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Tariq Umer is a Pharmacist from Punjab University. He briefly taught at the university and worked as med rep in Wyeth before leaving Pakistan. He did MBA from University of Exeter in UK and later went to US and worked there for several years. This was his first job in Pakistan after working abroad for many years.
TU had several advantages. He had firsthand information on the latest in the Medicine and Pharma. He knew the upcoming trends. Having worked as Hospital Pharmacist, he understood the challenges faced by the hospital doctors.
I had the opportunity to work with TU over the next 12 years. We shall talk about him more over the course of time.
TU worked on three things simultaneously; Product Selection, Team Formation and Customer Development.
Product Selection. Hoechst had several non-performing products. He chose two acute care products, Claforan (cefotaxime) and Haemaccel (polygeline).
Claforan was the first of the Third Generation Cephalosporins in Pakistan. It had been launched earlier but did not do well. Velosef (cephradine – second generation) reigned supreme. The benefits of third generation were not clearly understood. Cefotaxime offered wider spectrum, better tissue penetration, higher sensitivity, and stronger anti-bacterial activity. The safety profile was also better than Cephradine. There was enough material to talk about, and it was backed up by good clinical documentation.
Haemaccel was a plasma substitute. It was required to replace lost blood plasma volume during surgery or trauma. The available choices were crystalloid solutions (Dextrose/ Saline/Ringers) or Colloid solution (Dextran 40/70). Crystalloids being hypotonic did not provide effective replacement of plasma but were given in routine due to factors such as easy availability and low price. Dextran was high molecular weight and was considered plasma-expander. It was definitely more effective than Crystalloid solutions. Haemaccel offered advantages over both Crystalloids and Dextran.
Claforan and Haemaccel remained exclusive focus for about two years.
Team Formation. TU reorganized the sales teams. Team A had acute care products; pain, spasm, allergy, cough & cold etc. Team B had chronic care products; anti-diabetic, Cardiovascular etc. Newly focused Claforan and Haemaccel did not fit into either. TU created a small Team C who had only these two products. Initially, it was more like a ‘Task Force’ and was later expanded as a full team. For the next many years, Hoechst worked with these three sales teams.
Customer Development. TU started to build customer base among leading consultants in related specialties. He worked extensively in the field and took up each major customer as a personal target and converted him/her through academic discussion, product selling and consistent personal follow up. Quality of sales teams improved rapidly with new inductions, re-orientation, training, discussions and learning from TU himself. Although TU was designated as NSM, but he did a lot of marketing activity himself. The sales team followed the same model and started developing other tiers of customers.
Most of the tertiary care was available only in big cities. Other cities had few specialists, if any. First specialists to be posted in Divisional Head Quarter (DHQ) level hospitals were Gynecologists and Pediatricians. Other specialists came much later. The main reason for this was lack of availability of required specialists. Patients who were serious, complicated and/or required major intervention, had to be hauled to big cities. It was very cumbersome and expensive for the patients and their caretakers. Currently, all major specialties are available in the larger (and even smaller) cities and most patients do need to travel to big cities for treatment.
The above fact had direct relevance to consistent changes in the sales team structures over the years.
When I took over Team B, two med reps were traveling during the entire month; Sohail Khalil (now late – may he rest in peace) to Gujranwala, Hamid Khurshid to Sahiwal. Friday was weekly holiday. They would go on Saturday and come back on Thursday. The idea was to finally base them in these headquarters. Team B dealt with cardiovascular, diabetes, urology and nephrology mainly. These specialties had not evolved in any peripheral town at that time and the reallocation of resource was not justified. We discussed and changed the plan. All five team members were stationed at Lahore and traveled to peripheries; from Sarai Alamgir in the north to Mian Channu in the south, and around.
This change helped me to develop customers base in Lahore in all major hospitals. The effect cascaded to peripheries as more consultant prescriptions went to the referring GPs. Our team became the highest selling team in anti-diabetics and remained so for many years……