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All things Pharma

Power to all sales reps

The pharmaceutical industry needs to jettison its historic ‘quantity over quality’ attitude to sales and marketing. With healthcare professionals harder to access by the day, and more sophisticated, cheaper ways of communicating with them becoming readily available, companies need to adopt smarter strategies based around achieving effectiveness over efficiency if they are to maintain and grow sales. GARETH THOMAS, managing director of pharmaceutical sales and marketing specialists, Cegedim UK, www.cegedim.co.uk reveals how the more agile mid-sized firms could seize the advantage in this regard and leap into the big league. It’s tough being a sales manager in the pharmaceutical world today. The pressure to retain and grow market share is huge even though the barriers to actually doing so are becoming ever more insurmountable. Mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical industry are narrowing the gap between the leaders, while red tape is being tightened to lengthen the time it takes to get new drugs onto the market. Moreover, with the competition always at their heels, sales managers are faced with an increasingly elusive prey: doctors. The code on interactions with healthcare professionals calls for creative thought on how to attract the interest of prescribers, and beat the competition. The need for the prescribers to influence the formulary committees requires a more creative approach. The pharmaceutical industry has its traditional approaches to marketing which have served it well in the past. However, these have less value today when it comes to investing long-term in the future of the business. Established and conservative ways of operating are no longer strong enough weapons with which to fight off the midsized, upstart pharmaceutical firms. These new kids on the block are rising fast with their smarter, more agile, approaches to marketing, which rely less on numbers of sales reps and more on the strategic use of industry intelligence. More than ever before, sales reps and pharmaceutical marketeers need access to the right data at the right time in order to target their messages to prescribers and influencers effectively. This means pursuing effectiveness in marketing, relegating the pursuit of efficiency to yesterday’s strategy. It’s no longer enough to grow ever larger teams of sales reps and throw one-size-fits-all messages at doctors in the hope that some will stick. We need a smarter, more intelligent approach to match the increasingly individual needs of healthcare professionals. For example, multiple methods of permission-based specifically designed targeted communication, not just the rep with the bag. Quantity vs Quality Recent research by Cutting Edge Information has revealed that the pharmaceutical industry average for field force budgets is nearly $875 million, with top-spending organisations committing well over $1billion to sales. Yet, despite all this money being thrown into pharmaceutical sales, pity the sales rep carrying the bag. In many instances, they walk into a doctor’s surgery armed with last month’s data on interactions between the doctor and the pharmaceutical company. In the interim period, the doctor may have received direct mail from a product manager and taken up some points with a medical information service. The meeting agenda has changed, but the rep doesn’t know this. For this is the reality of selling in the pharmaceutical industry today; numbers of sales visits are valued over the quality of the interaction. Moreover, while historically very good at sending out incremental sales messages, pharmaceutical companies are not brilliant at matching these messages to the most appropriate communication medium, again favouring volume over efficacy. Integrating Data for Sales and Marketing Agility This attitude has been compounded by industry attitudes to message integration. More often than not, market intelligence is constrained by the use of non-integrated (disparate) data sources that provide out of date, inconsistent information, and rarely at the optimum time. Most vendors of pharmaceutical sales force automation (SFA) and data systems consider it acceptable to update their clients’ data at best once a month. This invariably leads to duplication, inaccuracies and missed sales opportunities. In many incidences, therefore, precious sales visits are a waste of time. Much of the time is taken up with going over old ground when the doctor has already moved forward in his or her thinking. Maybe if the sales rep had known all the most recent interactions between the doctor and the pharmaceutical company, he or she might have chosen to pitch a different sales message, or may even have replaced the visit with some other kind of interaction, for example, more direct mail or a sponsored lunch. In any case, the decision would have been made based on the very latest market and account intelligence, making use of tactical and intelligent targeting and profiling, and multiple and integrated communications channels. This message has particular relevance for midsized firms hungry for growth. While the giants struggle to overcome cultural barriers to change in their monolithic sales and marketing departments, mid-sized firms are becoming the rising pharmaceutical stars of tomorrow by injecting new agility into their sales and marketing strategies. Strategies which are beginning to enable these firms to compete on a level playing field with their much larger rivals, sharpening competition in a traditionally top-heavy market. Achieving Sales and Marketing Effectiveness Adopting effectiveness in selling means delivering the right message in the right way appropriate to each individual healthcare professional, and informing the sales force every step of the way. To do this you need up-to-date information delivered efficiently to all of the relevant areas ideally from one comprehensive source. Weekly sales data being one example. You then need to work out the next consistent message to give to each individual doctor, and whether this would be best delivered face-to-face, by direct mail, by e-detail or during a symposium, depending on the doctor’s previous interactions with the company. This way the sales message is built and supported from the ground up using the latest sales data and customer information with the most appropriate communications tool for the next interaction with the individual being identified. The returns from such a focused, analytical strategy will always be greater than those generated by a large number of standardised sales visits, planned weeks in advance, where the message to be delivered remains unchanged regardless of the doctor’s recent interactions with the company. Such a tactical approach, when combined with buying in weekly sales data, also makes it possible to develop the Holy Grail of pharmaceutical sales – a return on investment model which would give an indication of the impact of a particular campaign. It is possible to plot the current market share for a particular drug at a territory level, and then map weekly sales onto that to reveal any fluctuations. A simple calculation of marketing campaign costs against sales achieved would provide a good indication of how much your market share has increased. Conclusion The value of pursuing effectiveness over efficiency in sales and marketing has already been proven in the financial and retail sectors where pioneers have leapt into the big league. Even though the pharmaceutical sector has unique needs, adopting greater effectiveness in sales and marketing is already being proven by mid-sized firms to have an equivalent impact. Inevitably, the market dynamics in the pharmaceutical sector will force all firms to go down this route. While the giants struggle to change their ingrained sales cultures, mid-sized firms could act fast and establish a strong presence in the hearts and minds of those who make prescribing decisions. The time is ripe for pharmaceutical firms to jettison their old sales and marketing methods and adopt smarter tactics that exploit the latest market intelligence data and communication mediums. Only this way can they reasonably expect to make real headway in recouping the escalating cost of their sales and research and development programmes as well as retaining and growing their market share.

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