Friday, September 10, 2010

Are Pharma Reps Robots or Salespeople?

We're wondering about the wisdom of it all. Back on July 7th the WSJ Blog asked the question of whether pharma reps are robots or sales people.

At issue: Does Novartis owe some reps OT under federal law for working more than 40 hours per week?  According to the law, it depends on the work. If the salespeople are closing deals away from the office, then it doesn’t owe them the OT; if the salespeople aren’t closing deals, then money is owed. Novartis obviously argued the former. But the blog post and one of the reps bringing forth the lawsuit actually contend they are more like “robots,” because they lack the “discretion and independent judgment” needed under the definition of outside sales representative to fit that description.

We understand why the company would not want to provide back pay, and why sales reps feel like they’re entitled to their back pay. But let’s face reality, this case highlights something we must all come to terms with and the customers the industry speaks with may be telling us as well.  Reps are like robots, they no longer possess or are given the "discretion and independent judgment" once seen in this profession 15 to 20 years ago.

When we speak with family and friends who are in the industry today, it is clear they do not like their jobs because it is so programmed, so heavily regulated, and to be honest, risky. The majority of good sales people just want the ability to converse with their clients and customers.  So much of this has been clouded for so long, we really question the value a rep brings to an interaction with a physician today.  And to be honest, maybe market forces are solving that problem for us.

Our whole point in bringing this up is to appeal to the legions of sales executives in the industry. Do some self-examination, make some reasonable fact-based decisions on reducing the troops.  Realize that the U.S. market is not the favorite marketplace any longer, and that customers demand more from your organization.  Help to make that a reality.

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