By Saby Mitra and Jaideep Bajaj

— Saby Mitra is an associate principal at ZS, and Jaideep Bajaj is chairman of ZS’s board of directors.


As sales rep access to physicians continues to decline and the sales environment grows more complex, pharmaceutical companies are under constant pressure to find ways to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

Enter the orchestrator rep.

The orchestrator rep is an evolution of the traditional rep. This new model of sales rep integrates sales, marketing and other customer-facing departments and leverages technology to facilitate an integrated multichannel customer engagement. The orchestrator rep model can help drive a more customer-centric approach and boost a pharma company’s reach, engagement and performance.

Key to the future of pharma sales and marketing

In today’s pharmaceutical industry, the key to success is differentiation. And to differentiate themselves, companies need to integrate their sales and marketing organizations to create a more coordinated and impactful customer experience. The orchestrator rep sits at the heart of this dynamic.

According to global sales and marketing firm ZS’s AccessMonitor report, about half of physicians in the U.S. placed moderate-to-severe restrictions on visits from pharma sales reps in 2014. This compares to 23 percent of prescribers who restricted rep access in 2008.

The explosion of digital resources has to some extent directly or indirectly contributed to a reduction in access to physicians. Instead of meeting with reps, physicians can simply access information through digital sources, such as email or webinars. More than 90 percent of doctors in the U.S. access digital information from their offices, according to eyeforpharma, and 67 percent of U.S. health care professionals point to digital channels as their preferred source of information from pharma companies.

These market drivers make the evolution of the rep into an orchestrator a necessary shift in the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, ZS estimates that by 2020, at least 60 percent of pharmaceutical sales reps in the U.S. will be orchestrating with marketing and their field peers.

Today, however, a very small portion of U.S. pharmaceutical reps orchestrate to the fullest extent. While marketing teams often adopt customer-centric approaches, these rarely involve the largest portion of the marketing budget: the sales force. This represents an untapped opportunity for many pharma companies.

By supplementing traditional in-person sales rep visits with digital tactics, orchestrator reps can boost their company’s reach, engagement and performance. For example, ZS found that nearly 20 percent of traffic to a brand’s website comes from sales rep interactions with physicians. Further, email open rates are nearly 25 percent for emails sent by sales reps, compared to about 8 percent when sent by headquarters. ZS also found that non-writer conversion rates double for physicians who are exposed to both face-to-face detailing and multichannel marketing promotions – compared to receiving only one of these communications.

Before they can realize the benefits, however, pharmacos must integrate sales and marketing and adopt an orchestration model using a thoughtful, organized approach with buy-in from key stakeholder groups.

How to implement the orchestrator rep model

As pharmaceutical companies look to implement sales rep orchestration, they must first design integrated customer engagement strategies for reps. Companies must also leverage technology, which plays a critical role in the success of the orchestrator rep model. As customer behavior and preferences trend more toward digital engagements, pharmacos need to grow their digital capabilities and equip sales reps with the ability to maximize the use of alternate digital channels and help them create a digital relationship with the customer.

Pharma companies also must create a robust data and technology analytics infrastructure to equip the sales team with a 360-degree view of the customer, including the physician’s engagement with sales and marketing. Further, it’s important for companies to design a customer relationship management (CRM) system that is intuitive and easy to use for reps so they can easily access, sort through and make the best use of all available customer data and insights. Companies’ technological capabilities also must include analytics that help sales reps determine physician preferences and the best next actions to effectively engage them.

The final piece of implementation is change management, which includes training the rep in a new, enhanced role and fostering a wider mindset change in the organization to secure buy-in for the orchestration model. The change transformation must engage the marketing organization and ensure brand teams appreciate the value of the concept and can enable reps to drive an integrated customer engagement.

The keys to success

As companies adopt the orchestrator rep model and begin to better coordinate sales and marketing across the organization, ZS has pinpointed five keys to ensure a successful implementation:

1. Secure sponsorship from senior management

Senior executives, preferably with accountability for both sales and marketing functions, will be important to drive the change and shape the mindset in the organization as it adopts orchestration.

2. Create a plan and implement incrementally
While a comprehensive vision is essential, it is equally imperative to implement that vision in incremental steps. Companies can manage the degree and pace of change across the organization with a structured maturity model. This approach consists of three stages to transform a traditional sales rep into an orchestrator rep.

In the first stage, reps grow more informed about all the marketing interactions with their customers. This enables them to drive stronger engagements with physicians. Next, the rep becomes more integrated with the marketing organization and begins to influence future marketing tactics. In the last stage, the rep becomes a full orchestrator of all multichannel marketing engagements and coordinates with marketing on the timing and relevance of upcoming tactics.

3. Test with an early experience team

Pharmaceutical companies should test sales rep orchestration using an early experience model before scaling nationally or across sales teams. Using a small team as a test group in the initial implementation stage enables leadership to learn, calibrate, address any issues that may arise and make changes before scaling the new and improved model.

4. Involve and train your sales reps

It is crucial that first-level managers embrace and champion the orchestrator rep model to effectively coach their sales teams. As companies train their reps, they should focus on orchestration capabilities and tools and strive to make the implementation easy for the sales force. Additionally, orchestration should be incorporated into other sales force effectiveness levers and aligned with sales rep competencies, hiring profiles and incentive plans.

5. Engage marketing early

Integrating sales and marketing functions is the key to the success of the orchestration model, and marketing will play a vital role in empowering the sales team to drive orchestration. As a result, companies need to involve them at the beginning of any implementation to ensure buy-in and success.

Thriving with the orchestrator rep model

The opportunities for sales rep orchestration will vary by specialty and customer’s channel affinity mix. However, no matter the specialty, pharma companies – especially those with multiple brands in their portfolios, multiple customer-facing teams and relatively decent investment into multichannel marketing – run the risk of falling behind if they remain tied to the status quo and fail to adapt to the changing marketplace.

Implementing the orchestrator rep model requires organizational transformation and involves careful planning, strong leadership across sales and marketing organizations and investments in technology and change management. Still, pharma companies have little choice but to adapt as their customers’ needs and preferences have changed almost permanently.

The market drivers forcing this shift are not going away, and the most successful pharma companies in the future will be the ones that integrate sales and marketing efforts and empower the orchestrator rep to drive more impactful interactions with the customer, greater differentiation and better overall business performance.