GSK tosses sales targets for U.S. reps

When it comes to paying U.S. sales reps, GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) is tossing aside the numbers. The drugmaker won't be basing bonuses on how well reps meet their sales targets anymore. Instead, customer service will be king.

GSK is moving from a quantitative measure--sales figures--to a qualitative one. Part of the quality assessment will come via "customer feedback," the company says; presumably, this means doctors and/or payers, and evaluation forms. Reps will also be judged by their "adherence to company values," the company says in a statement. 

It's part of a sea change in pharma sales these days. Drugmakers have been laying off sales reps in droves, motivated in part by simple cost-cutting and in part by the changing healthcare landscape. Fewer doctors are letting reps visit their offices unannounced; some bar reps altogether. Payers are using their formularies to gain power over patients' drug choices, making individual doctors and their choices less important. That, in turn, makes sales calls on doctors less important, too.

Industry experts have been saying for some time that drugmakers are going to have to broaden their focus beyond pushing product, and set up programs and systems that help patients and doctors. Think compliance programs, where drugmakers remind patients to take their pills. Or reimbursement counseling for expensive meds, or diet and exercise programs for diabetics.

"Physicians have been telling us they want to see fewer sales professionals," Deirdre Connelly, president of GSK's North American pharma unit, says in a statement, "and those they do see need to provide greater value in helping improve patient health."

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