How pharma companies can meet doctors' needs
For far too long, the sales model between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals (HCPs) has been people dependent, costly, hierarchical and siloed. On top of this, the pharmaceutical industry is heavily regulated, making the job of pharma marketers even more complex compared to other industries.
All of this has meant building frustration amongst HCPs, with impersonal approaches and patients’ having their needs unmet.
The pandemic highlighted just how unsustainable this traditional model is, with restrictions meaning significant disruption to usual in-person visits. But it’s also offered the opportunity to re-think existing approaches – in particular, the chance to become more innovative and customer-centric.
How then, can pharma companies find more efficient ways to connect with doctors? Digital detailing is an approach allowing pharma to deliver impactful messages that add value and address the pain points of healthcare professionals. If implemented correctly, it has the potential to create a journey that is ideal for patients.
A shake-up of the traditional approach
Digital detailing isn’t a new concept, however few companies can say that they have mastered it and are seeing a significant impact on results. Records have moved from offline to online, but the content and approach of detailing has largely remained the same. The pandemic has exposed this, with restrictions on travel and interaction posing a major barrier to meaningful facetime with HCPs. For all the digital acceleration we’ve seen in healthcare, there’s been a lack of any real transformation in this area so far.
To add real value requires a shake-up of the traditional approach. This means shifting from delivering promotions through a sales representative to managing a better customer experience and engaging stakeholders across different touchpoints. Pharma companies not only need differentiated products, they also need a clear customer experience.
Improving the customer experience
Impactful messages that add value can help reps connect with HCPs better. This is key to improving customer experience. Digital interactions present pharma companies with a perfect opportunity for this. Integrating a truly digital process offers a more enhanced experience where reps can extend their coverage without having to travel and HCPs can access what they want when they need it.
The tools needed to create messages and test and learn already exist in the market. Adobe Campaign, for example, allows uses customer data to create, coordinate, and deliver dynamic campaigns.
While this may sound like old news for some and many might claim to have implemented omnichannel initiatives, they often aren’t well orchestrated. Without a true integration of these channels, messages will continue to be lost. Creating an effective omnichannel strategy first requires connecting channels so that they are bidirectional.
Once these channels are integrated and connected, new behaviours will surface, perhaps something like a “Netflix-ication” of digital detailing which is seeing information when and how HCPs want—whether that’s in the middle of an appointment or outside of practice hours. Reps will have to provide services beyond disseminating information. They’ll need to understand each client to create customised offerings and services.
The sales rep role evolves
Tech alone won’t cut it. It is crucial sales reps feel fully prepared for digital detailing. Pharma companies must focus on “networking” and “connecting” people, with needs and resources. The pandemic has required reps to navigate the needs of not just HCPs but also patients, government agencies, insurance companies, and many more. This mustn’t be forgotten – the “new rep” needed today should represent more of a “journey manager” or a “relationship manager”, where they understand all the complex needs of these audiences.
This means taking a customer-centric approach—in this case, pinpointing the needs of doctors. The modern rep isn’t just about sales, it’s also bringing a concierge element to the relationship that builds trust. Reps must be able to coach GPs, not just with technology, but also in other ways of doing business—by looking through a more business-driven and CX lens.
A key part of this is knowing how to collect data, use data from target lists, and generate tactical ideas on how to further develop business. It’s also about being a coach to less digitally-savvy HCPs on technical needs by walking through the systems, CRMs and other platforms that will be used for remote and online consultations.
Reps must also become the eyes and ears of the life sciences company, taking on more of an advisory role and being able to leverage all knowledge at their disposal. This can enable them to proactively connect with specialists within the pharma company to gather best practices, advice, and insights in order to provide better advice to HCPs.
Better insights from data
A better understanding of HCP preferences can allow efforts to be shaped according to their changing needs. However, this requires data, which in an omnichannel programme is often coming from lots of different sources, in lots of different formats. This makes it hard for sales reps to pull effective insights.
In addition to data that is available about doctors’ prescribing patterns, sales reps lack information that allows them to understand them more personally— for example, their preferences, and a sense of their business dynamics. Even then, data is often already outdated when it finally gets to the sales reps, a further barrier to having a deeper understanding of the doctor’s role.
To combat this, pharma companies must provide more comprehensive, accurate and easy to understand data. Using technology to collect, organise, and compare the data available in different channels makes it possible to generate insights and recommendations to deliver a more personalised experience. Analytics can provide cross-selling opportunities, and even provide better insight into resourcing optimization to help reps better address doctors’ needs.
No longer are digital interactions “nice to haves”. These channels are necessary to engage on, and even beyond the pandemic, this trend shows no sign of letting up. Digital detailing offers the ability to establish a hybrid approach for the sales cycle, between in-person and digital meetings – one that is flexible and built around the needs of doctors, rather than the product itself.
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