising return on investment.
Sales force effectiveness (SFE) is about helping representatives to become as effective and efficient as they can be in today’s increasingly complex, demanding and competitive marketplace.
With increasing pressure from senior management and brand teams to maximise return on investment (ROI) from this expensive resource – and in many cases to reduce promotional spend and still achieve at least the same results – the focus on SFE or return on investment has never been greater.
Measure of effectiveness
If you were to ask 10 companies how they measure SFE, you would probably get a different answer from each, and even different answers from within the same company, dependent on who you asked – but generally they tend to comprise a combination of efficiency and effectiveness measures.
Efficiency measures typically look at the more objective areas, such as calls per day, coverage, frequency of calling on target customers and cost-per-call – whereas true effectiveness measures consider the impact of the representative’s behaviour on prescribing.
Key questions that traditional SFE initiatives ask include:
• Are sales materials communicating messages appropriately?
• Do the key messages drive prescribing?
• How effective are the representatives in delivering key messages?
• Are the messages differentiated against those of the competitors?
• What activities should we be teaching representatives to do better?
• What SOV (share of voice) is being achieved?
• What is the optimal call frequency?
• What results (for example, share increase) are calls getting?
Increasingly, however, there is a move towards optimising and aligning the brand strategy with the patient and healthcare professionals (HCPs) through all aspects of the company’s sales and marketing effort.
The first step in this process is a marketing audit that would typically ask:
• What percentage of people know and have belief in the brand strategy and to what extent do you lose traction the deeper into the organisation you go?
• What is the belief in the brand messages, core story and materials, and how do materials get used as customers react to them during selling situations?
• How aligned are people on the target patient?
• In what percentage of calls do field-based people really engage the customer?
• How often is there a clear outcome to customer interactions where customers can see a value from having had the interaction and a clear behavioural change agreed?
Following the marketing audit, which is normally carried out by an external provider and can provide benchmarks with industry averages, recommendations are made in respect of a numbers of areas, and an implementation plan agreed to address the highlighted areas.
To achieve optimal sales force effectiveness, companies need to ensure they are delivering the right messages to the right target audiences with the appropriate influencing behaviours.
To be truly effective, today’s representatives need to understand the NHS and local Health Economy agendas in more detail than ever, and they also need to be able to articulate a strong value proposition for the product they are selling to an increasingly diverse range of stakeholders.
When interactions and key messages are tailored to the needs of the HCP, their patients and practice or department are much more likely to respond with a prescription or recommendation for the product.
Good SFE can ultimately develop the trust between pharma and the HCP, but it is essential that patient-centricity and a strong value proposition are at the heart of the call for this to play out in practice.
If pharma company brand teams and their field sales teams fail to address this, they are likely to significantly reduce their in-call effectiveness, and worse still, run the risk of alienating these important customers, and diminishing the value that pharmaceutical companies can add.
Ultimately, successful SFE initiatives will realise increased sales returns, or reduced promotional spend to yield similar or better results. It will result in more effective customer targeting, enhance the impact of each HCP interaction, develop a truly performance-based field sales team and enable an efficient, effective and joined-up sales and marketing effort across the whole organisation.