You have probably read about GlaxoSmithKline’s move to base their sales representatives’ performance evaluations on the value and service provided to customers rather than individual achievements of sales targets. Here’s my take on some of the ways this may change the way we — and our clients — will do business.

We will see more of an account management approach to sales. What healthcare professionals (HCPs) really want is help to better manage health outcomes, while ensuring maximum profitability for their practice. This means that sales strategy needs to be redefined and realigned to meet specific needs of HCPs, payers, and patients. Sales reps must understand a customer’s whole business and be able to help them see how their products can be used together to improve health outcomes and increase value for patients. Placing a greater emphasis on portfolio-based selling is one of the many ways to start making this transition.

We will need to clarify what a “trusted partner” can offer. I think this goes beyond just adding more medical science liaisons who can talk peer-to-peer with HCPs. The ability to create value for HCPs requires defining their business value. To achieve a competitive advantage, sales reps should be able to translate a thorough understanding of their customers’ competitive pressures. They also need to be able to propose contingency plans and counter-competitive tactics.

Sales forces will have to be even more agile and probably more regional. The traditional paradigm of managing from the top down may need to shift to allow regional business units to have more control so they can quickly address individual customer needs. I think we will also see more pharmaceutical companies working to provide 24/7 access to both product information and their account specialists through remote media (such as customer interaction centers and websites offering live-chat functions) to provide timely practice management support.

Sales rep competencies must increase rapidly. Job descriptions will be rewritten, methods of recruiting sales reps will be revamped, and training curricula will shift toward developing a more customer-centric approach to selling. Competencies determine the ability of sales reps to perform their jobs most effectively, but incentives will be needed to help them follow required processes or motivation and productivity will ultimately suffer. I will talk more about that in my next post, as well as tackle the question of how we will measure ROI.