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I had compiled a working paper on Sales Force Effectiveness some time back on demand. While writing this paper, I researched and tapped several resources whom I gratefully acknowledge. It is not possible for me to acknowledge all of them separately by name, but it neither diminishes their contribution in it, nor my gratitude for them.

Sales Force Effectiveness (SFE)


Sales Force Effectiveness (SFE) has been defined in several ways. Two fundamental approaches to define SFE are as follows.

SFE is a combination of strategy and tools to maximize sales force results. This is a narrow perspective relatively where the primary focus is ‘Sales Force’. Better training, improved work planning and quality in-clinic performance is the mainstay in this model. Monitoring Metrics will include doctors’ coverage, frequency of coverage and relating it to sales output.

SFE is a process of building a ‘Sales Model’ through portfolio alignment, marketing strategies, segment development, customer feedback, structural changes, and reviewed processes. Monitoring Metrics include financial and activity measures.


Traditional sales model developed over last two decades was built on the premise that having a new/first generic/ high priced generic gave enough power to achieve peak sales performance which could then be sustained through a heavy detailing field force. This market scenario has changed.

DRAP is now a barrier as opposed to being a facilitator in the past; KOLs are asserting their opinions; cost of launching a new product and achieving a decent market share has increased manifold. New blockbuster drugs had been major growth drivers in the last about two decades both for the innovators and early generics not waiting for the patent expiry. Presently, the blockbusters are hard to come by and the IP situation is highly unfavorable for generics of still-in-patent drugs.

Cost of selling has gone up considerably. Field force cost is huge; providing input materials is also a heavy cost; and KOLs and high-volume business producers have become highly demanding. The cost further escalates due to high field force turnover as time and money are wasted in selection, recruitment, orientation and training.

Therapeutic segments development and business spread along these have changed hugely. Chronic/managed care, hepatology, nephrology, oncology, nutrition/well-being have grown much faster than several other traditional, large segments.

These and some more factors demand that new sales model, new marketing tactics and new monitoring metrics be developed to remain competitive and keep growing.

Present Major Challenges

  • Keeping pace with fast changing market dynamics
  • Evolving new sales models around physician access and expectations
  • Developing physicians’ trust around all aspects of business
  • Creating alignment across all departments during critical product launch phase
  • Need for on-the-fly performance analysis
  • Enabling sales force effectiveness while complying with ever increasing regulations


Major anticipated benefits include but are not limited to:

  • On target strategy and execution
  • Resource optimization
  • Improved per-person productivity
  • Increased ability to compete
  • Enhanced capability to sustain in tough market conditions
  • Heightened morale
  • Sustained team building

Fundamentals of SFE

Following may be considered as the fundamentals of SFE practice.

  1. Alignment of Marketing and Sales to match the industry/market environment
  2. Content-driven interactions between sales representative and customers
  3. Use of appropriate analytics to monitor and drive sales performance

SFE Related Capabilities

Implementation of SFE requires following specific capabilities.

  1. Establishing priorities and aligning the organization around the sales strategy
  2. Solid cross functional performance metrics
  3. Strategy translated into actions through clear linkages
  4. An effective management toolkit including on-the-fly analysis across multiple data sources
  5. Strategic management

SFE Practices

  • Analysis of portfolio, market, environment – SWOT and PEST analyses
  • Identification of growth opportunities – target market segmentation, ideal client profiling, customer value proposition
  • Allocation and organization of resources – go-to-market strategy, operating and coverage model, goal and role clarity
  • Fit-for-purpose sales model – sales process, sales enablement tools, technology enablement
  • Exception-free sales management discipline – chain of command, reporting, performance management
  • Maximized growth and minimized decline – new capabilities, success profiling, reward and recognition

Five Pharma Specific SFE Actions – will continue in Part II……


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