Between payors tightening up on cost management, strained government healthcare budgets, and the need to understand and adopt new technologies; it has undoubtedly become more difficult for companies to sell across the four NHS nations.
However, in the inimitable words of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (or if you’re anything like me – Bon Jovi): the more things change, the more they stay the same. This is not just my excuse to get Bon Jovi stuck in your head, it remains true of the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries – with the basic resourcing needs remaining the same, regardless of external and sometimes internal changes.
Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Sales: It’s My Life
My own experiences in our industry have taught me about the challenges posed by resourcing, and the efficacy of contract sales organisations. I started my own career as a sales representative, and I went on to spend 28 years in pharmaceutical sales management working in both first and second line positions.
This time demonstrated that I was only ever as good as the sales team I had around me. There were two clear needs I had whilst working in pharmaceutical sales management:
- A fully resourced team that were: in the field, meeting customers, and selling at all times;
- And the most effective salespeople available.
When vacancies arose in my team, it meant we were losing out on sales every day. Attempting to sell my brands with vacancies in my team meant we were selling to less customers every day. Equally, operating with low quality salespeople was both ineffective and potentially damaging to both existing and new relationships, as some healthcare providers (HCPs) may refuse to see us again; in either case a false economy was created.
The Challenges of Resourcing; Keep the Faith?
Resourcing itself presented another set of challenges for me whilst I was working as a Pharmaceutical Sales Manager. Wading through endless CVs to shortlist candidates for interview was a time-consuming task; as well as the task of organising and running assessment centres; both of which were indeed an exercise in how to ‘keep the faith’.
Once new talent was recruited then came the onboarding challenges. Additionally, when new team members unfortunately didn’t work out an offboarding process would begin. As a manager, finding the time in the field to support new starts was difficult, and yet remained a necessity.
Throughout the lifespan of my pharma career, a key business challenge was always the ability to have the flexibility to be able to differentially resource. This remains a key need across the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, as the ability respond quickly to winning or losing a formulary inclusion or contract only continues to be essential.
The Contract Sales Solution: I’ll Be There For You?
In my experience, while the challenges of resourcing can be vast to pharma/healthcare sales managers, this is where contract sales organisations (CSOs) like CHASE can help to shortlist candidates by working to a brief. CSOs can also can help organise and run assessment centres for big team builds, removing some of the mundane activities required to recruit. CSOs should be able to ensure new recruits attend initial training programmes (ITPs) fully prepared and on-boarded, including comprehensive background checks. If a company wins a contract (or indeed loses a contract) then a CSO providing a contract sales person allows a company to flex resource where it needs to quickly and efficiently.
If a CSO becomes a true partner, then some of the most overt benefits from this include:
- An understanding of the needs of the client’s business. This allows the CSO to not only be able to put forward the most appropriate candidates to meet the business needs, but also to support the contract sales people they have provided, resulting in people feeling valued and although employed by the CSO, the talent should feel part of the client company;
- The client has confidence that when new recruits don’t work out, these people can be removed respectfully, quickly and efficiently; and replaced with another candidate promptly;
- CSOs like CHASE that have long-standing relationships with universities and colleges have unlocked a source of potentially capable contract sales people who come with no preconceived ideas & a desire to get their careers started. In many cases these contract graduates are a source of “future talent” for clients who may take some onto headcount.
My advice to Pharmaceutical/Healthcare Salesforce Managers today
Despite it being more complicated to sell medicines/medical devices to the NHS, the need to sell effectively and ethically to HCPs is still ever present.
Having the flexibility to add or remove a contract resource is undoubtedly good for business. CSOs like CHASE can help to ensure that gaps in the salesforce due to temporary leave are removed. In order to get the service-level you require from your CSO, a trusting partnership makes all the difference and is conducive to a two-way, open and constructive dialogue that enables you to achieve your business goals – without running round in circles, or running out of time!
CHASE offer contract sales solutions across the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. To find out more about how we can help you with your differential resourcing please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Alan Kidd is a Business Development Manager at CHASE.
(Bon Jovi are an American rock band).
This blog is no way endorsed or sponsored by Bon Jovi, we are just fans.