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Beyond the Numbers: A Patient-Centric Approach to Sales Motivation

The pharma industry’s move toward patient centricity presents a number of challenges and opportunities. More often, sales reps, while having the patient “in mind,” are still largely driven by other goals, such as scripts written and market share targets. Studies show that when people are motivated solely by numbers and financial rewards, it compromises the organization’s ability to foster a culture – or sense of purpose – where patients’ needs are prioritized.

An emerging, and more patient-centric, way to incent customer-facing teams is based on the clinical depth of knowledge. Some organizations are already taking an approach where pharma reps no longer have individual sales targets alone. Instead, they are assessed and rewarded based on technical skills, scientific understanding and the quality of service they deliver to health care providers (HCPs).

Investigating new approaches to ensure that clinical knowledge and selling skills are retained and applied by your teams can go a long way toward delivering real patient-focused value. Mobile reinforcement technologies dedicated to improving sales capabilities have the potential to make a major contribution to optimizing the value of the reps’ interactions with HCPs. They can also ensure that the core messages are retained in the long-term, and remain top-of-mind.

Mobile technologies, in particular, that engage representatives in team competitions while reinforcing core knowledge and skills are becoming widespread, as they provide a way for commercial excellence teams, sales managers and others to deal with these challenges.

This growth in utilization is also due in part to the management insights that well-developed platforms deliver. An interesting case study on this emerged from a top pharma company in the United States that had assembled 2,000 sales reps for an intensive three-day launch meeting on a new oncology drug. As they started detailing oncologists and other clinicians, a series of brief scenario-based challenges were pushed to the mobile devices of participating reps to ensure that the key points from the meeting were retained. These were followed by brief explanations designed to refresh and reinforce key learnings from the sales meeting.

After a few weeks it became apparent that a surprising 85 percent of the sales team were struggling with a particular piece of clinical research involving white blood cell count in patients after taking the drug. They discovered that a paragraph in the launch materials – while factually correct – was written in a confusing or misleading way. The company quickly arranged a number of mandatory webcasts and follow-up from sales managers to re-educate the reps on the white blood cell count information.

A situation like this could very quickly lead to unwanted consequences for patients, so it’s essential to achieve insight into sales team capabilities on an ongoing basis. By encouraging greater empathy with a patient’s condition, pharma companies can instill a strong sense of purpose and manage compliance. Focusing on the realities patients face every day helps reps to gain a deep understanding of what a particular medical condition means to them. If reps do their job well, they can help patients to engage with the right course of treatment early on and adhere to the right dosage regimen.

To move in this direction effectively, you should investigate well-developed, data-driven solutions designed to:

• Reinforce key information on patient experience, clinical data, disease state and compliance to ensure reps are patient-focused, while driving appropriate behavioral changes in the field;
• Clearly and quickly identify key skills or knowledge gaps that may prevent pharma reps from selling consultatively;
• Support more effective coaching among your sales leadership; and
• Employ motivation tactics to drive ongoing team engagement at scale.

No matter how intelligent and committed your reps are, or how good your sales meetings and training sessions, when it comes to patient-centric approaches, gaps in knowledge will remain. Identifying them quickly is the key. Without this ability, the chances of incomplete, or worse, incorrect information increases. And, if reps can’t communicate core information, HCPs will find it elsewhere, perhaps even from competitors. That’s bad news for the company, but even more so for patients.

Lisa Clark is vice president, marketing, for Qstream. Email Lisa at

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