Is your star pharma salesperson really cut out for marketing management?

Each year, U.S. companies spend more than $14 billion on leadership development programs to help cultivate employees for bigger, and often different, roles in their organizations. Pharma is no exception. Super brands like Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, and many smaller pharma companies, utilize leadership rotation programs to transition top talent through a wide range of positions. At the same time, pharma employees often choose a different role or department to broaden their skills (a recent study said that 80% of pharma professionals would consider switching roles or companies to be more involved in areas like innovation). Needless to say, pharma offers a significant opportunity for role changes, both laterally and vertically.

I’ve experienced this firsthand. Not only is there significant turnover in roles like the brand manager, but I often see successful reps or DMs choose to pursue a marketing position. Conventional wisdom says that if a person is great at sales, he or she will adapt to marketing management quickly. However, if you’re considering a switch from sales to marketing, keep these factors in mind.

Pharma marketing requires a unique skill set

Like sales or finance, marketing is an area of business that requires unique skills. Pharma marketing leadership must be able to understand, and oversee, a wide range of activities that go into a winning MCM campaign. From vendor selection and targeting to in-depth campaign planning, successful marketing professionals need strong knowledge of marketing best practices as well as a knack for fostering the 360 customer journey. And given marketing’s key role in branding and messaging, a savvy manager needs to be up to date on not only the latest digital trends, but also legal guidelines.

With the rise of business intelligence and big data, successful marketing managers have more tools than ever for measuring ROI for each tactic, vendor and customer segment—if they know how to use the data properly. Doing so effectively can often require a third-party that can help supplement the work of busy in-house BI teams, which are often strapped for time and resources.

At the same time, a sales background can also give the right candidate a leg up as a marketing manager. We’ve measured the benefits of including sales activity in a pharma brand’s MCM strategy, and a professional with a sales background brings in-depth knowledge that can aid in this process. And let’s not forget that at the end of the day, marketing’s job is to drive sales—something that a former rep or DM knows intrinsically.

Pharma marketing management plays a key role in ROI

When someone is brought into a marketing role with little-to-no experience, it can have an immediate impact on the brand’s revenue generation, or delay campaigns due to learning curve. Pharma marketing leadership is also responsible for making key decisions such as targeting, channel mix, strategy, ROI forecasting, tactic-level KPIs and ongoing measurement. For example, we’ve seen that improved targeting can help brands achieve 3x higher TRx, with 30-50% higher tactic engagement and a 285% decrease in cost/target engagement.