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Pharma Sales Force Effectiveness: Increasing Productivity Through Streamlined Internal Communication

ID: SM-173


3 Info Graphics

35 Data Graphics

33 Metrics

32 Best Practices

Pages: 60

Published: Pre-2013

Delivery Format: Shipped


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Single User: Authorizes use by the person who places the order or for whom the order was placed.

Sitewide: Authorizes use of the report for a geographic site. All people at site can view the report for a year and copies can be printed.

Corporate: Authorizes use for the entire company for a year and copies can be printed. No limitations for usage inside the company.

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Study Background

Internal communication can make or break the productivity of a direct sales force. If properly used, email and voicemail can quickly disseminate educational, tactical and motivational information. However, when district managers and sales reps find their email and voicemail boxes filled with poorly prioritized or even unnecessary communication, personal productivity and work-life balance suffer.

More than any other industry, sales reps and managers in the pharma industry often experience the highest levels of internal communication. Reps not only work in highly matrixed environments with internal and external copromote partners, they also have to stay abreast of regulatory changes and scientific developments for drugs in and out of the market. Although much of this communication is necessary, reps and managers also experience a significant level of “noise” as colleagues in the field or at corporate send communications that are poorly targeted, redundant or inappropriately timed. When managers become overwhelmed with internal communication, they often reduce the amount of time they spend coaching in the field in order to keep up with all of the communication they receive that is self-labeled “high priority.”

When reps receive high levels of unnecessary communication, one of the following three effects often occurs:

1. Reps reduce the time spent in the field with physicians in order to keep up with internal communication received.
2. Reps put in extra hours in the evenings or over the weekend in order to manage communication, cutting into their work-life balance and potentially leading to a fast burnout.
3. Reps begin to self-select the communications they wish to read, oftentimes ignoring critical information because it cannot be distinguished from non-critical information.

Study Objective

Best Practices, LLC launched this research study exclusively for the pharmaceutical industry to help companies build more effective communication practices in the sales force.

Sample Key Finding:

1. Time spent on internal communication: According to this benchmarking research, reps spend on average 13.7 hours a week managing internal communication. Most of this time is spent managing email, checking voicemail and talking on a cell phone. Of this time, 4.4 hours (or 32%) are perceived to be unnecessary.

Other Topics Covered:

  • Time spent on internal communication
  • Sources of unnecessary communication
  • Where does internal communication come from? Headquarters vs. the field analysis
  • How district managers can reduce unnecessary communication
  • How to overcome the increased communications from matrix-based selling and copromote teams
  • Which forms of communication are best suited for various types of content
  • How to establish "rules of engagement" for effective communication
  • Best practices: should they be shared or simply made available online?
  • Presence of communications training programs at leading pharmaceutical companies
  • When to use "push" vs. "pull" forms of communication
  • How corporate groups can reduce the communication burden reps and managers receive
  • Best practices for prioritizing communication in the field
  • Using communications functions to optimize all sales force communications
  • IT tactics to support effective sales force communications

Additional Benchmarked Metrics:

The following metrics were collected and analyzed based on responses from 10 leading pharmaceutical companies.
  • Sources of unnecessary communication by communication type
  • Overcommunicated and undercommunicated content
  • Volume of voicemails and emails received weekly by reps and managers
  • Percentage of communications received that are from headquarters and percentage that are regional
  • Financial impact of unnecessary communication: labor cost and sales opportunity cost
  • Percentage of communications received that are FYI vs. FYA
  • Percent of companies benchmarked that have tracking porgrams for time spent on internal communication
  • Differences in time spent on internal communication based on territory type (rural vs. urban)
  • Percentage of companies with training programs on filtering and prioritizing internal communication
  • Most effective communication media for various content types
  • Presence of various communication forms in the field (i.e. cell phones, wireless email, wireless internet, wireless access to a company database)
  • Frequency of internal communication received based on sender (i.e. district managers vs. sales reps vs human resources, etc.)
  • Percentage of email communications received that are misdirected or redundant
Industries Profiled:
Pharmaceutical; Biotech; Health Care; Medical Device; Chemical

Companies Profiled:
Pfizer; Sanofi-Aventis; Purdue Pharma; Janssen; Merck; Lilly; Johnson & Johnson; Ortho-McNeil; Genentech; Allergan

Table of Contents

Introduction 6
Executive Summary 7
Research Approach 7
Participating Companies 7
About the Benchmark Class 8
Sample Key Findings 10
Assessment of Internal Communications 12
Introduction 12
Analyzing Communication Flows from Regional vs. Headquarters Sources 16
The Cost of Poor Communication 19
The Role of the District Manager 21
Filtering, Prioritizing and Synthesizing Field Communications 21
District Managers: The “Air Traffic Controllers” Who Direct
Field Communications in a Team Environment 26
Communication Effectiveness Techniques 30
Best Practice Sharing Etiquette 31
Training Reps to Communicate Effectively 34
Overview 34
How Corporate Can Make a Difference 38
Overview 38
Redirecting Information Delivery 38
Headquarters Coordination Role to Reduce Redundancy 42
Planning and Coordinating Information Delivery and Requests 44
Technological Support for Effective Communication 46
Sources of Communication in the Field 50
Aligning Technology, Training & Messages for Communications Effectiveness 51
Email: Managing a Powerful Tool that Can Steal Time from Field Activities 53
Phone, Voicemail, and Conference Calls: Orchestrating
Effective Voice Communications 56
Web, Web Access, and Webcasting 57
Appendices 59
Figure A.1-Communication Frequency by Source 59
Figure A.2-Misdirected Communication 60
Figure A.3-Redundant Communication 60

List of Charts & Exhibits

Figure S.1-Participating Companies 7
Figure S.2-Sales Territories Represented 8
Figure S.3-Therapeutic Areas Represented 8
Figure S.4-Total Number of Products Supported 9
Figure S.5-Number of Co-Promote Products Supported 9
Figure 1.1-Hours Spent Managing Internal Communication 12
Figure 1.2-Hours Spent on Unnecessary Communication 13
Figure 1.3-Unnecessary Hours by Communication Type 14
Figure 1.4-Over-Communicated Content 15
Figure 1.5-Under-Communicated Content 15
Figure 1.6-Average Weekly Rep Communications Volume: Region vs. HQ 16
Figure 1.7-Region vs. HQ Breakdown of Communications to Reps 17
Figure 1.8-Average Weekly DM Communications Volume: Region vs. HQ 18
Figure 1.9-Region vs. HQ Breakdown of Communications to DM’s 18
Figure 1.10-Annual Cost of Poor Communication 19
Figure 2.1-District Managers’ Screening Role 22
Figure 2.2-Breakdown of HQ Communications for DM’s by FYI vs. FYA 24
Figure 2.3-Breakdown of Regional Communications to Reps
By FYI vs. FYA 25
Figure 2.4-Breakdown of Regional Communications to DMs By FYI vs. FYA 25
Figure 2.5-Effective Communications Management Grid 28
Figure 3.1-Internal Communication Tracking 34
Figure 3.2-Unnecessary Communication 35
Figure 3.3-Filtering/Prioritizing Internal Communication 35
Figure 3.4-Making Email Messages more Concise and Effective 36
Figure 3.5-Effective Tools for Communicating 36
Figure 3.6-Message Prioritization 37
Figure 4.1-Volume of Direct Mail Communications to Reps Region vs. Headquarters 41
Figure 4.2-Volume of Direct Mail Communications to DMs Region vs. Headquarters 42
Figure 5.1-Technology & Media Appropriate Uses 49
Figure 5.2-Communication Access in the Field 50