Keeping Up With the Changing Sales Model

Dr. Samuel Dyer

Over the last several years, the pharmaceutical industry has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of sales reps. This paradigm shift has been driven, in part, by direct feedback from physicians and Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) regarding the perceived value that sales reps deliver.

Traditionally, pharma companies have considered the relationship between sales reps and KOLs to be very valuable. However, over the last several years, physicians and KOLs have increasingly reported that they actually prefer to engage with and place a much higher value on the information they receive from Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs). This preference is reportedly due to the level and depth of clinical exchange that physicians have with MSLs versus sales reps whose primary role is to promote. Even though the sales rep-physician relationship will continue to be vital to the success of pharma companies, physicians will likely increasingly prefer to engage with MSLs because of their ability to have peer-to-peer, non-promotional conversations. As a result, the MSL role has seen exponential growth during this same period and is increasingly playing a crucial role in the success of global pharmaceutical companies due to the value that they bring to KOL relationships.

A number of recent studies have demonstrated this paradigm shift. In one study conducted by Thought Leader Select, both top and emerging KOLs reported that they prefer to engage primarily with MSLs versus sales reps, with less than 3% of respondents favoring sales reps. In another study, also by Thought Leader Select, physicians placed a 30% higher value on the information they received from MSLs versus the information they received from sales reps. Pharma companies can adapt to this paradigm shift and overcome the shrinking sales force presence by addressing the perception that KOLs have regarding the value that sales reps deliver.