More than $25 billion per year is spent on marketing pharmaceutical products, showing the size and importance of the industry and underlining the need for the pharmaceutical company to be highly effective in this arena. It is simply not good enough for the organisation to be on the cutting edge of its game, and ground-breaking when it comes to the delivery and dissemination of new products to the market, unless it is sharply attentive to marketing in this highly competitive marketplace. While the healthcare industry always seems to be a growth industry, there is an increasing amount of more focused competition and the company fails to concentrate on its marketing strengths at its peril.

Due to the sheer size of the healthcare industry and the fact that it touches every individual in one way or the other, much attention is given to drug spending. Indeed, it is estimated that spending on pharmaceuticals can account for up to 15% of the total amount spent within the health industry and with such high numbers at stake, marketing proficiency, or a lack of it, can have big consequences.

The sales force is critical to the success of the pharmaceutical company as it spends much of its time directly interacting with front-line professionals, advisors and practitioners. Positive interaction between the sales executive and the professional is essential for progress. As the executive engages with the professional, a lot of time and effort can be put into trying to achieve a result, but as the practitioner is often turned off to marketing practices and advances, this can be a ‘tough nut to crack.’

Often times, the healthcare professional, being highly educated and focused, wants to rely on scientific papers, advice from colleagues within the industry, or his or her own training and first-hand experience. There is a significant danger that the professional could view the advances of a pharmaceutical company sales executive as single-minded, so the executive therefore needs highly-tuned marketing and communication skills to be able to break through.

As the pharmaceutical industry matures, more emphasis is being placed on these product areas and with advances in medicine, an increasingly higher level of education is important for the sales team. These complex dynamics worry the pharmaceutical company chiefs, especially as they have enough to fill a plate with regard to product development, lobbying activities, regulatory enforcement, adherence and economic constraints. It is at times like these that they should turn to pharmaceutical consulting firms not only to advise them, but to help educate and direct their sales forces.

Invariably, pharmaceutical consultants have first-hand experience of the market and know how to interact and deal with end-users and with professionals. Advice can be imparted about layers of motivation, multiple layers of training and the best way to approach client interaction. In most cases, pharma consulting can help to instil the correct amount of urgency within the sales staff member, while helping to ensure that the team works across different tangents. Not only must the executive understand the best interests of the employer, but he or she must seek the trust and acceptance of the professional at this most critical stage in the product life-cycle. True balance is required to ensure that motivation works through training to reveal the correct way forward.

Alan Gillies is the Director of L2L Consulting, an elite pharmaceutical consultancy firm which specialises in Strategy Development and Implementation Excellence for prestigious multi-national organisations.

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