The case study describes the 12-year career of Bob Marsh, a pharmaceutical salesperson. Bob Marsh is eventually asked to resign from his position at Cabot Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Soon after his termination from the company, Bob's former customers begin to complain, and the company's vice president of sales is asked to investigate Bob's termination and to decide, what to do. The case study addresses issues of aligning strategy and sales efforts, evaluation criteria of performance, and on-going performance management in the field of selling.
Frank V. Cespedes; John T. Gourville
Harvard Business Review (510030-PDF-ENG)
August 12, 2009
Case questions answered:
- How does selling work in an industry where Cabot Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is in? What is the customer’s buying process? How long is a sales call, how many calls does a rep make per day? What are the critical selling success factors that drive results?
- Which strengths and weaknesses of Bob Marsh are pointed out by the various district managers?
- What has each of the district managers done well, what not? What is your idea of what characterizes a good district manager?
- What are the a) recruitment criteria, b) training procedures, c) compensation policies, and d) performance evaluation processes at Cabot Pharmaceuticals, Inc? How do these influence the behavior of district managers and reps?
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Case answers for Cabot Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
How does selling work in an industry where Cabot Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is in? What is the customer’s buying process? How long is a sales call, how many calls does a rep make per day? What are the critical selling success factors that drive results?
Cabot Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (CPI) sells prescription drugs for the medical and dental professions to drug wholesalers and drugstores (for resale to the general public by prescription) or hospitals and physicians.
To serve both target groups, CPI has established two sales forces. First, a team-based sales force that managed care organizations (e.g., HMOs) and second, a direct sales force, consisting of 500 individual detailers that target hospital personnel, doctors, and dentists.
In the latter, a sale results from a carefully managed customer relationship, which consists of phone calls and personal visits. The direct sales force is expected to take six to nine doctor or hospital calls per day.
The main goal of such calls is to nurture the relationship and schedule personal meetings with one of the doctors. Cabot Pharmaceuticals, Inc.’s executives consider their detailers (direct sales force members) as „second to none“ in the business. In addition to personal relationships, good education and social skills are highly critical factors to win the doctors’ trust and loyalty.
Which strengths and weaknesses of Bob Marsh are pointed out by the various district managers?
+ A hard worker – loyal, dedicated, and anxious to do well
+ well-received by physicians and hospital personnel; very good customer rapport
+ appreciates and follows instructions and suggestions
+ cooperative and helpful with fellow associates
+ A good number of Marsh’s physicians increased Cabot Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s prescriptions in recent months. Hospital sales were also showing gains.
– should overcome the tendency to prejudge customers and promotion programs
– bad work habits and personal organization
– need for better planning, follow-through, and responsiveness to company policies
– shows “indifference” to the organization (e.g., little preparation before seeing physicians, not definite plan or method once in the physician’s office)
– should be more responsive to management directives
– should give more attention to planning and organization
– overall work performance was below standard
– attitude: standard
+ Outstanding reception in physician offices and drugstores is a great asset
+ most gratifying improvement in drugstore sales
+ good acceptance by fellow associates
+ contributions at district meetings greatly appreciated
+ excellent attitude and company loyalty
Work performance and his attitude graded as Well Above Average.
+ excellent rapport with virtually everyone in his territory
– dissatisfaction with Marsh’s record in establishing new products with physicians
– poor penetration with dentists
– lack of organization was beyond Rathburn’s comprehension
– poor attitude
– careless organization
– inattention to planning and follow-up
– missed sales opportunities
“An improved attitude, as well as better organization, planning, and follow-up, would…