When pharma marketers design their roadmaps to market the latest therapies, they often make decisions based too heavily on instinct and experience. That’s the marketing equivalent of army generals fighting an upcoming war using military tactics from the last battle they won. History might repeat itself, but you shouldn’t count on it.

These “educated guesses” can inadvertently limit a drug’s potential, risk ill-informed sales and marketing decisions, and wreak havoc on a drug’s forecasts and profits. Yet, armed with new techniques, marketers can look beyond data’s thin surface layer, apply advanced data and analytics to expert insights, sharpen their forecasts, and maximize sales.

In fact, data can confirm or contradict what you believe is true, including these common misperceptions.

Misperception #1: Branded vs. Generics

We’ve seen cases in which a company’s product launch roadmap assumes physicians who prefer generics over branded drugs would rarely prescribe branded therapies, so reps avoid calling on those physicians. Yet a more in-depth review of the data suggested two encouraging results: First, many physicians who prescribed generics were, in fact, quite willing to prescribe the name-brand drug to patients. Second, doctors who usually preferred generics to name-brand equivalents often changed their minds after meeting with reps.

Misperception #2: Multiple Reps Are Bad

At the height of the pharma sales force arms race, pharma companies often sent several reps to the same physician. Evidence showed that some doctors would prescribe a drug more often if more reps for that drug detailed more frequently. But times, attitudes, and practices changed—and today many physicians limit their access to sales reps. In response, some pharma companies stopped assigning more than one rep to visit a single physician’s office. Yet, data shows that’s not always the right move.

We’ve seen cases in which dividing visits between two sales reps is more effective than assigning one single sales rep to all visits. With this type of sales force structure, each sales rep visits twice the number of physicians, but half as frequently. The physician collectively receives the same amount of sales rep visits, but from two reps.

Misperception #3: Wasted Rep Effort

Sometimes, field data disproves the popular home office belief. Management may believe its sales reps are wasting effort on physicians who are not prescribing the drug they’re detailing. What we’ve found, though, is that reps had often given up and moved on to other prescribers. In order to set more reasonable expectations, data analysis can determine the average rep effort needed to convince a doctor to write that first prescription.

Pharma sales and marketing leaders must think like sharp generals. Don’t rely on past experience and anecdotes, alone. Combine them with cold, hard facts. Those advanced analytics will help you design a much better roadmap and battle plan.

  • Steve Trokenheim

    Steve Trokenheim is a Partner at Beghou Consulting, a pharmaceutical consulting firm with particular expertise in sales and analytics. As a 20-year industry veteran, he has extensive experience working with clients on sales force size and structure, targeting and call planning, incentive plan design and management, segmentation, and promotion response modeling. 


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