Vacancy Management for Pharmaceuticals
Coping with sales force attrition and its effects is a major challenge for many pharmaceutical companies in Greece and in Europe. Even in the face of recession effective sales reps move from one company to another in hopes of a better salary, improved work environment and better prospects. Of course professional reasons are not the only cause for employee turnover. Personal reasons such as life change, moving to another city and family reasons make matters worse.
Sales managers and company leaders are fully aware of this problem that obstructs their plans and efforts. Even the best performing pharmaceutical companies, with the highest scores in employee satisfaction surveys face a significant turnover. No matter how small or big a company is she has to deal with this challenge. That’s why many sales leaders when they plan for the year take into account sales force turnover.
The effects of unaddressed vacancies
As a sales rep leaves a company several issues occur with a negative impact in sales results, in the relations of the company with health care professionals and in the rest of the team as a whole. Particularly as long as a territory remains vacant its sales plummet and the remaining sales force has to “fill the cracks”. In other words the rest of the team or some of its members in the surrounding areas become over-utilized which leads to dissatisfaction and additional attrition. Attrition causes further attrition. Effective vacancy management is therefore a necessity for most pharmaceutical companies. Nevertheless very few of them have developed an early plan to address the need as quickly as possible.
Another reason for suboptimal vacancy management is workload and time limitation for middle and higher management. In other words those who are responsible for finding a replacement of the departing member (of the sales team) are time-depleted and see the whole procedure as an inconvenience. As a result they hire a so called “warm body” (i.e. the first acceptable candidate they find) in order to address the vacancy as quickly as possible. Yet this practice may perpetuate the problem of missed sales goals.
As mentioned earlier in this article when there is no vacancy management planning there is a rash overloading at the expense of the remaining team. Existing sales reps are required to cover the vacant territory leading to more resignations and vacancies. Additionally the share of voice and the promotional coverage at the territories of the remaining field force weakens and competition finds the opportunity to steal market shares. Moreover rapport building with physicians halts or even deteriorates. Loss of contact with health care professionals is in some cases inevitable. Last but not least hurried recruiting, in most cases, leads to lower performing teams.
How to put into practice an effective vacancy management system
Since it is difficult for most pharmaceutical companies to put in place a vacancy management system it is necessary for them to cooperate with an experienced third party. By the term “experienced” we mean a company that specializes in sales, marketing and promotion of pharmaceutical products and has all the necessary knowledge, mechanisms and procedures to propose the best candidates for the vacant position.
Additionally a third party may offer its already existing sales force to provide for a quick coverage program and address vacancies almost immediately. This sales force operates mostly on a syndicated mode, but there are exceptions that a dedicated sales force can be also available. In the case of a syndicated (also called “shared”) sales force the company must agree on the position of its products in the portfolio of the shared reps.
The third party with the most experience in vacancy management is usually a company operating in the sales force outsourcing sector able to provide dedicated, syndicated or “on demand” sales reps. By being always on the move these companies maintain updated information about all available options and prove to be an important strategic partner for most pharmaceutical companies.
As a conclusion we would say that vacant territories cause significant sales fluctuations with serious repercussions in the sales force as a whole. It is therefore essential for pharmaceutical companies and their management teams to put in place a vacancy management system to address uncovered areas as quickly and effectively as possible. Since there are remarkable difficulties to place such a system, experienced third parties with deep knowledge of pharmaceutical sales are the best solution for this problem.