How to build an army of Motivated Medical Sales Force?

motivating-medical-repsIn today’s increasingly complex pharmaceutical world; a highly motivated sales forces offer substantial performance improvement . A well-trained and compensated sales force, which maximizes revenues from existing customers and systematically identifies and manages new prospects well, allows a pharma company to grow faster than its competitors.

Such efforts are particularly important in an environment where doctors have many prescribing options and more choice than ever before.

Thus a good motivation and incentive plan should be flexible to accommodate new product launches and difficult markets; it is economical, yet competitive.

Driving performance through Motivation & Compensation plans

Motivation is defined as the drive to act and the intensity and persistence of this effort. It consists of an internal (personal fulfillment) and an external (compensation and rewards) component. People differ; they have various capabilities, experiences and financial needs. Motivating sales reps requires attention to individual characteristics.

The pharma sales rep job is unique and each person responds differently to the unique challenge of selling. The increased need for constant sales force motivation is associated with the following factors:

  • Sales reps often work alone and are separated from the team;
  • They experience frequent rejection;
  • Management places high expectation on their performance;
  • Sales reps have control over their time and effort.

The sales force effectiveness drivers (size, structure, compensation, hiring, territory alignment etc) are the tools that management can use to improve motivation. Because individual personalities vary, the real challenge of motivation is to set up systems that address all or nearly all of the various personal needs residing in the pharmaceutical sales force.

Following is a summary of the managerial programs that most directly affect sales force motivation:

  1. Company culture: It is reflected in norms, values and work style. Most sales reps find it motivating if the work culture is consistent with their beliefs, values and attitudes;
  2. Coaching and managerial supervision: face to face interaction with the sales manager is crucial for motivation. Managerial attention provides recognition, feedback and social affiliation. In addition, managers provide coaching, which helps improve ability and performance;
  3. Communication: sales meetings and newsletters are a medium for communicating success. They are an important part of recognition programs and they foster connection to the company and to other sales reps in the company;
  4. Training: the importance of good training has been discussed earlier in this chapter. From a motivational perspective it gives sales reps a larger comfort zone and a feeling of control. Sales reps who are well trained understand that rejection is part of the job;
  5. Recruiting and promotions: hiring intrinsically motivated people is the easiest way to have a motivated sales force. Careful recruiting (see earlier in this chapter) can produce a unified and more motivated sales force. An established career track is also an important motivational tool;
  6. Recognition programs and company goals: Realistic goals that a majority of the sales reps can achieve ensure that many egos are satisfied. Contests and special incentive programs bring ego and achievement motivators into play;
  7. Compensation: There is unanimous agreement that compensation affects motivation. Incentive plans have a major impact on organizations because they affect the type of person who is attracted to the sales rep job and they influence the activities and behaviors of sales reps. They represent a powerful tool that creates the desired behavior and ensures focus for encouraging sales activities, ultimately driving sales force effectiveness.
  8. Sales territory design and sales support: Sales reps need a well-directed organization that is economically sound in order to excel. Motivation is high when the sales reps know they offer outstanding products and services and that they are well supported. In addition, sales territories should be sized correctly to provide a fair share of opportunity and travel.

What should be the success criteria for compensation plans?

Successful compensation plans will not only help strengthen the position of the company in its marketplace and align with the overall business strategy and brand objectives, but also motivate the sales force and be readily understood by all.

The motivational aspect is now an area of  increasing interest; the focus of incentive plans appears to be moving away from issues around the appropriate size and structure of sales teams towards how to encourage the individual sales rep to deliver improved results.

It is helpful to assess compensation plans against the key attributes listed below:

  • Strategic alignment: Are the key results areas reflected in what gets rewarded?
  • Desirable sales force behaviors: Does the plan design generate the right set of behaviors from the sales force? For example, does it lead to ‘good quality’ calls or too many short calls? Does it mean a particular brand is promoted by reps simply because it is easier to sell than others?
  • Rewarding high vs. low performers: If an incentive compensation plan fails to reward high performers significantly above low or average performers then low/average performers are more likely to be attracted to the company. Risk-taking high achievers will be put off;
  • Fairness: Is the plan ‘fair’? High sales force turnover driven by perceived inequities in plan design or goal setting increases cost and leads to low morale;
  • Efficient administration: Is too much effort needed to create management reports?
  • Over and underpayments: Does the process result in errors leading to over payments which add large financial risk to budgets? Are large numbers of reps and sales managers complaining about the scheme?

How Pharma can effectively measure sales & employee performance?

Executives at top-performing pharma companies understand that they need to have well-designed extrinsic motivational programs. Appealing to achievement, social affiliation, power, ego gratification through motivation programs accelerates sales force performance.


Without an integrated set of tools and techniques; Pharmaceutical managers can have a hard time to make insightful decisions. According to recent studies conducted on diverse group of Pharmaceutical companies automated specialized Pharma CRM & SFA systems promotes effective operating practices and winning strategies in the area of Sales Force Automation and Customer Relationship Management. Sales force automation and CRM, provides management insightful KPIs and Business Intelligence(BI) to enhance sales force productivity and effectiveness.

Final thoughts

The demand for experienced sales staff will increase. The shift is being made from providing  numbers and volume to expecting productivity and performance from remaining sales staff.  The environment in the pharmaceutical industry today is characterized by increasing complexity and competitive dynamics. Implementing the right business processes and enabling them adequately is the pre-requisite for generating the desired business outcome. This is especially true for managing the sales force, which is by far the largest promotional expense for a typical pharmaceutical company.

Therefore, companies must accurately hire, train, compensate, measure performance and reward it’s sales force for sales success.

Your turn

How do you motivate and reward your sales force? Comment below…

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 ·

One thought on “How to build an army of Motivated Medical Sales Force?

  1. instead of motivating medical representatives, it is better to construct another great wall of is easy than motivating medical rep.

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