Should pharma 'blow up' its sales model?

Blow up your sales force... or at least consider it. That's the message today from Deloitte Consulting, which has analyzed pharma sales and come up with some conclusions designed to provoke thought (and no doubt media coverage). The most dramatic suggestion--the "blow up" solution-- involves replacing in-house, dedicated sales reps with a looser network of independent agents, a la the life insurance industry. 

Fortunately, that's not the only solution Deloitte puts forward. The firm also suggests focusing more on payers and their needs, rather than almost exclusively targeting doctors. And payers want better information, particularly on outcomes, which means more outcomes research. (Deloitte actually uses the term "comparative-effectiveness research.") Payers also want better customer service. Plus, they're looking for closer partnerships on providing cost-effective care. Can you say cost-sharing and pay-for-performance?

When drugmakers do target doctors, they should do a better job of it with more sophisticated data-management and analytics. In fact, more sophisticated data collection and analysis could help in a variety of ways, Deloitte posits. "Although pharmaceutical companies don't necessarily need to blow up their sales forces, in my opinion they have no choice but to fundamentally change how they sell their products," writes Deloitte's W. Scott Evangelista. "[P]harma companies should take action now to become more customer-centric in the face of diminishing returns on commercial spend." What say ye?

- see the Deloitte release
- check out Deloitte's report