The Doctor Won't See You (Mr. Pharma Rep), Now

The Doctor Won't See You (Mr. Pharma Rep), Now

- Number of ‘rep-accessible' docs falls another 20 percent; ‘rep-inaccessible' docs increase 50 percent -
- Pharmacos respond with more precise sales force deployment strategies -


Greg Austin
ZS Associates
[email protected]

Anahita Wadia / Mack Reynolds
The Reynolds Communications Group
[email protected] / [email protected]

EVANSTON, IL - May 6, 2010 - Obtaining access to busy physicians grew still more difficult for pharmaceutical representatives in 2009, as the number of physicians willing to see most reps fell nearly 20 percent, the number of prescribers refusing to see most reps increased by half and the number of management-planned sales calls that were nearly impossible to complete topped 8 million.

These are among the findings of the latest AccessMonitorTM, a report from global consulting firm ZS Associates that examines how often physicians and other prescribers will meet with sales representatives from pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The study monitors the sales rep-related interactions of more than 500,000 physicians, nurse practitioners and other pharmaceutical prescribers nationwide and tracks both the planned and completed sales calls of more than 41,000 pharmaceutical representatives - about half of all representatives in the United States.

According to the spring 2010 report of AccessMonitorTM, only slightly more than half (58 percent) of prescribers in 2009 were "rep-accessible;" that is, they met with at least 70 percent of the sales representatives who called on them.  This is down 18 percent from the spring 2009 study that showed 71 percent of physicians met with at least 70 percent of pharmaceutical representatives.  At the same time, the number of "rep-inaccessible" prescribers - those who saw fewer than 30 percent of the reps who called on them - increased to 9 percent from 6 percent.  The report classified 33 percent of physicians as "rep-neutral;" they'll see 31 percent to 69 percent of the pharmaceutical salesmen who call on them.

Eight Million-Plus Sales Calls Nearly Impossible
In a trend that reflects both the physician's busier schedule and the pharmaceutical industry's lack of new blockbuster drugs, physicians as a whole were loath to see any but the most valuable pharmaceutical sales representatives.  More than 20 percent of prescribers considered "rep-accessible" in an AccessMonitorTM study in late 2009 fell to a "rep-neutral" rating in the spring of 2010, while 11 percent of prescribers rated "rep-neutral" shifted to "rep-inaccessible" during the same period.  Even those physicians classified as "rep-accessible" became more discriminating.  In this category, 94 percent of primary care providers and 83 percent of specialists did not see even the best representatives more than twice each month.

Based on these findings, AccessMonitorTM concluded that more than 8 million management-planned sales calls - at a cost to pharmacos of more than $1 billion per year - are nearly impossible.   That's because company sales plans require that representatives call on prescribers who either refuse to see any drug representatives or refuse to accept frequent sales calls from the rep.

Some Reps Exonerated
"Pharmaceutical representatives are operating today in an increasingly unwelcome physician-office environment," said Chris Wright, principal and leader of the pharmaceutical practice at ZS Associates.  "The number of physicians who refuse to see any reps is increasing and the number of physicians who will see most reps is declining.

"Indeed, while these trends challenge selling organizations, the findings exonerate many sales representatives.  This is the most comprehensive analysis of physician access available on the market today and it confirms that certain prescribers simply won't see any pharmaceutical representatives - and they won't do it under any circumstances.  Sales management should accept that you can't reach these doctors simply by telling the reps to ‘try harder.'  Instead, managers must modify the call plan to connect best with each individual physician."

New Selling Strategies Save $500 Million Annually
Wright said progressive pharmaceutical companies now recognize the need to be more precise and more efficient with their sales and marketing efforts. Many of these companies have responded by adopting a dramatic new sales force deployment strategy called "differential resourcing."

Differential resourcing matches sales resources to local conditions and is more flexible than conventional, "one-size-fits-all" selling models. Unlike traditional, national sales team-based models, differential resourcing allows companies to adapt to subtle market changes - even those that involve an individual physician's willingness to meet with sales representatives.  The strategy represents a new way of equipping salesmen and assigning them to doctors in a manner that reduces sales force expenditures and unproductive time without compromising physician relations or sales.

"We introduced differential resourcing in 2007," Wright said.  "While it requires a rather complex change to existing sales models, companies who adopted this approach quickly reduced their sales force-related costs by as much as 20 percent. Collectively, these companies now save themselves more than $500 million each year.  But the pharmaceutical industry has just scratched the surface.  In our view, implementing this practice across the board can save sales forces in the U.S. another $2 billion annually - all while giving individual representatives much-needed flexibility." 

Debunks Myths of Group Practice Physicians
While AccessMonitorTM did confirm that reps often are asked to call repeatedly on physicians who won't accept rep visits, the study also debunked certain myths about the sales representative-related attitudes and policies of physicians who practice in large groups.

"For years, pharmaceutical companies thought that physician group practices followed standardized policies of refusing to meet with nearly all drug sales people," said Aaron Barzilai, manager at ZS Associates and a leader of the AccessMonitorTM 2010 report.  "Our AccessMonitorTM study revealed that's simply not the case.  In fact, doctors in many group practices - including those in some of the most ‘access-challenged' states like Wisconsin, Minnesota and Massachusetts - are as open to seeing pharmaceutical sales representatives as those physicians who are not in group practices.  There are isolated cases of ‘no-see' groups, as you'd expect in any state, but there is no region-wide, standardized practice."

About AccessMonitorTM
AccessMonitorTM is a proprietary tool that incorporates the call reports from more than 165 different U.S. pharmaceutical sales teams representing more than 175 different products. The report equips companies with data to make the best use of sales and marketing resources in a systematic way. This could involve making meaningful changes to sales force structure and deployment, improving territory and compensation plan design and analyzing marketing effectiveness and use of alternative media.  The data supplied by the AccessMonitorTM enables each pharmaceutical company to determine its own response to the current environment, based upon its own unique needs.

In addition to the bi-annual national industry reports, participating companies also receive a company-specific AccessMonitorTM report that provides customer insights based on industry data that is processed, cleaned and anonymized according to a rigorous set of rules.

To learn more or to participate in the next round of reporting, contact ZS Associates at (847) 492-3602 or visit

About ZS Associates
ZS Associates is a global management consulting firm specializing in sales and marketing consulting, capability building and outsourcing. Founded in 1983, the firm today is comprised of four affiliated legal entities with more than 1,300 professionals in 19 offices around the world. It has assisted more than 700 clients in 70 countries.

As one of the largest global consulting firms focused on sales and marketing, ZS Associates has experience across a broad range of industries, including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical products and services, financial services, transportation and high-tech.  ZS consultants combine deep expertise in sales and marketing with rigorous, fact-based analysis to help business leaders develop and implement effective sales and marketing strategies.

For more information on ZS Associates, call (847) 492-3602 or visit