Pharma reps tone down sales pitch, focus on service

If you think the pharmaceutical reps you see in your office have softened their sales pitches recently, you're not imagining things. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, it's an intentional change in tactics, and sales numbers suggest that it's working.

In response to changing economic and regulatory conditions, drugmaker Eli Lilly & Company, for example, has abandoned its notoriously aggressive sales strategy in favor of a more friendly approach. In fact, the company's most recent sales meeting, held at Disney's business training institute, focused not on product training but on customer service.

Doctors have noticed the difference. While some interviewed by the newspaper admitted that Lilly's former approach was off-putting enough to drive them to competitors, surveys show a sharp increase in physician satisfaction with the company. Today, 85 percent of doctors say they are satisfied with Lilly, up from 60 percent before the switch. In turn, U.S. sales of antidepressant Cymbalta were $2.98 billion during the first nine months of 2011, more than $450 million higher than during the same period in 2010, according to data firm Wolters Kluwer Pharma Solutions. Other products have seen upticks in sales as well.

Pharmas, including GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Merk & Co., also are asking their representatives to provide more resources to physicians and less sales pitch, according to the newspaper. For example, GlaxoSmithKline now evaluates its reps based on how well physicians rate them, rather than the number of prescriptions written. And in an effort to be more responsive to physicians' concerns, Lilly has made available a nutrition program to help patients manage weight gain associated with its antipsychotic Zyprexa, even for those who are taking a competitor's product with the same side effect.

To learn more:
- read the article from The Wall Street Journal