Tired predictions and 'the end of the salesforce era'

You don’t need to look far to find predictions of ‘the end of the sales-force era’ in biopharma.

I first heard this in February 2004 about a week after starting my first job in large pharma.

I won’t repeat the reasoning, but suffice to say the mix of ‘speciality medicines’, ‘worsening difficulty with access’, ‘increasing compliance scrutiny’ and ‘RoI’ come-up regularly. More recently we can throw ‘lockdowns & omnichannel’ onto that list.

And the outcomes are well publicised – biopharma headcount cuts becoming household news. The salesforce headcount cuts, when they come, are substantial, and send a strong message to the industry about the direction of travel.

But what isn’t discussed as much is the hiring in the background – new medicines coming to market that are upscaling their commercial efforts and needing staff on the ground to support this. Often now referred to a key account managers, regional account managers, rather than sales reps – there’s no doubt that these are a marked evolution of the traditional sales-rep, but essentially they are driving the same goals.

So when you read the industry press and headlines shout about 1000’s of salesforce jobs lost, what you rarely see is the ten companies in the background who are hiring for similar roles.

So the question I have is – can anyone tell me if biopharma salesforces have actually reduced in size in the last 20 years?

Correcting for new titles, new regions coming on-line and a host of other variables that have appeared since 2004 – have global biopharma salesforces actually reduced in size, or have they simple redistributed and rebranded?


This is part of a series of posts by LUCENT biopharma – focused on the future of medicines and their marketing in the biopharma sector.

For more information, please go to www.lucentbiopharma.com

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