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Sales Force

For around a decade, sales in the pharmaceutical industry have stagnated. Growth has not reached beyond the 5% mark since 2004, and the year after saw a decrease of 3%. Since then, slow progress has been the order of the day (1). Even the hospital-specific sales market – a sector that peaked at a growth of 16% in 2008 – currently stands at a meagre 7% in comparison.

It is worth noting the importance of this industry to the UK as a whole. As of 2013, the pharma industry employed over 70,000 people in the country, across 477 businesses – with a total turnover of £29 billion – so continued slow growth represents significant lost revenues (2). Add to this a predicted maximum increase of 4.1% for 2015, and you have the makings of an industry which is far from achieving its full potential (3).

The Classic Model

The question many will be asking is how the sector is to wrestle itself out of such a slump, especially when it is at risk of becoming ingrained due to the length of time passed since it first entered the decline. One way to give the industry a much needed boost would be a wholesale reform of the backroom processes, allowing sales teams nationwide to do their job much more effectively.

The classic sales team model in the pharma industry is one based around representatives making the rounds to potential customers, using various pieces of collateral to drive sales – so far, so good. A strategy based on personal interaction and face-to-face agreements is always the best way forward as it builds trusted relationships between the manufacturer and the pharma professional. Yet the area which can be developed is in the delivery of sales collateral, and how it is used and shared by the sales teams. Efficiency in this area should not be underestimated because it has the potential to radically drive sales conversion.

Current Landscape

Looking at the current retail industry landscape, ‘click and collect’ has become the buzzword of the moment, with shops eager to install lockers from which customers can pick up bought items when and where they want. These locker networks can extend far beyond the confines of the shop, being placed at convenient locations that tap into peoples’ daily routines – train and petrol stations, town centres and high streets, or local shopping centres, for example. This convenience has revolutionised the sector, and such tactics can do the same for pharmaceuticals.

At present, sales representatives often have to wait for significant periods of time to receive collateral that they have ordered to help them with their sales. Deliveries are still either to homes or local offices; the former requiring representatives to stay at home until items arrive, and the latter necessitating a journey that may well take away from a day’s selling. Both have major impacts on the time the representative can spend actually doing their job; and so, when this time is totted up across an entire sales division, it can amount to substantial wastage.

A ‘click and collect’ supply chain can remove this wastage from sales divisions. Convenient pick-up locations reduce journey times for representatives, freeing up time for meetings and sales pitches, while also negating the need for the representative to stay in one place to receive a delivery. This ease of use is added to by the fact that representatives can send items from box to box, rather than back to a central depot for re-delivery, promoting minimal turnaround time for content important to a representative’s work. A sales division making the most of such methods can suddenly gain much more flexibility in its structuring, resulting in greater time efficiency and use of resources.

The Full Picture

Such a system can offer more than just a simplified delivery network. These networks can be organised by highly technical backroom software, allowing for a large amount of data to be collected, analysed and made the most of. Information – such as how long items are out in the field for; where demand is highest for specific collateral; or how quickly representatives return content once used – can all be collated and used to provide a complete picture of the pharmaceutical sales supply chain. Based on this, practices can be analysed and tweaked to drive further efficiencies.

Take the example of representative ordering: with a classic, delivery-based supply chain, representatives may order collateral far in advance of when they need it to ensure it is available for when an important sales pitch takes place. However, in most cases, the item will arrive in good time. This means that specific pieces of sales material are effectively out of action to all other representatives. Equally, once an item has been used, representatives may well be slow in returning it to a central depot, further exacerbating the problem of content ‘out for use’.

With full oversight, these issues can be minimised. Training can be put in place to teach representatives how to order and return efficiently, building a much more fluid materials turnaround system, and reducing unnecessary orders that waste money and time, as well as often needing an enlarged warehouse service to be dealt with. Effective ordering can reduce these warehouse requirements, lowering total overheads.

Future Savings

Savings such as these constantly add up, reducing time in the field and costs back at base. The importance of such efficiencies cannot be understated, especially when viewed against the current backdrop, combined with the predicted sales growth. For an industry of its size, and one known for its innovative and groundbreaking work in medicine, pharma companies should not be afraid of taking that enterprising spirit and applying it to other areas of their business.

The modern business landscape is fast-paced, fluid and reactive. Sales teams without such traits run the risk of, at best, maintaining current levels of success, or, at worst, losing market share and falling behind the competition. An innovative approach can radically alter this outlook, bringing sales departments up-to-date and preparing them for a successful future.


1. Visit: knowledge-hub/uk-economy/pages/ukindustry- market.aspx#fig2
2. Visit: uploads/system/uploads/attachment_ data/file/298819/bis-14-p90-strengthopportunity- 2013.pdf
3. Visit: article/13-04-15/UK_pharma_market_ to_grow_3_1_-4_1_a_year_to_ 2015.aspx

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Mark Garritt has over 20 years of experience in the logistics industry, having previously spent three years as General Manager at ICS, and seven years as Sales Director at Hays DX. He has been Managing Director of ByBox since 2003, where his expertise in using technology in logistics and the supply chain has allowed the business to take the UK delivery sector by storm.
Mark Garritt
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