Insights

Getting Everyone Into Place

Business Issue


Rep Placement

Changing needs, changing sales forces

There are approximately 60,000 to 70,000 pharmaceutical sales reps in the United States, and each company has different sales teams for different products, with constantly changing product responsibilities, customer targets and staffing levels within sales teams. Numerous market events can lead to sales force restructuring, including patent expirations, additional competitors, new payment models and other changes.

When a pharma company restructures its sales force, it will also change the size or structure of its sales teams, placing reps in new or different territories.

Assigning the best reps to the right territories keeps familiar faces in front of customers, and an objective, transparent process helps ensure companies retain their best performers. And for the pharmaceutical industry, the ability to minimize customer disruption while retaining the best salespeople is key to success.

But handled incorrectly, sales force restructuring can lead to a disgruntled sales force and the possibility of legal action, not to mention sales reps poorly matched with customers. To avoid these outcomes, sales force restructuring must be objective and transparent.

The Problem


Expansion and contraction at once

A major pharmaceutical company faced a common problem: As two of its primary-care products were losing patent exclusivity, the company had to gradually reduce the teams selling the products and reassign the best reps to other sales teams. However, it still had to meet the promotional needs of the products losing exclusivity, and couldn’t just pull reps from these products en masse.

The company needed to ensure it retained its best-performing reps and avoided paying unnecessary severance. Transferring top-performing reps to another team handling a portfolio of products with growing sales was the obvious solution. A workable solution would have to limit the disruption to reps’ lives, routines, performance and customer relationships.

It was also imperative that the company still met sales goals for the primary-care products going off patent. It needed an objective process to reassign reps in order to get the best results, and make sure it was a transparent process to minimize the threat of legal action and paying unnecessary severance.

The Solution


Playing matchmaker between reps and territories

Working with the client, ZS delivered a structured process to conduct rep placement that was objective, transparent and made sense to the management of each sales team. ZS and the client:

  • Developed objective business rules that served as “matchmakers,” finding the best rep for each eligible territory and the best territory match for each rep on new teams
  • Applied these business rules using ZS software to match existing reps to new positions
  • Determined the territories most in need of additional sales support
  • As the two teams for the off-patent drugs shrank, the company repeated the process quarterly to fill territories for the expanding product

The Results


Best-fit sales teams with a minimum of aggravation

The personnel placement process generated positive results:

  • A high percentage of the company’s best-performing reps remained with the company while it minimized legal challenges and severance
  • Territory assignments for reassigned reps were within specified distances from their homes
  • A contract sales force filled more than 300 positions and provided coverage for products going off patent

The ZS solution enabled the company to keep a large percentage of experienced, talented reps who might have otherwise left the company as its products neared the end of patent, while maximizing sales for both teams.