Doctors Giving Pharma Sales Reps the Cold Shoulder

Doctors haven’t gotten any more open to visits from pharma reps over the last year.

The number of physicians who were “rep-accessible,” defined as meeting with at least 70% of salespeople who come calling, dropped by 18% from last year, according to sales and marketing consultants ZS Associates.

In a report out today, the firm says 58% of prescribing doctors now fall into that rep-friendly category, down from 71% in the previous survey. The proportion of physicians who see fewer than 30% of reps who visit now sits at 9%, up from 6% in the last survey.

Cuts to pharma sales forces have reduced the number of completely wasted sales calls – those where the doc, for whatever reason, isn’t going to reschedule or see the rep another time, says Chris Wright, principal and leader of the pharmaceutical practice at ZS Associates. There were 8 million such calls last year, compared to 18 million last year. “Companies are waking up and saying, we should stop sending our guys out to do impossible things,” he says.

Still, Wright says pharma sales forces will likely continue to shrink; his firm projects the population will decline to about 70,000 in 2012 from about 82,000 now. Some companies are getting better at matching sales rep supply to regional demand, which can vary because of co-pay differentials or other factors.

And, he says, plenty of folks are trying to come up with ways to reach doctors when they’re not at their absolute busiest. Video detailing via the Web, for example, lets doctors get in touch with sales reps when docs most need information — say, when a patient has a question — or after hours. A lot of similar ideas for sidestepping the traditional office visit have been introduced, Wright says, but “few have taken root.”

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One Response to Doctors Giving Pharma Sales Reps the Cold Shoulder

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