Why pharma is sales driven

KEY TAKEAWAY: Harvard Business Review found that sales performance is highly correlated with promotion to management. For salespeople, each higher sales rank corresponds to about a 15% higher probability of being promoted to sales management. But, sales performance is actually negatively correlated with performance as a sales manager: when a salesperson is promoted, each higher sales rank is correlated with a 7.5% decline in the performance of each of the manager’s subordinates following the promotion. We found similar results regardless of whether salespeople were promoted to their own team or to new teams. In other words, firms tend to promote top sales workers into management, even though they become the worst managers.

In their data, among people who were actually promoted, better salespeople ended up being worse managers .

If you have worked in pharma or biotech you’re keenly aware that sales people are often brought in from the field to be managers within marketing.  I have often had clients who need  a couple of days of basic marketing to bring new managers up to date on what and why we were implementing certain programs.  These are people that are strictly driven by numbers and could care less about patients.  To them it’s about churning and burning and selling rather than educating and informing.  To this day, I believe, this is one of the reasons why so much pharma marketing stinks.

Not too long ago a sales manager was promoted to Director of DTC and wanted a whole day to understand why they needed budget expenses like SEO and content updates.  He wound up cutting budgets and then three months later asked his agency why his online metrics had declined so much.

Whose at fault?

The fault lies within organizations that continue to lay off talented people as products come off patent.  They don’t seem to care that they are losing good people as long as the head count is reduced.

Then there is the lack of a career path.  If you’re a great digital marketer and have had successes launching brands what’s your next step within pharma?  I know a lot of good digital marketing people who are at career dead ends because their only opportunity is to leave digital marketing which is their passion.

But let’s be honest: pharma can say they are patient centered all they want, but the truth is they have been and will be sales driven.  Sure, they’re patient centered, but only to get them on board as a new patient.  Other than that they could care less.

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