The Benefits of a Sales Pilot for Pharmaceutical Products

A sales pilot is a short-term experiment that tests a product’s sales performance or a new sales approach. The value of a sales pilot is that it’s restricted to a particular geographic area for a limited period of time and in that way, it helps sales executives to discover what works best and what doesn’t before committing to a larger investment. In the pharmaceutical industry there are numerous companies who benefit from sales pilots by helping them find out which products perform better and whether there is an opportunity for further sales promotion scaling. To say it in a few words, a sales pilot is a test to assess whether a pharmaceutical company should invest or not in the promotion of a product.

As well as preventing a company from allocating significant resources in an investment that could go sour, a sales pilot can also help the company to acquire valuable insights before launching a product to the broader market. Health Care Professionals (HCPs) typically give valuable feedback during a sales pilot period and act as a compass about what to expect in terms of competition, obstacles and difficulties in general. In that way a pharmaceutical company is better prepared to market its products, minimizes its risk and saves a significant amount of time and resources. Moreover, thanks to sales pilots, companies can adapt quickly to changing market conditions, can spot new opportunities and stay ahead of competition.

How to Organize a Sales Pilot:

Sales pilots are usually limited to a small group of HCPs or to a limited geographical area. The duration of the pilot extends from a few months up to a year and long enough for the company management to draw useful conclusions. The way a sales pilot is organized is essential for its success. A poorly designed sales pilot can result in false insights and incorrect conclusions. So how can a pharmaceutical company organize a successful sales pilot?

The first thing to do is to identify the objective of the sales pilot and to decide the metrics that will be used to assess its outcomes.

The second thing to do is to identify the geographical area or the particular HCPs that will participate in the sales pilot. In that stage those responsible for the design of the sales pilot should pick a geographical area that is limited and at the same time representative of the broader market.

Some other factors to consider are the costs, the extent and the duration of the sales pilot. How many sales reps will take part, what experience they need to have, what are the related costs, how many times, for how long and in what frequency they will visit the HCPs, are just some of the questions that should be answered during the design stage of the sales pilot.

Fourth is the supporting material that will be used by the sales reps which typically include a presentation, leave-behinds, training materials, and maybe samples for the HCPs and their customers.

Finally comes the timeline of the sales pilot i.e., when will the product be ready, when will the supporting material be in place, when will the sales team training take place, and by when the conclusions will be drawn.

Limitations of a Sales Pilot:

As we have seen so far, sales pilots have significant benefits for the companies that use them. However, in some cases they also have limitations. The first limitation is the cost. A sales pilot, depending on its extent, may prove to be expensive especially when it is poorly designed or when it takes time until it starts to work properly. Pharmaceutical companies can mitigate this risk by using an experienced third party that has run sales pilots for several other pharma companies and knows how to meet the requirements of such a project.

A further limitation is that a company must find the right personnel (sales reps) to run the pilot. This is time consuming and it also raises the question of which sales reps to transfer from an already existing sales line to the pilot, without jeopardizing the sales of its other products. Again, the solution to this puzzle is the use of an outsourced sales force.

Finally, another limitation of a sales pilot is that even if it appears to be effective in the short term it may prove to be ineffective in the longer term. This is because market conditions constantly change and some products or sales methods become outdated.

In conclusion, a sales pilot offers great benefits in that it helps a company to test its products and its sales methods before launching them to the wider market. It is significant though that the sales pilot is properly organized and that some potential problems have been addressed from the beginning. In many cases the use of an outsourced sales force may prove to be a valuable solution.