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We take a break from the ‘Story of a Pharma Salesperson’ and move on to other topics. We shall return to it later.
Wikipedia defines Integrity as follows.
“Integrity is the practice of being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values. The word integrity evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete. In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.”
We know by instinct what integrity is; we know when it is present; we know when it is absent. How is it so? It is because in the making of a human being, the sense to differentiate good from bad, right from wrong is built in. We are therefore cognizant of how the value-based system works.
The primary conflict occurs when integrity appears to come into contradiction with commercial interests. The Return on Investment is the standard ROI. But is there a Return on Integrity ROI?
If we expand the application of integrity, we shall see it has a definite return in many ways.
The most desirable thing that a commercial organization pursues is to create and sustain the value of a brand. It is true for Pharma as well as all other businesses. We see many brands in Pharma which are now household names. Products like Panadol and Betnovate and Dicloran are known to a large majority. It is not the familiarity of name; it is the trust on such brands which have made them so well-known. Scores of such examples can be drawn from consumer goods. In fact, it is more so in consumer products. Brands of tea, biscuits, milk, chocolates, food items, detergents etc. have been around for decades and are still selling strong. Similar examples are there among appliances, cars, tools and so on. We are confident to get a certain quality when we buy Sony or Dell or Apple. The point is that these brands have delivered expected or promised value every time these were purchased. They have stood strong due to integrity of their projected quality. Integrity helps to build brand value in two ways. One, when the product delivers the quality time and time again; two, when the claims match the delivery.
Pharmaceutical is hugely responsible business as it deals with human lives. It is unfortunate that the seriousness of purpose has been overtaken by the commercial interests. Even then, the brands which do not deliver claimed benefit do not survive for long. Integrity of product and its promotion are therefore mandatory for Pharmaceutical Industry. And Return on Integrity ROI is more relevant than Return on Investment ROI.
Customer/ Supplier/ Distributor Relations
Marketing is about getting mind space of customers, which also creates long lasting customer relations. Relations are also built with suppliers and distributors.
Presently, there is confusion, lack of understanding and lack of sensitivity in these areas. Short term commercial considerations have become the driving force due to which trust-based relations are getting lost. Customers are trying to fleece the Pharma companies, Pharma companies are trying to fleece the suppliers, and distributors-principal relation is disrupted due to lack of trust. Trust deficit is a direct indicator of loss of integrity, and it is rampant in current times. There is a serious lack of integrity on all sides.
Employees are a major stakeholder in any organization. High turnover of sales force in Pharma has its roots in loss of integrity. If we go back 30-40 years, when a person joined sales force of a Pharma company, he considered it to be a lifelong committed relation. In the same way, the corporate also took it as a long-term relation. Both gave their best to one another, treated one another with respect and built relation on the high ground of integrity. The results were phenomenal. All major Pharma companies who have become multi-billion companies over the years can trace the results back to a great team which worked together for several uninterrupted years. The corporate trusted them, and they trusted the corporate. Presently, the relation is a mere commercial contract which can be altered or terminated at any time by both sides.
Integrity is not just honesty; it is standing solidly by universal ethical values and norms. Return-on-Integrity ROI may not yield results in the short term like Return-on-Investment ROI. However, it is a guarantee for building long-term value, profits and relations.