Addressing 8 barriers to help drive Pharma Sales Force Effectiveness(SFE)


Sales efficiency & effectiveness improvements are the key drivers, for an efficient, effective sales force that can drive sales, market share and profits to Pharmaceutical organizations. By identifying the biggest drags on sales productivity, Pharma companies can achieve double-digit, year-on-year top line revenue improvements.

Let us find out the biggest barriers to sales force effectiveness which the Medical reps face during their sales encounters.

Barrier 1: Pre-call planning


Medical Reps struggle in preparing presentation for the following day’s sales visits prior to starting their daily sales trips. Before each sales visit, medical reps have to find time to review what happened during the previous meetings with the physician. The goal is to provide the physician helpful and interesting pieces of information during face to face details.

The reps have to visit their targeted physician at a set frequency on a consistent basis. Medical reps’ effectiveness in their meetings with physicians depends largely on the extent to which the physician perceives the interaction as intellectually value-adding. Naturally pre-call planning is the most critical component of a sales call which determines the future relationship with physicians and the rep.


Barrier 2: Last minute appointment cancellations


Another barrier to Sales efficiency for MRs during their daily sales trips is when a physician cancels a pre scheduled appointment. Because of unpredictable circumstances that might make the doctor not available for the meeting, MRs can only hope for the best and wait for the Physician in his office.

If an appointment gets cancelled, Medical Rep moves to the next scheduled sales visit  as per Tour Plan. A lot of time gets wasted in between calls. This builds a lot of frustration in the minds of MRs as they fail to meet their daily quota of calls.


Barrier 3: Dealing with Dead time


Another barrier to sales efficiency is the difficulty in turning periods of dead time into productive ones. Dead time is the wasted time spent without performing any work-related activity such as time in transit between scheduled meetings of a particular day, time wasted as a result of a last minute cancellation of an already booked meeting with a physician, or time available because of less time than expected being spent with a physician. Occurrence of dead time is frequent and difficult to predict. Medical Reps can’t plan ahead in the event of a last minute cancellation of a meeting. Hence value generating activity such as visiting another contact nearby is essential.

But generally most physicians require to be contacted in advance for a meeting with Medical rep. Therefore Medical reps deal with dead time either waiting outside the physician’s office or in the hospital cafeteria.


Barrier 4:  Answering to Doctor outstanding questions


Medical Reps effectiveness in field is affected by long delay in providing physicians with answers to their outstanding objections or questions.

And most often; doctors may need answers to their questions urgently; to which Medical Rep do not have immediate answer. In most cases, the information-gathering process takes place at home or by forwarding them to more specialized colleagues within the company. By waiting for the colleague to reply to the outstanding question, the time gets increased for the Medical Rep to submit the answer back to the physician.


Barrier 5: Providing new and relevant info to Doctors


A further barrier to sales effectiveness is physicians expecting reps to adapt to physicians’ information requirements. Physicians require that the reps provide them with new information during each sales meeting. They also want to hear other doctors’ experience with the drug, opinions and clinical findings.

Physicians believe another doctor more than the Medical Rep & often regard the opinion of their colleagues about the product the rep is promoting as more reliable than the arguments the rep provides them with. Hence they appreciate if Medical reps can provide them with the experiences of other physicians which is a constant struggle for Medical reps.

Barrier 6: Post-call planning


Medical Sales force Reps take down and store useful information during sales calls. During face to face meeting with physicians, the reps rely mainly on their memory for remembering what they perceive as useful information, such as drug-related issues discussed with the doctors or some specific questions that the physician may have. Information that the reps perceive as highly important (i.e. questions that require a follow-up), are written down on paper and later entered into the laptop when there is sufficient time between meetings or from home. The way follow-ups and paper notes are handled during sales visits is a barrier to effectiveness. Post-call planning helps in identifying what went right and what went wrong. That’s why the best idea is to complete the post-call planning right after the call is made.


Barrier 7: Medical Rep & Doctor gap


Another potential barrier to sales force effectiveness that reps face is – the availability gap. When physicians feel an urgent need to make a phone call to the reps; they may or may not get to talk.

That’s because most Medical reps put their mobile phone in silent mode during sales meetings and thus they cannot answer to incoming calls. When the rep tries to call back the physician after the sales visit they may be busy and not available to take the rep’s call. An opportunity to service the physician at his moment of need is lost!

Such unavailability gap of context-specific information to physicians may hamper the physician’s ability to treat his/her patients; and thus affecting Rx.


Barrier 8: Daily sales call Reporting


Medical reps accesses the company’s online reporting system or fills out excel templates as sales reports for the day in the evening, mostly at home or nearby cyber cafe. Some Medical reps defer their daily reporting tasks till the weekend and enter the sales reports for the whole week. The time gap between sales visits and the time when the reps actually enter information related to such visits hugely affects the quality of the reports.

By the time Reps perform reporting activity at the week end, a lot of useful information is forgotten or remain permanently locked somewhere on a piece of paper.  This is detrimental to sales force effectiveness as there is no sharing of knowledge about physician related experiences with colleagues, product team and management.

Solving the Pharma Sales Force Barriers through Tools & Processes


Barriers to Pharma SFE

Tools & Solution available

Pre-Call Barriers

  • Preparation of sales visits and planning how to deal with physicians’ questions
  • Printing in advance all the documents that the reps regard as important for the following day’s sales visits
 Solutions to Pre-Call Barriers

  • Mobile CRM for Pharma that can help in pre-call planning & efficient objection handling
  • Benefit from centralized Paperless and chronological call history through Mobile CRM
In-Call BarriersBarriers to efficiency

  • Unexpected cancellation of appointments by physicians
  • Difficulty in working productively in dead time periods including when driving from one location to another
  • Difficulty in accessing sales information to carryout prospecting activities

Barriers to effectiveness

  • Managing physicians´ outstanding questions
  • Note-taking during sales visits
  • Availability gap
  • Difficulty in coordinating with field secretaries in the field
  • Difficulty in adapting to physicians’ information requirements in terms of providing new information during each sales trip and disseminating the experiences of other physicians with the company’s drugs


Solutions to In-Call BarriersAddressing efficiency challenges

  • Unexpected cancellation of appointments by physicians can be managed through a Mobile CRM; unplanned calls can be scheduled for “nearby physicians” via GPS to effectively make use of the dead time.With Mobile Pharma CRM, just Point and tap for any information on your smartphone.

Addressing effectiveness challenges

  • E-detailing helps in getting answers to what the Physicians favored, how much time they spent, how many questions they asked.
  • Effectively perform post call analysis and be ready with answers before the next call.
  • Make use of the company virtual knowledge library and get answers to common questions fast.
  • More over allow physicians online access to virtual knowledge library; for self service learning and interacting.
  • With E-sampling online requests, make priority appointments with doctors and beat the queue.
Post –Call Barriers

  • Carrying out administrative and information gathering task at the expense of rest and family time.
Solutions to post – call barriers

  • Don’t wait till the end of the day or week to perform administrative tasks. Use Pharma Mobile CRM to get things done; when waiting between calls or traveling.

The lack of relevant information that could support the reps’ actions whenever needed appears to be the main source of most of the barriers the reps face during their sales trips. Mobility characterizes the work of sales representatives and hence mobile reporting software is essential for sales force effectiveness.

SFE tools introduce greater rigor into the sales management process – essential for organizations seeking to undertake successful restructuring of their sales organizations. Such SFE tools provide invaluable insight whenever the leadership team needs to gain greater clarity of sales performance. Such strategic sales change is the only way pharma organizations can build competitive advantage and underpin long-term, sustainable growth in today’s evolving market.


About the Author

Dipesh Majumder

I am a Marketing Technologist, a strategist & a visionary with over 8 years of experience in traditional & digital marketing. I have been responsible for the development & execution of sales force effectiveness strategies, tools, processes for global Pharma sales organizations. Lead key initiatives, critical projects & continuous improvement activities.

Chennai, India ·

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You may also like these