In Pharmaceutical Sales does Territory Matter?

canstockphoto26892354When it comes to pharmaceutical sales, I think we would all like to believe that it is us who performed highly rather than the territory simply being a high performing territory.  I think we’d like to believe that it is us and not the cycles that all markets go through that led to success.  During my time as a territory representative in 5 straight years I never once finished outside of the top 12% nationally.  I’d love to tell you that it was all me and that I was simply “that good”, but I would be silly to not give credit to my partners as they might have had something to do with it too.  I’d also have to explore the thought that territory was simply one of those great territories that everyone secretly admired and wanted to be a part of.  With that said, when I got promoted into specialty sales, I was promoted into a completely different territory in a different geography where I was able to take the territory to #1 in the country for two straight quarters finishing in the Top 26% nationally. Either I was the luckiest salesman in the world who simply was handed great territories, or I had something to do with it.  This is the notion that we are exploring.

When we speak about territories in pharmaceutical sales there not only has to be a discussion on whether or not it is a good/great/or terrible territory, but also what are the variables?

  •  What is the product you are selling and is it considered efficacious compared to competitors?
  • Are there competitors to your product or does it fill a unique niche?
  • What is the managed care situation?
  • Are you a lone wolf or working within a POD…and if you are working in a POD, what is the level of competence, effort, and salesmanship given by your partners?

These variables and more impact your territories success.  I think we would all be remiss if we didn’t believe some of these variables played a part in the success or failure of your territory, but on the flip side, there are those salespeople whom wherever you place them, they find success.  They have that “X” factor that drives them whether they are in Idaho, Kansas, New York, or wherever….success seems to follow them.

Every company has the stalwart who stays in the same territory in the same position seemingly afraid to strive for promotion because they believe they have a great territory that will continue to perform quarter in and quarter out.  And if they have a down quarter, they know in the long run it will bounce back because historically that is what they have seen.  I don’t blame that person in the least because when we take a deeper look one can say that they have figured it out.  They have gained an understanding through experience of exactly what needs to be done to move their territory forward with continual success.  At the end of the day they are potentially motivated by monetary gain and accolades and they have found a way within that same territory to replicate success.  Here are some of the qualities that these reps bring to the table:

  • They know their territory inside and out geographically.
  • They know exactly which doctors will impact their territory numbers the most and have cultivated great and lasting relationships with them.
  • When a new employee comes on to their team (if a POD situation), they integrate that representation into their culture of excellence quickly….and expect greatness from that person.
  • They may (or may not) be great salespeople, but they are organized and know their products, the competitor products and the disease states.

These are the qualities of excellent salespeople.  So when you are at the POA meeting and your thinking to yourself, “that person isn’t a great salesperson, how do they succeed quarter in and quarter out”?….take a beat and think about the above mentioned qualities that they likely bring to the table.  In pharmaceuticals sales, being a great salesperson alone doesn’t always make a winner, you have to work your territory, understand its variables, and bring a variety of qualities to the table beyond just sales abilities.


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