All the careful training delivered to sales reps can't add up to a talking robot visiting doctors' offices, says Mike Luby, CEO and founder of TargetRx, Inc., a firm specializing in marketing and sales consulting for the pharmaceutical industry. Pharma reps may need more knowledge than salespeople in other industries, but like these counterparts, they also need great interpersonal skills.
The goal is getting the doctor to think of the visiting rep as a resource rather than a nuisance to be dispensed with. Surprisingly, with so much on the line, Luby says the pharmaceutical industry is behind the curve in developing metrics to effectively measure the impact of sales training. The addition of relevant metrics could be one of the most important advances in pharmaceutical training over the next few years. "I always argue, it's hard to manage something you don't measure," Luby says. "In the application of metrics, having training be more data-based and having the effectiveness measured more closely, there is a huge opportunity for improvement."
Sales force downsizing in the industry hopefully will move companies to turn attention away from a strategy of beating the competition through sheer volume of sellers. "Improvements in the quality of your sales effort at the margin," says Luby, "drive much bigger increases in physician prescribing than improvements in the quantity."