Reaching the Highest Peak

David Kriesman

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Launching a new cancer drug is a time of great excitement and anticipation for a manufacturer. Teams across the organization have worked together during years of development to bring a potentially life-saving treatment to market. Now it’s up to the field force to pull it through in a way that maximizes the benefit to patients and yields a high ROI for the company.

The rapid pace of growth in oncology is unprecedented. In 2016 alone, it’s expected that more than 50 cancer therapies or new indications will be approved by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration, which means that companies will be scrambling to refine or create 50-plus new compensation plans in anticipation of these launches.

To ensure the success of a new product launch, a compensation plan is a critical tool, but the stakes are even higher in oncology, where new products need to get out of the gates as quickly as possible. Sales of new oncology therapies spike and quickly reach a plateau, in many cases as soon as 12 to 18 months after launch, compared with 36 to 48 months for other drugs. Multiple competitors in nearly every major tumor category are racing for approval of new indications in an increasingly crowded market. Despite these pressures, when developing the sales compensation plan, the same guiding principles still apply. Companies should create a plan that’s both fair and motivating, not to mention easy to communicate and aligned with brand strategy.

At the same time, the launch scenario and heightened visibility also present companies with a unique opportunity: more freedom than usual to get creative and introduce innovative elements into their comp plans in order to maximize launch. The key is to get an early start on designing the plan, beginning at least three months ahead of launch, so that you can gain support for the new approach and generate excitement within the organization leading up to the rollout.

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About the Expert

David Kriesman is a manager in ZS's Philadelphia office. He is a member of the firm's healthcare sales compensation team, with a particular focus on specialty therapeutics and oncology. Since joining ZS in 2003, he has spent his time helping clients in the pharmaceutical industry refine their sales strategy and pull it through with effective operations, with a focus on key areas such as field force design, customer targeting, sales force effectiveness, alignment and incentive compensation.