Are traditional pharma sales reps becoming obsolete?

Anyone who knows much about the pharmaceutical industry knows about pharmaceutical sales representatives. They’re the people who contact physicians and other decision-makers and influencers and make the case for why they should use the product they represent.

But an article that came into my RSS feed in Outlook today (authored by Marketing author Rich Meyer) raised a question that I have heard others in the industry raise before: is the “traditional” pharma sales rep becoming obsolete?

This isn’t to say that pharmaceutical companies should get rid of their sales reps right now. In fact, they must remain a part of any pharma company’s marketing mix. The question is whether or not they should become a smaller part of that mix, and if they need to change their methods.

While pharma has been more reluctant to embrace social media than most other industries, it is increasingly embracing it. Manufacturers are using these tools to interact more directly with their publics. Patients are now going to their physician armed with more information than before, and are therefore less dependent on the physician to provide all of the health information they need to make decisions.

At the same time, as Meyer notes in his piece, prescribers have less time than ever to talk to sales reps. They too spend more time online to get information. There simply may no longer be the need for pharma sales reps to call and visit prescribers to get them to buy their product.

As Meyer notes, health care is becoming decreasingly paternalistic and increasingly participatory. Health care practitioners need to adjust. And so do pharma sales departments.



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