The science of a successful drug launch

Of all the variables that determine a successful drug launch, the talent piece of the equation rarely makes headlines - maybe it's time that it does.

Sovaldi, Gilead Sciences’ hepatitis C medication, surpassed $10 billion in sales in its first year on the market in 2014. Those figures make it the most successful drug launch of all time.

The medication worked better than anything that had come before it. Treating hepatitis C with Sovaldi meant higher cure rates, lower side effects, and a shorter period of treatment. The drug’s meteoric rise, efficacy and controversial price tag were the subject of many news pieces. Absent from this commentary, however, was a critical component of the launch. As important to its success as the quality of the product was the caliber of the sales team. Drugs won’t sell themselves.

It’s the pharmaceutical reps that know how to prospect, identify customers’ needs, and create compelling sales presentations who sell drugs.

Research from McKinsey found that nearly two-thirds of drug launches fail to meet pre-launch sales expectations and those that fall short usually continue to underperform over the next two years. Since launch is a make or break moment in the lifecycle of a new product, companies need their sales team ready to go the moment they receive FDA approval.

But lining these people up in anticipation of approval is no small feat. Where will you find them? How will you ensure they are properly trained? What will you do to keep them engaged while they wait for the green light?

Conversations around the talent that will drive a successful product launch are happening at Futurestep. We look at each aspect of sales expansion talent acquisition from business alignment and sourcing to employer branding and the candidate experience to develop a hiring strategy that aligns with the overall business goals. It’s been exciting to work with our Life Sciences clients and develop plans around attracting and hiring a new salesforce, always careful to keep existing talent in mind.

By adopting a thoughtful and structured recruitment process around sales expansion, companies can ensure faster time to hire and faster time to productivity, ultimately contributing to faster time to revenue generation. We know top talent has been and will continue to be a key differentiator in this fiercely competitive industry; it’s time to make people part of the dialogue.