Adopting new ways of working for medical sales representatives

11 March 2021 5 min. read

The pandemic has disrupted the face-to-face sales approach in the medical healthcare industry. Rodrigo Quezada Dighero, a Managing Consultant at Curzon Consulting, outlines how pharma companies can help their medical sales rep workforce adapt to the new ways of working. 

It goes without saying that face-to-face sales look very different from 12 months ago. Medical sales representatives are facing exceptional challenges in reaching their sales targets, as restrictions on in-person meetings with healthcare professionals continue. The gravity of the situation is reflected in the 16 new drugs launched during Covid-19 lockdowns, that are at risk of sales failures, according to one pharma consulting group. 

However, the lifting of lockdowns is unlikely to return the industry back to ‘normal’. In fact, the evidence shows a stark reality for in-person sales. About 60% of surgeons believe that restrictions on in-person sales are likely to remain even after a Covid-19 vaccine is fully rolled-out and lockdown restrictions abate. Adopting new ways of working for medical sales representatives

Of the 75% of physicians who preferred in-person visits from medical representatives prior to Covid-19, 47% would now opt for a virtual exchange or less-frequent visits. Further, many physicians once sceptical of any virtual interaction with sales representatives now report these exchanges are high quality and offer a much better experience. 

This changing landscape for sales is not just a result of the pandemic; it’s expedited the necessary changes, but fundamentally, companies have been very slow to adapt their operating models to address the needs and wants of their customers and workforce.

In the new environment, healthcare providers are demanding more from pharma, as they seek greater value from their interactions with medical representatives:

  • 69% of doctors now want digital patient education
  • 67% want more education on remote patient care
  • 65% need specific information on conditions relative to Covid-19
  • 65% require information to help patients access labs, tests and imaging

A new way of working

It’s clear as medical professionals endure the uncertainty caused by Covid-19, changes are here to stay, and adaptation is crucial to success. 

Digitalisation has accelerated the next normal requiring pharma operating models to adapt, or in some cases, completely transform to help them to thrive or even survive. In this context, the need to provide refined, enriched collateral to healthcare providers and doctors demands an evolution from face-to-face meetings and conferences into a hybrid exchange of virtual and in-person meetings, steered by medical reps. 

However, in order for this to be fully realised, pharma companies need to adjust and develop their salesforce capabilities. In another study, research shows that only 26% of pharma representatives get coaching personalised to their needs. A focus on sales coaching, through integrated, personalised and value-driven interactions will support representatives to identify target prospects and align the products to the needs of the healthcare professional, through their preferred communication channel. 

Moreover, managers and leaders need to align sales & marketing, to ensure a collaborative approach to fully understand the customers and the local market they operate in. Communication and insight must flow both ways to drive communication strategies, content creation and support product development. 

A framework for change

At Curzon Consulting, we have developed an approach that can help organisations evolve towards a hybrid model and new way of working: 

New ways of working


  • Develop strategies that assist medical reps throughout the sales process, tailored to every customer touchpoint.
  • Establish hybrid teams that can develop relevant, channel-specific, timely content to empower the med representatives.
  • Foster internal engagement and alignment by creating a purpose-based organisation with a relentless focus on value-add customer service.
  • Entrench company culture to sustain new ways of working and improve business agility – always listening, constantly evolving.

Collaboration & Hybrid Solutions

The virtual nature of teams and work communities spearheads the need to adopt solutions that enhance and facilitate effective remote interactions.

  • Optimise team relationships, roles & interactions to enhance hybrid ways of working.
  • Design and implement collaboration solutions applied to the business and team leadership.
  • Adopt collaborative tools, enabling sales & marketing teams to share opportunities that improve the quality of exchanges, content creation and value-based interactions regardless of location.

Smartworking Processes

Achieving process transformation through re-engineering & automation to create a generation of agile, flexible, efficient and collaborative working dynamics.

  • Redesign smartworking processes, harnessing automation and flexibility to accelerate change and bring the hybrid model alive.
  • Employ digital tools to evolve sales, engagement and bring the customer experience to the forefront of every interaction.
  • Remove silos to cultivate employee engagement and shared knowledge/opportunities. 

People & Leadership

Evolution of culture and people is the foundation of Digital Transformation enabling leaders of pharma companies to steer a change in behaviour and actions.

  • Adapt the hybrid model and embed culture based on learning and sharing.
  • Develop salesforce capabilities with a focus on digital skills, converging efforts to support sales requirements through content creation and content sharing.
  • Embed a coaching culture that fosters learning and sharing.
  • Deploy cultural change that embraces and cements the new normal.