The art of referencing products and negotiation is a subtle exercise for any pharmacist who heads a business.
But the relationship with suppliers no longer ends with the order.
How far are the labs willing to go to help the pharmacy? And the pharmacists, what exactly do they expect from them?
This is not a scoop: relations between pharmacists and laboratories are doing well.
Especially the big brands of dermocosmetics, they have always contributed to the development of the pharmacy turnover by proposing an offer recognized for its quality.
But today the situation has changed. The product is no longer the only link between the seller and his pharmacist client.
We should not be more in a single logic of linear distribution and merchandising.
The laboratory no longer acts as a supplier to a distributor of drugs.
A real partnership must be created by taking into account the pharmacist as a patient educator.
- The advice at the center
The laboratories have understood this: supporting the clientele by the pharmacy team is no longer a theoretical concept.
But the labs still have a long way to go to be recognized as an aid to advice.
The pharmacist's advice is no longer just the business of the companies with parapharmaceuticals, cosmetics, generic or OTC products.
Pharmaceutical companies are taking a close interest. They organize screening actions in pharmacies or even integrate teams in compliance assistance operations.
Pharmacists today express the need to demonstrate but also to measure their advice. It is neither more nor less to justify a monopoly currently jealous...
- The foundation of commercial relations
What do pharmacists first expect from a partner laboratory? Good business relationships!
It is logical and understandable that the entrepreneur's cap takes over, due to the complicate macroeconomic environment of the pharmacy.
It is clear that the commercial relationship takes on different aspects depending on the type of product offered.
Thus, it is done today through distance selling (by phone or internet) for medicines.
While for OTC specialists, parapharmaceuticals and generics, the time is ripe for the deployment of sales forces.
It is only by living with pharmacists that one can understand their problem and optimize the services.
The pharmaceutical visitor remains the essential link in the commercial chain and also exercises an advisory role in merchandising which implies a physical presence.
Human relationships remain essential, especially for important catalogs of products.
- E-commerce takes its marks
Yes, the pharmaceutical visit has a future! Virtual orders will not become systematic, but they will certainly gain ground.
They could complement the delegate's visit to already well-known products.
For some brands, e-commerce is already a reality via their online ordering sites.
It is not a question of replacing their delegates, but offering restocking or informing all pharmacies on their promotional actions.
The net therefore allows a reactivity that the pharmaceutical visit is unable to match.
It is a way to boost "small orders" while improving the profitability of time spent in the field by delegates (sales force).
- Thirst for training
Once the business relationship is well established, what matters most to the pharmacists is none other than training (on the point of sale communication and merchandising).
It is a real opportunity for pharmaceutical laboratories because the target of doctors is saturated.
The treatments are increasingly difficult to handle and certain manufacturers of biotechnology-based drugs set up information programs for pharmacists.
This scenario was considered science fiction a few years ago! In terms of training, OTC and cosmetic laboratories have a head start by being pioneers in this field, by offering in situ interventions, but also training evenings.
Nevertheless, the pharmacists do not seem to have quenched their thirst for learning.
The training offer for pharmacists is overwhelming (from specialized organizations, networking groups, e-learning...) and the need remains very strong.
We wonder about the reasons for this paradox. Wouldn't the training be in line with the reality on the field? Are the topics (subjects) covered not suitable?
Doesn't the demand for training underpin a demand for human resources coaching?
Is the form of the intervention appropriate? They want a lot of information on sales techniques because today, it is no longer enough to explain the specifics of a product to convince, you also have to know how to sell it.
- The pharmaceutical visit in a mutation phase
Pharmacists therefore want to be trained by laboratories, but not by anyone.
Their request? Most of them would like to see the pharmaceutical visit evolve in the direction of training.
This shows that the added value of a delegate is no longer focused on the order literally.
It becomes secondary and the pharmacists are therefore ready to use other channels to pass it ( e-command, through their wholesaler or their groups).
We can also wonder if the coming of central purchasing will not spell the end of the "discussion" at the point of sale...
The question remains whether the role of a pharmaceutical delegate is to train the pharmacist teams.
As long as the pharmaceutical delegate is under commercial pressure, the quality of the training he delivers will suffer, so some laboratories have already separate the role of the sales team from the educational team.
- Insufficient commercial conditions?
Above all business leaders and traders by force of circumstances, pharmacists are extremely demanding on the good commercial conditions which are offered to them.
Surprisingly, however, the laboratories that are considered as the best partners are not known to be the most generous in commercial conditions!
We must understand the concept of commercial conditions beyond direct discount and integrate training and research efforts.
The reflection must refocus on the question of profitability in the broad sense.
Pharmacists can earn money by concentrating their purchases, improving the pace of stock turnover, etc.
From now on, the laboratories are clearly positioning themselves as boosters of turnover.
No more scenario "the more products I sell to you, the more discounts I give you".
The trend is towards "the more I sell you such a product, the more your margin will increase if I help you sell all your stock while meeting the expectations of consumers on the market concerned".
Thus, some laboratories have implemented a department development plan for "good customers" in terms of merchandising and promotional activities.
- Personalize services
The new pharmacy landscape, revealing disparities in the past pharmacy models, is leading laboratories to revise their commercial strategy.
Previously, they were addressing the pharmacy as a whole; now they have to adapt to the different types of points of sale, ranging from “extraordinary” pharmacies to more traditional models.
The future belongs to targeted marketing plans, according to the typology of the point of sale.
Nevertheless, the gap is widening between the services offered to the “big doers” and those to which the smallest entities can access.
The risk for the general economy of the pharmacy? Achieving a two-speed partnership penalizing the smallest pharmacies already weakened.