Anticipating a Permanent Shift to Virtual, Pfizer will Reduce Sales Reps

Pfizer_Pierre Suu/Getty Images

Pierre Suu/Getty Images

Sparked by more than two years of virtual meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pfizer is cutting its sales staff as more and more physicians’ offices and healthcare facilities prefer fewer face-to-face interactions with vendors. That preference for a virtual experience is expected to remain even after the pandemic wanes.

Although Pfizer has not disclosed the number of sales staff facing pink slips, the number of job cuts could be in the hundreds. The cuts were first reported by Reuters, which confirmed the job eliminations with the pharma giant. Citing an internal Pfizer document that the agency saw, Pfizer believes that the commonality of business being conducted over a computer screen is something many healthcare professionals prefer. The report suggests that healthcare providers want to cut their face-to-face meetings in half in the future.

“We are evolving into a more focused and innovative biopharma company, and evolving the way we engage with healthcare professionals in an increasingly digital world,” the company said in a statement sent to Reuters. “There will be some changes to our workforce to ensure we have the right expertise and resources in place to meet our evolving needs.”

The cuts come hard on the heels of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference having shifted to a virtual format for the second year in a row due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Face-to-face meetings declined significantly in the first full year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused early rounds of layoffs of sales team members across multiple companies. The pandemic prompted many companies to shift to broader digital tools to sell goods to healthcare providers.

While Pfizer has a broad, differentiated pipeline, about half of its revenue for 2022 is expected to hinge on its COVID-19 vaccine and its recently authorized antiviral, Paxlovid. Both of these assets are being sold in massive quantities to government agencies across the globe through contracts. Reuters noted the model had eliminated the need for sales reps for these two pandemic-related assets.

According to some analyst estimates, Pfizer’s revenue could top $100 billion this year, a significant jump over the projected $80 billion for 2021.

While Pfizer is eliminating some sales positions, Reuters said the company is also creating new positions in other areas across the company, which will allow some of those employees to transition into different roles.

A shift to virtual interactions due to COVID-19 has also impacted sales positions at other companies in the pharmaceutical industry. Last year, Amgen eliminated approximately 500 sales positions due to the pandemic and shifting priorities. Last year, Amarin also culled about half of its sales team in favor of a new digital marketing strategy.

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