In an effort to remain competitive in an industry impeded by increasing R&D, production, and marketing costs, as well as growing generic competition, regulatory compliance burdens, and government intervention, more and more pharmaceutical companies are looking outward for assistance. The right pharmaceutical consultant can be a valuable asset, providing a competitive edge and a healthy return on investment, but there are pitfalls that must be avoided.

1. Not Doing the Preliminary Work

Before hiring a pharmaceutical consultant, you absolutely must do the necessary preliminary work. Neglect these important steps, and you could be courting disaster:

  • Identify and define your needs. The first step prior to calling in a pharmaceutical consulting firm is to carefully analyze and define your goals for your company. What, exactly, do you want to accomplish? What specific problems do you need solutions for? Knowing where you are now and where you need to be will be immensely helpful in finding the right consultant to move your organization from the starting point to the desired goal.

  • Make sure the knowledge and experience are there. Another important step is to make sure the prospective consultant has the necessary expertise – in the form of knowledge, experience, and qualified personnel – to do what you need them to do. Read their publications, check references, and scrutinize track records.

  • Ask lots of questions. Ask yourself and the prospective pharmaceutical consultant plenty of pertinent questions. This will aid you in clearly identifying early on exactly what you need, as well as determining whether the consultant can provide that, and how he/she will accomplish it. Good consultants will have instruments in place to help you through this process.

2. Forgetting About Flexibility

Occasionally, consultants will come in and attempt to solve problems with a one-size-fits-all approach or just apply a quick fix, either of which is a recipe for less than stellar results. The pharmaceutical consultant you choose should have the ability to view and analyze your situation from various viewpoints and perspectives, the willingness to find and test multiple potential solutions, and the experienced personnel to step up and fill in where needed. To illustrate, here’s how Smart Pharmaceutical Consulting handles the solution-finding process in a manner that incorporates flexibility and leads to long-term results.

The consultants with Smart Consulting will first come in and conduct an initial assessment, viewing the situation from all sides and angles, thus gaining a comprehensive view and understanding of the problem(s). From here—because the consultants aren’t locked in to one way of seeing and doing things—they can find and develop multiple possible solutions, each of which are then tested and adjusted accordingly. This allows them to determine exactly which solution is best suited for a particular problem. Smart’s consultants then work to find expandable solutions that will continue to work and fill gaps as the company grows.

3. Not Looking for Leadership Qualities

Pharmaceutical consultants fill gaps, find solutions, and move you toward your goals, but good consultants do more. If your consultant doesn’t give you more, then you’ve hired only a contractor or facilitator. Good consultants are also leaders who should be capable of:

  • Effective communication

  • Garnering employee buy-in for proposed changes

  • Hands-on technical execution

  • Effective team-building

  • Finding common goals and creating a vision

  • Subordinating their own needs to the organization’s goals

  • Recognizing the difference between management and leadership

  • Creating loyalty, commitment, and building trust

4. Neglecting the Relationship Aspect

Perhaps the most important part of a pharmaceutical consulting arrangement is the relationship involved. A consultant first has to gain the client’s trust (on several fronts), and from there the relationship builds. Without a firm and enduring consulting relationship in place, the results will almost surely fall short. Here are a few precautions you can take to avoid this particular pitfall:

  • Ensure a good “fit” between the corporate culture of your organization and the personality and style of the pharmaceutical consulting firm being considered.

  • Determine the willingness of the consultant to establish a long-term relationship.

  • Find out whether the consultant is willing to put your company’s goals and success uppermost.

  • In drafting the agreement, make sure the consultant is willing to bear the burden of risk along with you and your company.

Avoid these pitfalls, and you should be well along the smart road to hiring the right pharmaceutical consultant for your company and your needs.