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Dear Pharma Veterans. This series of Blogs is to share my learning about Pharma Business in Pakistan. It will be a series spread over several parts covering the entire spectrum of Pharma business.

Pharma Business – Sales SALES TEAM MANAGEMENT

We shall roughly divide Sales Management into following broad categories.

  • Sales Planning
  • Sales Operations
  • Sales Team Management
  • Sales Performance Management
  • Customer Management
  • Sustainable Business Growth Management


Sales Teams are the biggest department in pharma companies. In fact, sales teams have grown with the sales – or is it the other way around? I believe it is. Pharma companies expanded the sales teams vertically and horizontally. They added more salespersons in the same headquarters, and they opened new headquarters. This was in line with the shifting of doctors and consultants from major urban areas to smaller ones and then more peripheral ones. We may not call it shifting of business; it is creation of new business. When the consultants were first appointed to district headquarter (DHQ) hospitals, there were apprehensions, mostly among the newly appointed consultants. However, they quickly discovered goldmines (commercial success) in these areas. Imagine a fresh postgraduate trying to establish private practice in the presence of senior consultants in Lahore or Karachi and the same person doing it in Sialkot or Gujranwala or Nawabshah and the like. She/he would be up against huge competition in the major urban centers while they would have monopoly in the DHQ hospitals. Anyway, many of these consultants built great practices. This fact did change the distribution of business of several products, particularly the hospital-based products.

Leaving behind the little digression, we return to Sales Team Management.

Five Points are critical to Sales Team Management.

Hiring – Ability to communicate, ability to learn, and achievement orientation are most desired traits for a person being picked up for sales. Many skills can be built upon these traits. Barring few companies, hiring process, hiring preferences and hiring qualifications in pharma companies are questionable. In the early 1990s, we noticed that young people from better localities were not coming to Pharma sales jobs. It was because they were seeing better, more paying options in banking, IT and other fields. Pharma sales was becoming lackluster and less-desirable. Due to lack of availability of desired talent, the hiring benchmarks kept sliding down, lowering the quality of hiring considerably.

Training – Training starts from orientation to product information to skills development. Training grooms the new people and keeps polishing them with the time. Training Needs certainly change with job changes. The overall emphasis and time allocated to training has been on the decline for various stated reasons. The problem is deeper than lack of resources and urgency of business. It is actually due to the changes in selling process. The bottom line is that less/no-training has hurt the image, performance and business.

Performance Management – Performance is important for all jobs. Having said that, it is more tangible in sales as compared to some others. With the introduction of KPIs, and Performance Metrics, there is an effort to make every job measurable. Performance of a salesperson is measured across following parameters.

  • Achievement against Target
  • Sales Growth Trend
  • Customer Base
  • Customer Retention and Addition
  • Knowledge – Product, Territory, Customers, Competition

Performance management is not just measuring performance; it is to plan, support, execute, monitor and build performance.

Talent Management – Though I lamented about decline in benchmarking, I still believe there is no dearth of talent in Pakistan. Our people are young, energetic, and hard working. Yes, they are unfocused because the leadership fails to provide focus and their impact is less than the effort because the government does not channelize their effort to bring better results. In the context of a Pharma company, talent must be hired without compromise and fear; talent should be groomed and deployed to get desired results. Currently, only a handful of companies are doing it.

Erroneous Concepts & Practices – Sales Teams have been greatly undermined due to following erratic concepts and practices.

  • Investment on customers is the key to getting business; not the sales team working
  • Doctors do not listen; no need to train on products
  • Doctors do not give time; no need to train on selling skills
  • Salespersons do not stay for long; no need to do career planning
  • Talented salespersons have high turnover; hire less talented people
  • Hire extremely needy people; they value the job more
  • Track physical presence in field; no need to track in-call performance
  • Only pressure is required for performance; no need to do anything else
  • Disbalanced handling; either no monitoring or over-monitoring
  • 5-7 tiers of ‘managers’ between salesperson and Head of Sales; too many layers to distort upward and downward communication

The list can go on further.

Presently, Sales Team Management is at its poorest in most companies. This is directly reflected in the fact that 50 companies have 90% market share and 650 companies are struggling for 10%. And those 50 companies are not doing everything right; only better. Lessons are for all stakeholders to learn.


Very important Technological Support is now available for Sales Planning, Execution and Monitoring. I shall take up this subject in some detail in the upcoming blogs.


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