Sales reps gathered around a table reviewing data on tablets, computers, and paper

The Winning Combo of Strategy and Process in the Game of Pharmaceutical Sales

June 7, 2024 – 7 min read

Just like a top sports team needs a solid game plan for winning, leading a pharmaceutical sales team is all about nailing the perfect mix of strategy and process. When it comes to enhancing performance, it’s important to get both strategy and process in sync. In this article, we’ll break it all down for you.

Strategy — The Playbook

Consider strategy as the sales leader’s playbook, outlining a game plan that’s aligned with the overarching business goals. Just as a sports coach devises plays that capitalize on their team’s strengths and exploit opponents’ weaknesses, a robust strategy makes clear and compelling choices about where to focus efforts and what actions to take to gain a competitive advantage.

Your marketing team has set forth a brilliant strategy as a roadmap for positioning and selling your products effectively to healthcare providers (HCPs) and setting them apart from competitors. It’s now up to your sales team to execute flawlessly on that strategy. Much like a coach sets performance benchmarks for the team, the strategy also defines metrics for gauging success and failure.

To navigate potential challenges in the competitive and complex world of pharmaceutical sales, a robust strategy also anticipates the barriers that may emerge over the next 12-to-36 months, ensuring the team executes the game plan effectively and overcomes obstacles to secure a winning outcome.

Group of sales reps standing together working on an idea, while another group of sales reps move large pieces around

67% of well-formulated strategies fail due to poor execution.

Harvard Business Review

Process — Executing the Playbook

If the strategy is the playbook, then the process is the team captain, leading the players through a series of repeatable steps to move a HCP from the early stages to a closed customer. It dictates how and when to execute each play, ensuring that every move aligns with the overarching strategy and goals of the company.

As with anything, the more complex you make something, the more challenging it will be for your sales team to adhere to it. By simplifying the process into essential components, sales leaders will enable clarity and ease of execution for their team.

Key Elements of a Comprehensive Pharmaceutical Sales Process

The following elements can help guide your team to success and build lasting relationships with HCPs.


  • Empower your sales team with access to advanced data analytics and market research tools to identify high-value leads and create targeted prospect lists.
  • Encourage the development of personalized outreach strategies that resonate with HCPs and foster meaningful connections.
  • Collaborate with the marketing department to leverage data-driven insights and identify the most effective channels for engaging HCPs.

Pre-Call Planning

  • Guide your sales team in defining clear objectives for each call, focusing on the desired outcome and what the HCP needs to believe to move forward.
  • Encourage your team to anticipate potential yellow lights (causes for pause) and develop strategies to address them proactively.
  • Train your sales representatives to prepare a list of critical questions to ask the HCP and anticipate the questions they may be asked in return.


  • Ensure your sales team stays up-to-date on current industry trends, challenges, and competition to effectively position your products.
  • Provide comprehensive learning opportunities on the regulatory environment and industry-specific/clinical nuances to enable your team to navigate complex sales situations with confidence.
  • With the help of your marketing team, develop a library of targeted, customer- and patient-centric messaging and value propositions that highlight how your products address specific pain points.


  • Emphasize to your sales team the importance of asking intelligent and meaningful questions specific to each HCP and their patients.
  • Coach your representatives to ask questions that uncover unmet needs, what is important to the HCP, what a day in their life looks like, and the challenges they face in managing patients and dealing with specific disease states.
  • Encourage your team to actively listen and gather insights that will help them tailor their approach and demonstrate a genuine understanding of each HCP’s unique situation.
  • Coach your team to articulate the value proposition of your products clearly, focusing on how they solve the challenges faced by HCPs and their patients.


  • Guide your sales team in structuring their initial conversations to uncover what is important to the HCP, what a day in their life looks like, and the challenges they face in managing patients and dealing with specific disease states.
  • Ensure your sales team is well-versed in presenting solutions that directly address the identified needs of HCPs and their patients, showcasing the tangible clinical and health economic benefits of your products. Happy patient = happy HCP!
  • Provide access to a wide range of marketing-approved collateral, multi-media resources, clinical studies, real-world evidence, and clinical case studies to resonate with individual HCPs and their patients.
  • Encourage your team to showcase your company’s expertise, experience, and track record of success in the pharmaceutical industry to build trust and credibility.

Handling Objections

  • Coach your sales team to actively listen to and ask intelligent questions that get to the root of the objection. Don’t guess. Don’t assume.
  • Encourage honest feedback from the HCP. Acknowledge any objections raised by demonstrating a genuine understanding of their concerns.
  • Foster a problem-solving mindset among your team, focusing on how your products can effectively address the specific challenges raised by HCPs.
  • Arm your team with additional information (clinical studies, health economic data, market access information) and resources to alleviate concerns.


  • Implement closing techniques that create a sense of urgency without applying undue pressure on HCPs, emphasizing the potential positive impact on their patients (e.g., clinical case studies, health-economic data, market access information).
  • Guide your sales team in focusing their closing efforts on identifying patient profiles that are ideal candidates for your product, thereby addressing the identified unmet needs.
  • Ask the HCP to evaluate your product on 10 of the identified patient profiles to provide the personal experience needed to move forward.
  • Train your team to use the insights gathered throughout the sales process to tailor their closing approach, demonstrating how your product can effectively address the unique challenges faced by the HCP and their patients.
  • Prioritize transparency in all aspects of the sales process to build trust and long-term relationships.


  • Encourage your sales team to foster ongoing relationships with HCPs through regular communication, demonstrating a commitment to their success and satisfaction.
  • Implement a systematic approach to seeking feedback from HCPs, promptly addressing any issues or concerns that may arise, and continuously improving the customer experience.
  • Monitor the performance of your sales team’s follow-up efforts, tracking key metrics such as customer satisfaction and retention rates.

Technology — The Gear

Technology plays a crucial role in the pharmaceutical sales process. In fact, according to a 2021 LinkedIn State of Sales Report, 77% of sales professionals say their sales organization plans to invest “significantly more” or “more” in sales intelligence tools. Consider technology as the high-performance gear that empowers the sales team to execute the plays with precision, efficiency, and agility. Integrating technologies into the sales process optimizes various aspects, from lead generation to securing commitments and ongoing customer relationship management.

Bringing Home the Victory

In the game of pharmaceutical sales, victory lies in striking the right balance between the coach’s strategic vision and the team captain’s on-the-field execution. Both are indispensable, yet their roles are distinct. A misstep can lead to missed opportunities.

By thinking of the sales process as the team’s playbook, detailing the steps and nuances of the game, and the strategy as the overarching game plan, sales leaders can shape the playing field and set the tone for success.

PDG is grateful to have a bench of experts with deep knowledge in this topic area. We especially thank James DiPofi and Laura Zeitler, whose expertise contributed valuable depth and insights to this article.

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