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Rebirth of the pharmaceutical salesforce

Making sales reps essential players in the delivery of improved patient outcomes


Many believe that drug pipeline challenges, structural changes in the industry, and the rise of digital channels are heralding the end of the pharmaceutical sales rep role. Not so.

The healthcare industry's focus on delivering improved patient outcomes, along with advances in digital technologies, create an environment in which sales reps can become more valuable than ever. With new skills and digital tools, they can address the needs of a broader network of buyers and influencers and deliver innovative solutions that help doctors deliver better service to their patients.

Learn more about The Rebirth of the Pharmaceutical Sales Force.

Key Findings

Three factors are changing the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries and directly impacting the traditional pharmaceutical sales rep model:

  • Reimbursement models: Healthcare reform in the United States is changing the manner in which doctors are paid. In the area of Medicare, for example, 85 percent of payments are predicted to be tied to patient outcomes by 2016.

  • Changing buyer profiles: Today, integrated delivery networks (IDNs) own more than 60 percent of physician group practices. They define treatment protocols, not doctors.

  • Digital: Medical and healthcare professionals now access the medication information that sales reps previously controlled. Digital technologies are particularly important, as they provide new and better information in a fast and more convenient way.


Pharmaceutical companies’ sales organizations need to:

  • Address the needs of a broader network: Identify how the sales organization can add value, while ensuring they don’t introduce regulatory and compliance risk. This requires the sales organization work with marketing and other functional areas to develop tools, services and programs that stakeholders notice and value.

  • Evolve skills of existing reps: Meeting the needs of doctors, IDNs, group practices and other pharmaceutical customers requires companies to re-think their traditional sales roles, introduce new roles and responsibilities, and strategically deploy sales resources.

  • Introduce new sales talent: Pharmaceutical companies will likely need to hire new resources with strong B2B sales skills. These individuals are experts in agile selling, which involves working with intermediaries, channel partners, customers and even competitors to extend a company's reach.

  • Amplify the impact of human sales interactions with digital technologies: There is no either/or proposition when it comes to pharmaceutical sales in the digital age. Rather, companies need to determine how they can use digital technologies to make pharmaceutical sales teams more relevant than ever.