Highlights from the Changing Role of Sales, Compliments of Big Pharma

By Warren Shiver on Sep 29, 2014

A great article in the WSJ (“Drug Firms Divert Pitch to Hospitals”) outlines how pharmaceutical sales reps are increasingly calling on hospital administrators as opposed to Doctors. The following graphic nicely summarizes this trend:


We don't do a lot of work with pharma sales teams ourselves, but we see similar trends in other industries, especially in high technology, where sellers for years have worked to get on a preferred list and/or designed in to aspects of a company’s capability. Vendormate, an Atlanta-based security technology company, has grown by targeting hospitals to design in this service and require it for each of their vendors (who also have to pick up the tab)… Great sales strategy as one “sale” provides entrée to hundreds and even thousands of customers. 

Some other similarities between pharma and other industries:

  • Message – as pharma shifts beyond “wining and dining” and using clinical trial results to generate more sales (prescriptions), others are developing value propositions based on ROI and the value of the solution. In hospitality, a focus for many has been to move beyond a conversation based on “rates, dates, and space” to one built around the insights of a company’s travel and meeting needs, and how best to optimize their travel budgets.
  • Decreasing Numbers – many companies in industries as diverse as technology, hospitality, and consumer products are employing a “shift and lift” strategy of shifting more investment to a smaller number of account managers who are focused on a defined set of “key” or strategic accounts and then covering smaller accounts with inside sales teams or channels.
  • Adding Value Beyond the Product/Service – for the sales professionals who remain, it’s critical to add value above and beyond the offered product or service. As Neil Rackham asks, “Would the customer write a check for your time and advice?” While this approach has been a given in high-end professional services for some time, it is now increasingly an expectation across other industries and selling models.

All of these elements are designed to achieve a greater return on an investment in a sales team. How does your return on sales stack up? Check out our Go-To-Market Whitepaper for additional insights.

Warren Shiver

Written by Warren Shiver

Warren Shiver is the founder and managing partner of Symmetrics Group, a management consultancy focused on end to end improvement in sales force effectiveness. Through Warren’s leadership, Symmetrics Group has helped numerous organizations build high-performing sales teams focused on the right go-to-market strategy, disciplined sales process and well-designed enabling tools. Clients and consultants appreciate Warren’s uncompromising focus on quality and measureable impact and how he embodies the firm’s core values.

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