Part 1: The Changing Life of Modern Pharmaceutical Sales Professionals

Below is the second in a series of guest blogs from Dr. Peter J. Shaw, chief medical officer at QPharma Inc. Watch for additional posts from Dr. Shaw in the coming months.

With all the recent advances in tablet technology, the way pharmaceutical sales professionals interact with health care providers (HCPs), and in particular doctors, has changed. Most pharmaceutical companies are now providing their sales teams with touch screen tablets as their main platform for information delivery. The day of paper sales aids, clinical reprints and marketing materials is rapidly fading. The fact is that doctors have less time to see sales professionals during their working day and there are increasing restrictions on access to doctors by many institutions. Therefore, the pharmaceutical industry is having to be more and more inventive and flexible in the way that it approaches doctors and conveys the information needed to keep up-to-date on pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device advances.

  • How has this impacted the life of the sales professional?
  • How have pharmaceutical companies adapted to the changes?
  • To what extent has the use of mobile devices been adopted?
  • What impact has this had on the quality of the interaction with HCPs?
  • What are alternatives to the face-to-face doctor visit?
  • How have doctors received the new way of detailing using mobile technology?
  • What do doctors like/dislike about being detailed with a mobile device?
  • What does the future look like?
  • Are there any disadvantages to relying solely on mobile technology?

To answer some of these questions, and hopefully to generate a lively discussion on the future of mobile technology in the pharmaceutical sales world, I would like to share some facts and figures from recent research we conducted on the proficiency of sales reps using mobile devices in their interactions with HCPs, and the impact this has had on clinical and prescribing behaviors.

  • In tracking the use of mobile devices for the last three years, it is clear that there is variable use of mobile devices by sales professionals.
  • Where sales reps only have the mobile device, they are using them in only 7 to 35 percent of interactions with HCPs.
  • The use of mobile devices increases with the duration of the interaction with HCPs, in that the device is used in almost all calls lasting over 15-20 minutes.
  • Many reps do not use mobile devices in calls under 5 minutes. Often this is due to the non-interactive nature of the content, or the awkwardness of navigating through required multiple screens before arriving at information relevant to that particular HCP.
  • We have data to show that where the mobile device is very interactive and the sales rep is able to use it to open every call, the call will be on average 5-7 minutes longer with the doctor than if it is not used.
  • In cases where doctors will take virtual sales calls, these calls are greatly enhanced if there is a two-way visual component. Any device used in virtual sales calls much have a two-way video capability as the HCP will expect to see something to back up the verbal content of the sales call.
  • Most doctors feel that the use of mobile technology in face-to-face calls enhances the interaction with sales reps provided it is used as a means to visually back up the verbal communication in an efficient and direct manner.
  • Screen size is the main complaint we hear from HCPs. Most say that where the rep is presenting to more than one HCP the screen needs to be bigger than the 10” that is on most of the devices currently used by reps.

The mobile device is clearly here to stay. HCPs use them in their day-to-day clinical practice and now accept that sales professionals will also use them. When the mobile device is expected to be used as the sole means for information delivery, more work needs to go into designing the content and making it possible for the sales professional to navigate to the information that is relevant to that particular HCP. All aspects of the sales call need to be on the one device; information delivery, signature capture and validation for sample requests, and ability to email clinical reprints immediately to the HCP are just the start.

In part 2, we will look at how sales reps are using mobile devices effectively and the lessons to be learned from three years of data tracking the use of these devices and the increasing acceptance of virtual sales calls.

What questions do you have?

Dr. Peter J. Shaw is chief medical officer at QPharma Inc. He has 25 years of experience in clinical medicine in a variety of specialties, 20 years’ experience in product launches and pharmaceutical sales training and assessment, and 10 years’ experience in post-graduate education.