Sales force cuts have only just begun

The Wall Street Journal is finally "officializing" what you pharma sales reps have known for some time: the drug sales world is positively scary. We all know the many drugmakers that have slashed their sales forces in recent months---Merck, Schering-Plough, GlaxoSmithKline, Wyeth, Sanofi-Aventis, and now (reportedly) a big-time axing over at Pfizer. And we expect that trend to continue rather than reverse.

According to the WSJ, the size of the drug industry's U.S. sales force has declined by 10 percent to about 92,000 from a peak of 102,000 in 2005. ZS Associates, a sales strategy consulting firm, predicts another drop--this time of 20 percent--to as low as 70,000 by 2015.

Not encouraging numbers. And it's still less encouraging to hear, for instance, that Merck ran a pilot program last year under which regions cut sales staff by up to one-quarter and continued to deliver results similar to those in other, uncut regions. This year, that program may go national. Eli Lilly is rolling out some pilot programs of its own, designed to "improve sales-force productivity," and we all know what that means. Those pilots are destined for nationwide expansion, too.

- read the WSJ piece