Note to sales: don't panic when reading these numbers

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Sales jobs aren't vaporizing, Accenture's Craig Roberston told MM&M—rather, they're being reconfigured, and in some cases, relocated.

“We've been talking about the death of the sales rep for about 10 years,” said Robertson, who is global managing director of life sciences at the consulting firm, whose new survey of sales execs indicates field forces should expect more churn. For example, 11% of the 200 polled execs “indicated that they will undertake a wholesale redesign of their sales and marketing organization.” However, Accenture found that doesn't necessarily mean job elimination as mush as redefining what makes sense.

In addition to the 77% who said they used third-party sales and marketing support in 2012, 37% said they intend to increase their use of outside sales help this year, while 92% of the execs said they expect to up their use of third-party analytics, 89% planned to outsource advertising, and 79% said they will look out-of-doors for digital and content production.

Robertson said it was this move to outsource analytics and redefine advertising needs that took him by surprise, because “I think the contract sales organization area is a fairly saturated market.” He also said that using third-party sales support makes sense because it gives companies access to an immediate pool of expertise. He said companies are seeing these outside sales groups as a way to quickly fill a gap and meet consumer needs.

It's also part of the well-known narrative of mixing up marketing approaches, such as using call centers or digital support for products with limited patent lifelines and in-person approaches for just-from-the-pipeline items, that has become the norm as the patent cliff thins the financial padding that allowed companies to be inefficient.

Robertson pointed to digital content as a key example of this. He noted that companies have been creating  website copy, sales force training copy and healthcare provider copy that is “roughly the same content that's being used for four or five different purposes.” However, instead of being repurposed, he said the copy was being created anew for each audience. That's an example of why 36% of the polled pharma executives said they need to root out inefficiencies.

What is new is the speed at which Roberston expects execs to impose their new orders. He attributed the distinct sense of urgency compared to the last five years to “acute revenue gaps” which have made commercial operations “pain points” real.

“The pressure to return shareholder value for the larger pharmaceutical companies is greater now than it has ever been before, which is creating the need for action within a shorter period of time,” he said.

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