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All things Pharma

Stand up and be counted: are you a name or a number?

At a time when the industry is having recruitment issues, Pf investigates which companies have got what it takes to attract and keep the best candidates.

These are testing times for the pharma industry. A recent survey by the Chartered Management Institute and Remuneration Economics has revealed that 81% of companies in the pharmaceutical industry are having recruitment problems, while 77% are finding it difficult to retain staff.The majority of respondents to this survey blamed a lack of suitable candidates and competition from other organisations for their recruitment and retention issues.

“This accountability means that performance against sales targets is totally transparent… success and failure rest in the hands of the individual.”

Richard Mitchell,
Healthcare Development Manager

In a business environment where high calibre candidates are in demand, the pressure is on companies to offer the most appealing overall package. In addition, the move towards a key account management approach within the industry has made the recruitment of the highest quality candidates more important than ever. But which companies have got it right? As the priorities for many sales professionals are changing, is the attraction of the major corporations beginning to fade?

In this second part in our series examining the appeal of mediumsized pharma companies,we look at what it is that high calibre candidates are looking for and which companies are scoring the highest satisfaction in these areas.

The competitive drive

The sales profession is associated with ambition and the drive for success, and this is certainly no less true in the pharmaceutical sales industry. Indeed, 60% of respondents to Pf’s 2007 Company Perception, Motivation and Satisfaction Survey claimed to have a sales record that is one of the highest or above average within their company.

So what are the top medical sales candidates looking for? The results of Pf’s Survey indicate a change in what motivates high performers. When asked to rank 16 motivational factors, aside from the usual high-scorers ‘salary’, ‘relationship with manager’ and ‘company culture’, top-performing representatives also placed ‘recognition for success’, ‘accountability for sales’ and ‘autonomy’ in their top 10.

This desire to be noticed for achievements was also reflected in the responses when candidates were asked about their own company. NHS Hospital Representative Rob McMurray explained what accountability means at Eisai:“Your territory is your own! You don’t have to share customers with colleagues or book appointments around others.”

As we saw in the previous article in the series, key account management is a sales model that is increasingly becoming popular, but the principles of this approach are already commonplace in medium-sized companies.Autonomy and accountability play a central role in this strategy, but are medium-sized companies performing well in these areas? A comparison of our four medium-sized companies, Eisai, Lundbeck, Merck Serono and Solvay, with the top five corporations revealed some interesting results, so we spoke to some employees to find out if the statistics match the reality.

Taking on the big boys

Our medium-sized companies particularly excelled in the area of accountability. An impressive 85% of employees who responded to Pf’s Survey from these companies said they were satisfied with this area of their work, and just 1% were not satisfied. In contrast, 52% of big pharma employees are happy with their level of accountability, with 18% expressing dissatisfaction.

Richard Mitchell, Healthcare Development Manager with Solvay, explained why he feels top performing representatives thrive under a culture of accountability: “Solvay’s size means that representatives are given total responsibility for their individual territories.This accountability means that performance against sales targets is totally transparent, where success and failure rest in the hands of the individual.The sales force welcome the challenge of managing their own business, and this engenders a competitive edge, both internally as well as externally.”  Medium-sized company employees also felt they were allowed greater autonomy, with 72% expressing satisfaction in this area compared to 62% in the top five companies.

Traditionally, this has always been a strong area for smaller companies, as Lee Simms comments:“At Lundbeck, you are in control of territory and regional success.We have the autonomy to decide who our target customers are and the strategy we want to take with our key accounts. Sole accountability for this means we can be recognised and rewarded for our successes and this leads to a strong sense of ownership.”

Recognition was another very high scorer for the medium companies, with 64% satisfied, but just 48% of respondents from the large companies were happy with this area of their work.An employee expanded on how recognition makes the difference at Merck Serono:“The small size of the company means that everyone is recognised as a person who plays a vital role in the success of their territory and region, and individual successes, however small, are noted.”

But it is not only personal recognition that employees of medium pharma enjoy. Even in the area of salary, where big corporations might be expected to outperform their medium-sized counterparts, the smaller companies achieved greater satisfaction.When asked if they felt their remuneration is appropriate, 70% of respondents from the medium companies said “yes”, compared to 58% from the top five.And even when specifically asked about salary, 60% scored this area of their work high for satisfaction, with just 48% of employees from big pharma satisfied in this area.

Nowhere to hide

Sarah Leonard, CHD Account Executive for Solvay, took up the theme of visibility:“Being responsible for all the decisions on the territory, the opportunity is there to develop experience in a wide range of areas. There’s certainly no hiding in anyone else’s shadow.”

The evidence indicates that high performing sales professionals are driven by the desire to achieve results, but can become disillusioned if their successes are not recognised. Often, too many representatives on one territory means that the successes of high achievers are lost in the deluge of sales results, and it can be difficult to attribute a customer’s use of a product to a particular employee.

In contrast, the visibility in medium-sized companies means that those employees that perform well are not only recognised and rewarded, but also have the opportunity to reach the heights of their ambitions. As Dr Jim Golby, HR Manager at Merck Serono, explained:“It is fair to say that, career-wise, the ‘sky’s the limit’ with Merck Serono.We have always believed in promoting from within and this is demonstrated by the significant number of people who have joined us as Medical Representatives and then successfully moved up the career ladder to roles such as Business Manager,Hospital Representative, RBM, Field Trainer and Key Account Manager.We are particularly proud to say that two such individuals are now working for the organisation as Managing Directors in Australia and the Middle East.This proves you really can go all the way to top in the right company!”

It is becoming apparent that high calibre candidates are not attracted by a flash company car and anonymity within a large sales team, but rather a company where they are granted the freedom to run their own territory and can stand up and be recognised for their achievements. In the competition to attract and retain talented staff, it is those companies that can offer real autonomy and recognition that will come out on top.

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