Pharmaceutical Sales Incentives: A Case Study

The Pharmaceutical Industry is big business. Companies like Pfizer, Amgen and Sanofi have market capitalizations well over $50 billion with steady growth expected. Contrary to what you may think, even groundbreaking prescription drugs do not just sell themselves. The success of these companies rests largely on the performance of their Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives. Let’s learn a bit about who these individuals are and how to inspire them.

The position of Pharmaceutical Sales Representative boasted its way onto the top 100 “Best Jobs in America” list compiled by CNN Money in 2012. Several factors were considered for this ranking including a median pay of roughly $97,000 per year and 16.4% expected job growth over the next ten years. With over 400,000 jobs reported in the field at the time of the study, there is no shortage of opportunity for people wanting to join this industry. The position is very fast-paced and high turnover rates are common. Assertive, persistent and knowledgeable are a few of the most common adjectives used to describe successful Pharmaceutical Sales Reps. The majority of their time is spent on the road traveling to meetings with pharmacists, hospital personnel, doctors and others who have the ability to connect them to potential customers

Engaging a sales team to perform and stay motivated in this high paced atmosphere requires a strategic approach that goes beyond expected compensation. This is where a strong sales incentive program utilizing non-cash incentives comes in to play.

Pharmaceutical Sales Incentive Programs can produce massive gains in terms of incremental sales revenues when implemented and managed properly. In addition to cash commissions and bonuses, effective programs also use non-cash incentives, training opportunities and contests to motivate. Non-cash incentives can include travel prizes, merchandise rewards and recognition awards from management. These incentives are awarded not only for those who win sales contests but also for those who complete training portals to increase their product knowledge.

Participants that frequently receive progress reports and standings updates naturally exhibit higher levels of competition and are more driven to sell. It is also important to make sure that the program rules are clear, fair and easy to understand with effective communication plans to support the initiative.

These Sales Incentive Programs are particularly vital when new drugs are introduced into the market, when existing drug sales are falling or when sales reps need to be reinvigorated due to declining performance.

Situation: Novo Nordisk Uses a Sales Incentive Program to Introduce New Non-Insulin Medication Victoza

Incentive Magazine shared a fascinating case study about Danish health care company Novo Nordisk and their recent sales incentive program that introduced Victoza, a non-insulin medication for adults with Type 2 diabetes. Their goal was to engage more than 2,000 sales reps with this campaign and encourage them to sell Victoza.

An online-based five-day incentive program called “Welcome to Club V” was introduced and themed around an exclusive nightclub incorporating a virtual red carpet and VIP experiences. This virtual “nightclub” made it easy to access training portals, progress reports, contest rules and the award shopping mall. The award shopping mall allowed participants to select prizes of their choosing based on various achievements.

Essentially, participants were awarded with prizes in exchange for the completion of training portals and victories in sales contests.

Results: 100% Participating in Competitions, 95% Taking Daily Quizzes

The program was quite engaging to say the least. An astounding 95% of the sales force took daily quizzes and every participant competed in the individual and team sales competitions. The program rewarded these Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives for doing what they already did, but for doing it better by encouraging continuous growth in their job knowledge.

Jamie Jones, senior director for Novo Nordisk strongly believes that sales reps become tired of selling a product after just six to eight weeks no matter what the product is. Incentives are the only way to keep them engaged in selling.

This “club” took the rather dull experience of learning about and selling medications and turned it into a fun, competitive and exciting way to earn prizes. The representatives received incentives. The company enjoyed the results of more educated employees and increased sales revenues. Everybody was victorious here.

The Keys to the Success of This Program

The rewards were selected to match the objective of the program and target demographic. Choosing interesting rewards for Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives can be difficult, but experienced gift buyers will have the answers at the right price. Large rewards can include exquisitely planned trips to exotic locales and activities that are not commonly open to the public. Smaller awards can include luxury name-brand gifts that resonate with your target audience.

Many touch points were present. Communication, training, measurement and reinforcement were articulately designed. It is essential that participants know the value of offered incentives and how they are able to win them. Keeping the competitive spirit of participants alive with constant reminders is also vital. Email blasts, printed collateral, meetings, online standings websites and even teaser gift items are effective in this area.

If you are looking to create or revamp your pharmaceutical sales incentive program, give us a call at 949.476.2788 or email us at We understand your target demographic and what drives them, the communications necessary to get them to participate, the metrics to demonstrate value to executive management and even ways to increase your corporate social responsibility in the process.

To learn more about the important role that marketing communications play in sales incentive programs, please click here.

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Kristopher Hewkin


JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.

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