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Better for customers, better for Pfizer’s people

Concerned with representatives becoming “detailing machines” interested only in getting key messages across to customers because of their ability to write prescriptions, earlier this year, Pfizer changed its business model to become more responsive to the market and customer needs.

No successful company can stand still – even pharma’s largest – especially at a time when its customers’ world is changing faster than ever before.

The old model had served Pfizer well, but no longer met the needs of today’s UK healthcare environment. It was clear that Pfizer needed to find new ways to work with payers and prescribers in the UK which better matched their needs and expectations.

Pfizer’s new customer-facing organisation builds on all that is best about Pfizer and its core Values, as Philip Watts, Customer Marketing director, explained:“We are very good at account management and building customer relationships – we just need to increase our focus on doing it and to make sure that we do it more consistently.We’re also very good at teamwork and combining our skills to achieve real business results.”

Philip Watts Philips says:“Our industry is clearly very brand driven and this will always be the case. However, I believe it’s no longer enough to simply focus on selling our medicines.We need to go beyond that and think of other ways to engage with our customers.”

Pfizer’s new structure has been designed to build stronger customer relationships and ensure a more consistent and effective implementation of customer strategies. It is about placing, and developing, the right skills and knowledge in the right departments, and building teams of specialists who can tailor their approach to meet local customer needs and develop business opportunities.

“This means that the person we place in front of a customer won’t be a ‘jack of all trades’, but someone who understands their business and knows what they are talking about,“added Sales Director, David Bevan.“These individuals will be masters of customer focus with few distractions so they can focus on what is important.”

Actions speak louder than words

While many companies and industry commentators have talked about the need to develop an account management approach, Pfizer has created an expanded account management team, structured around the NHS communities.These account managers look across the spectrum of primary physicians and secondary care going into hospitals, into networks or wherever they need to go to understand what is happening in their local health economy.

Pfizer has also identified the need for specialist account managers in particularly complex areas, such as in oncology where Pfizer has a very promising and rapidly expanding franchise.

Day in the life…

A glimpse of what life is like in two of the new customer-facing roles.

The role of the Sales Manager


I’m definitely a people person which is why I was pleased to have the heavy account planning duties taken out of my role. Now I get to spend most of my time out coaching my team. It is 60 or 70% of what I do. I know it was always supposed to be that way but, frankly, I probably only spent a quarter of my time out there in the past, due to the days and days of meetings I needed to attend.

By working closely with my Account Manager colleagues, who are now accountable for building and delivering our local account plans, I can now focus on leading my team so they have the right skills, knowledge and support to deliver the business results.

Of course, I have input into building the local account plans that are agreed for each POA. I have to make sure that we’re working with the right, most important customers and delivering the plan. And we check our progress at monthly reviews with the Account Managers which usually take about two hours, although they aren’t always necessarily face-to-face.

I always keep an eye on the fact that we have to share the intelligence we uncover during our field visits, which I do on an on-going basis with my Account Manager colleagues and back into Customer and Brand Marketing.

The role of an Account Manager


As one of a team of six Account Managers, my job in a nutshell is the accountability for putting together and implementing Local Health Economy (LHE) Plans.

Each LHE covers a PCT footprint and everything within it which is relevant to my business, including acute trusts, pharmacies, teaching hospitals and major specialist centres, along with practice based commissioning groups.We add to that our take on the demographics of our local health economy, the type of providers, other key influencers and our sales history here.

Then, using the guidance developed by my Regional Account Director (RAD) around priorities and objectives for our brands, I define our local strategies and draw up an action plan for delivering them using all the resources I have at my disposal, including Value Added Programmes and campaigns from Brand Marketing and new service offerings from Customer Marketing.

Today is my second quarterly review meeting with my RAD on my new LHE plan. I believe the Senior Sales Manager is likely to be there too. I worked closely with my Sales Managers to develop the plan, using the new tools and information sources provided by Customer Marketing. It is a more rigorous process than I am used to but has resulted in what I believe is a more focused approach to how I plan for my business. I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve done so far and getting feedback on what we can do differently.

Although I’ve driven the development of the plan, I’ve talked to my Sales Manager colleagues on a regular basis right from the start and to quite a few Representatives. One thing I’ve had to do differently this time is liaise with the Specialist Account Managers for Diabetes and Oncology – both these areas are high local health priorities in my area, and it will be good to work with them to align our approach.

Customer marketing is also responsible for developing a customer strategy – and this doesn’t involve sitting in a darkened room, but getting out there, meeting customers and really getting under the skin of what it is like to be a modern healthcare professional. Based on this knowledge, it’s about creating ‘Value propositions’ and “Offers” that will be of real value to them and which go beyond brands.

All this means that Sales Representatives can continue to do what they do best: namely, focusing on ‘selling’ and building great customer relationships. Similarly, sales managers can spend less time in meetings and more of their time out on the road, coaching, developing, motivating and inspiring their team to be the best in the business.

David Bevan The new model blends all the company’s skills and knowledge, which enables a series of informal networks between teams and individuals.“There’s no sharp divide between departments – it’s more of a continuum,” said David.“The account team will lead the strategy, but also play a role in the execution. Sales will lead the execution of the plans. But also play a role in developing the strategy.”

While Pfizer’s new model is designed around the structure of the NHS, it has also recognised that you can’t put new structures and processes in place without helping its people to adapt to new working practices and behaviours. So, managers have been working hard to communicate with their teams and supporting them by continuing to provide training and development.

“There will be people who were successful in the old model, and equally successful in the new roles, such as account management, but new skills will come to the fore so we can do it even better.We already have great Sales people. Now we can focus on being the best in the industry,” said Philip. “We are committed to being a less bureaucratic,more accountable organisation, which enjoys better results and improved long-term growth.”

“Sales Managers can spend less time in meetings and more of their time coaching, developing, motivating and inspiring their team to be the best in the business.”

He continued:“We have long realised the need to develop a truly shared agenda with customers – one in which we work together, as equal partners, to achieve better health outcomes. In the new Pfizer model, we have a real opportunity to deliver this, and to achieve shared benefits. Set against a really challenging and evolving NHS environment, by taking an industry lead Pfizer has placed itself at the cutting edge of pharmaceutical business in the UK and it feels like a really exciting place to be.

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