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Sales Force Competitive Intelligence In the Pharmaceutical Industry

Sales Force Competitive Intelligence In the Pharmaceutical Industry


Practitioner's guide to leveraging salesforce competitive intelligence in the pharmaceutical industry
Last Updated: 11-Jun-2018

Benchmarking refers to the comparison of the metrics, processes and practices of a particular business against the others in the industry. Proponents of benchmarking argue that, when performed judiciously, it is one of the best decision-making tools available. It brings an external perspective to the table, triggers sanity checks, eliminates internal biases, reveals blind spots and provides an opportunity to emulate or exceed.

The pharma industry, is principally known for innovation, a fact reflected by the significant investment in its R&D function. In a reasonably sized pharma/biotech company with marketed products, sales and marketing typically constitute the largest expense as a proportion of company revenue. Exclusive monopolistic products seldom exist and if they do, then the window of monopoly is short. PCSK9 drugs, Hep C drugs, immune-oncology drugs, diabetes combo drugs are some recent examples. With fundamental assets not providing sufficient exclusivity to endow sustainable monopolistic power, it makes sense to embark upon astute sales and marketing strategies and tactics.

Focusing on Sales Force

The sales force is the most significant resource deployed by pharma companies in order to drive the uptake of their assets. Over the years, sales force has been the best way to implement a 'push' marketing strategy, and this is unlikely to change soon. Consequently, sales force effectiveness program has emerged as one of the most widely used practices in the industry. The importance, as well as the cost of the sales force, is evidenced by the widespread axing of sales reps in most restructuring initiatives.

Leveraging Primary Competitive Intelligence

Sales force data is available from a multitude of vendors. However, such information is ubiquitous and available to every player in the industry. Putting aside the issues associated with such data from secondary sources, sales force data has become a baseline resource, rather than a source of competitive edge. Combining primary competitive intelligence with secondary data offers an incremental competitive advantage. It addresses the issues encountered with off-the-shelf data, such as staleness, and helps to understand the actual game employed by the reps at a grass root level. Furthermore, using primary competitive intelligence allows one to collect qualitative aspects of interactions between the reps and prescribers. An array of insights can be obtained for various peers/competitors throughout the industry inter alia:

  • Structure of the marketing and sales team
  • Organisation of sales force
  • Dedicated vs non-dedicated reps
  • Head count and FTE of the sales team
  • Stable and transient resource allocation 
  • Visits and detailing employed by the sales reps 
  • Messaging and counter messaging


The utilities of sales force benchmarking exercises are numerous for both emerging and established pharma/biotech companies. Based on our prior experience, some of the applications are summarised below:

  • Performance improvement and understanding the practices and praxis of the best players in the industry 
  • Understanding peers' sales force strategy, and refining one's own strategy 
  • Assessment of human resources requirements for launch of new products 
  • Assessment of investment requirements to establish/augment sales capabilities 
  • Elimination of any uncertainty associated with the estimation of resource requirements for commercialisation 
  • Optimisation of go-to-market strategy for launch and commercialisation 
  • Comparison of in-house commercialisation effort with licensing and partnering deals
  • Negotiation assistance with respect to deal terms

Insights Applied

Sales reps deployment, messaging, engagement etc. with the prescribers are highly dynamic activities. Companies tend to constantly revise their sales force strategy and tactics. The drivers behind such changes are usually the emergence of newer clinical data, pricing deals, marketing campaigns etc., both for their own products, as well as competitors' products, and certain wider macro factors affecting the pharma industry. In addition to leveraging the benefit of sales force benchmarking, a systematic and periodic collection of sales force intelligence and its appropriate use helps to fine-tune sales force execution strategy in real time.

About BiopharmaVantage

BiopharmaVantage is a boutique healthcare consultancy that takes pride in providing premium quality sales force intelligence amongst other competitive intelligence and decision-support services. If you would like to explore how we can assist you, please contact:

Saroj Saini

Senior Director

BiopharmaVantage, Oxford, UK