What Is The Best Way to Incentivise a Digital-First Sales Team?

Views & Analysis
What Is The Best Way to Incentivize a Digital-First Sales Team

Incentivising people with KPI-linked bonuses is nothing new. Especially in commercial roles it has long been standard. The issue with KPIs is they can be very ineffective. If clearly defined they will get you results, but if not, they can just reinforce the wrong behaviours. The difficulty is to define the right ones. Bottomline is that KPI-based incentives will hardly ever create the behaviour that you want and in some of the worst examples have caused a disaster like the financial crisis in 2008.

Pharma sales reps are rewarded in a very indirect way. Unlike salespeople in other industries, they don’t actually sell anything, they influence. That has always been difficult to measure, especially outside the US where no HCP level (only brick) prescription data is available and despite this the sales force has been by far the biggest (and most expensive) channel. Generally speaking, there was always a correlation between the sales rep effectiveness and the market results.

“Isn’t this a great time to incentivise based on the behaviour that really matters?”

The industry moved to “multi-channel marketing” by adding headquarter-driven email on top of the face-to-face sales rep visits and congresses. That made finding the correlation between compliant sales rep driven activities and business results more difficult to find. Driven by technology readiness, cost pressure, examples in other industries and now the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry is finally moving to omnichannel marketing, with integration between sales and marketing channels, orchestrated by pre-defined ‘’customer journeys’’. The focus is on a relevant, trusted, consistent and a pleasant experience for the HCP instead of mostly relying on face-to-face visits.

I believe personal relationships will always require to create trust in the content. Sales reps will continue to play a critical role in the whole experience of an HCP, digitally and face-to-face. The sales reps will coordinate a number of channels (e.g. visits, mini-meetings, rep triggered messages) but will not control the entire customer journey any longer. Webinars and virtual congresses will play a more important role, besides digitally personalised content via portals, emails and social media mobilised by automation and bot technology.

So it is clear that the role of the rep has changed. It’s a hybrid model now. While reps will continue to do face-to-face visits, they will now have a significant number of remote calls and meetings as well as some coordination of digital messaging, yet their KPIs have hardly changed. Isn’t this a great time to incentivise based on the behaviour that really matters? HCP scores of a pharma company on relevance, trust, consistency and quality over time and overall experience?

About Exeevo


Exeevo is a unified, intelligent and agile digital ecosystem for life sciences organisations to revolutionise health experiences for healthcare teams and patients in their journey towards sustainable health outcomes. Built with Microsoft clouds including Dynamics 365, Azure and Teams well as Cloud for Healthcare, Exeevo platforms are verticalised for customer and patient experiences, delivered by biopharma, medical devices, biotech and consumer health organisations. 

About the author

Edswin ErckensEdwin Erckens has created his opinions based on 10 years of experience in pharma and consumer healthcare in P&G, Teva and Sanofi, in local, regional, and global commercial IT/digital roles and chose Omnipresence by Exeevo for use in multiple markets during his time at Sanofi. He is a digital transformation leader with experience across different companies and industries. He started his career at P&G, then moved to Heineken, followed by regional and global executive IT/digital roles at Teva and Sanofi. He holds an MSc in Mechanical Engineering and has worked and lived in seven countries. He currently resides in his home country, the Netherlands.

1 April, 2021