Eli Lilly's new, leaner sales strategy

We all know that pharma reps have been bearing the brunt of industry cost cuts, as drugmakers revamp their sales strategies in ways that require fewer stiletto heels on the ground. Every so often, we get a window into just how a pharma companies is restructuring its sales efforts. Like today: The Indianapolis Star offers a peek at hometown giant Eli Lilly and its new approach to marketing.

The Star's piece reiterates all the contributing factors that you savvy industry watchers already know: physicians' weariness with sales calls, med schools and teaching hospitals' new rules for pharma-rep visits, and the sheer overabundance of reps detailing each drugmakers' slate of products. Plus, there are the overall pressures on the industry, such as generics competition and the looming patent cliff. All these things have squeezed Lilly reps just as they have other Big Pharma sales forces.

So how is Lilly shaking up its sales act? Well, in December the company said it had cut 25 percent of its U.S. sales force over the preceding year, or 1,000 full-time and contract reps. Going forward, the company plans to cut the number of reps who call on each physician, so that doctors don't go into sales overload. Instead of three or four, each doctor will have just one Lilly contact. And reps are now trained to ask doctors what they need, rather than reeling off a sales pitch. The company tested the approach in a pilot program in Ohio and Wisconsin; this month it rolls out nationwide, the Star reports. We'll let you know how it goes.

- read the IndyStar piece

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