Healthy Skepticism
Join us to help reduce harm from misleading health information.
Increase font size   Decrease font size   Print-friendly view   Print
Register Log in

Healthy Skepticism Library item: 14834

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: news

Pfizer Again Tops Annual “Most Effective” Sales Force Ranking, According to Study by GfK Market Measures
Business Wire 2008 Dec 18


Annual Study Reveals What Characterizes Pharma’s Most Effective Sales Forces and Identifies Differences in Most Desired Rep Attributes Across Six Attitudinal Segments of Physicians

Full text:

For the fifth year in a row, Pfizer has claimed the top spot as the industry’s “most effective” sales force, as ranked by GfK Market Measures in a study with more than 800 physicians across 12 specialties. An analysis of the study participants’ rankings and responses to a number of related sales force issues, as viewed through the lens of GfK’s new physician attitudinal promotional segmentation, Segment Trackerâ„¢, reveals key differences across physician groups in their perceptions of sales representative interactions.

With company rankings consistent with last year’s results, Pfizer remains the No. 1 sales force, as reported by 18 percent of physicians. Following closely is Merck at 11 percent and three companies that tied for third place: AstraZeneca, GSK and Eli Lilly, each with 8 percent. Novartis, with 7 percent, and Schering and Forest, each with 3 percent, round out the 2008 “most effective sales force” rankings.

A look at the profiles* [see below] of the six physician segments within GfK’s Segment Tracker and their respective rankings of sales forces brings a further dimension to the study results. Although Pfizer places first or second in every promotional segment, Patient-Overloaded Independents, the smallest but most patient-laden segment, is where Pfizer’s share is the highest at 24 percent. This segment also expresses a preference for Novartis, ranking it as the second most effective sales force with 15 percent. Ranking second within the segments of Hometown Altruists and Occupational Traditionalists at 10 percent each is Merck, which also ranked among the top five spots across the other four physician segments.

In defining what makes a company’s sales force “most effective,” all six physician segments selected “positive professional attributes” as a top mention by 75 percent or more of respondents. The segment Corporate Professionals, however, is the most heavily focused on the professionalism of the sales representative interaction at 86 percent. Industry Enthusiasts and Patient-Overloaded Independents selected their top companies more often based on “positive rep knowledge” (69 percent and 71 percent respectively) and “positive patient-directed focus” (18 percent and 15 percent respectively).

Looking at what physicians need from representatives, the segments ranked their top five mentions similarly: product information, research data/clinical literature, educational materials, cost information and knowledgeable representatives who can answer questions. Differences were noted, however, across segments as to the relative importance of these needs. For example, Corporate Professionals are the least likely segment (29 percent) to require research data as they tend to be creatures of habit, yet they express one of the highest needs for product information (61 percent) that centers on new indications for known products. Occupational Traditionalists and Corporate Professionals are the least likely segments to require cost information (12 percent and 16 percent respectively), as both are more likely to rely on familiar products where cost/formulary is known. Occupational Traditionalists are also the least likely to indicate a desire for product information (43 percent), which is characteristic of their late-adopter behavior. Patient-Overloaded Independents have the greatest need for knowledgeable representatives who can answer questions (14 percent). This segment’s relatively high need for product information (58 percent) is dominated by the need for safety/side effect information.

In tracking physicians’ evaluations of representative actions they deem as important, “respect for time” and “articulate” are two of the highest-rated attributes across all six segments. Evaluating the segments across multiple representative attributes and actions reveals that Patient-Overloaded Independents and Industry Enthusiasts trend similarly (high) across multiple representative actions, highlighting their full-service use of representatives. Likewise, there is parallel trending on these attributes for Occupational Traditionalists and Corporate Professionals, who each use representative services very selectively. Looking at another group of representative action attributes, which include “ask unmet patient needs,” “has patient educational materials,” “has patient compliance materials” and “has formulary/reimbursement information,” Patient-Overloaded Independents and Industry Enthusiasts once again trend similarly, showing a high desire for patient-focused support materials. Occupational Traditionalists and Corporate Professionals trend similarly here as well in their notable lack of concern for these elements.

“Pfizer’s consistent year-to-year top ranking is due to its sales force’s ability to adapt to their customers’ needs and preferences,” said Stacy Vaughn, vice president, sales force effectiveness research at GfK Market Measures. “This is exactly where we feel our new Segment Tracker tool will be invaluable. By understanding physicians’ promotional attitudes and behaviors, we believe that companies will be able to develop segment-appropriate vehicles and also develop and tailor content with a particular orientation – whether it be a business or clinical orientation – that physicians will be able to relate to. Ultimately this will have a strong impact on physicians’ professional relationship with a company and its representatives.”

Segment Tracker Profiles*

Industry Enthusiasts (27 percent of physicians) – Value representatives and welcome more interactions; low concern for applying business principles to practice; patient-specific treatment decisions; aggressive seekers of latest clinical information; active attendees of pharma-sponsored events; brand loyalists.

Patient-Overloaded Independents (5 percent) – Relatively small staff (# of MDs/office staff); Average nearly 600 patients per month; representatives valued; generalized treatment decisions; low concern for applying business principles to practice; early brand adopters; brand loyalists.

Hometown Altruists (40 percent) – Relatively small staff (# of MDs/office staff); representatives regarded as valued colleagues; patient-specific treatment decisions; enjoy managing practice; professionally active; adaptable prescribers.

Academic High Achievers (10 percent) – Moderate-size staff (# of MDs/office staff); representatives appreciated, but MDs are skeptical; generalized treatment decisions; passion for academics; interested in latest research studies; appreciate alternative detailing methods; strong preference for specific brands.

Occupational Traditionalists (7 percent) – Relatively large staff (# of MDs/office staff); Average 450-plus patients per month; representatives not valued; patient-specific treatment decisions; conservative prescribers; late brand adopters, but willing to switch.

Corporate Professionals (11 percent) – Relatively large staff (# of MDs/office staff); representatives not valued nor depended upon; practice treated as a business; generalized treatment decisions; highest proportion of patients with no prescription plans; adaptable prescribers.

811 Physicians Share Their Insights

Reflecting insights from 811 physicians across 12 specialties with an average of 16 years in practice, fielded via Internet questionnaire in September 2008, GfK Market Measures’ 2008 SFE Physician Study provides a comprehensive analysis of the current state of pharmaceutical sales force effectiveness.

About GfK Market Measures

GfK Market Measures (, a member of the GfK U.S. Healthcare Companies, provides health care clients with a unique mix of custom and syndicated solutions to support the full marketing continuum. GfK Market Measures is part of the GfK Group (, the No. 4 market research organization worldwide. Its activities cover the three business sectors of custom research, retail and technology and media. The group has 115 companies covering more than 100 countries. Of a total of about 10,000 employees, more than 80 percent are based outside Germany. For more details on Segment Tracker, please contact Jessica Makovsky, group vice president of communications, GfK U.S. Healthcare Companies, at 215.283.3200 ×372 or


  Healthy Skepticism on RSS   Healthy Skepticism on Facebook   Healthy Skepticism on Twitter

Click to Register

(read more)

Click to Log in
for free access to more features of this website.

Forgot your username or password?

You are invited to
apply for membership
of Healthy Skepticism,
if you support our aims.

Pay a subscription

Support our work with a donation

Buy Healthy Skepticism T Shirts

If there is something you don't like, please tell us. If you like our work, please tell others.

Email a Friend influence multinational corporations effectively, the efforts of governments will have to be complemented by others, notably the many voluntary organisations that have shown they can effectively represent society’s public-health interests…
A small group known as Healthy Skepticism; formerly the Medical Lobby for Appropriate Marketing) has consistently and insistently drawn the attention of producers to promotional malpractice, calling for (and often securing) correction. These organisations [Healthy Skepticism, Médecins Sans Frontières and Health Action International] are small, but they are capable; they bear malice towards no one, and they are inscrutably honest. If industry is indeed persuaded to face up to its social responsibilities in the coming years it may well be because of these associations and others like them.
- Dukes MN. Accountability of the pharmaceutical industry. Lancet. 2002 Nov 23; 360(9346)1682-4.