A Good Time to ‘Revamp’ Sales and Marketing

Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-08-01-2020, Volume 40, Issue 8

How one COVID-sparked model could help usher in needed reset.

COVID-19 has done a lot of bad things to our world, but it has also revealed opportunities for efficiency and value in the healthcare chain, with virtual health being a prime example.

Looking through the pharma lens, this seismic shift has, in a few months, collapsed something that took decades to develop: the in-person selling model. A change of this significance offers an opportunity to adapt, but this must be achieved via a strategic rethink, not just the addition of tactical solutions.

REVAMP (Remote Engagement through Value Added Marketing for Payers/Professionals/Patients) is an approach that advocates for a revised view of pharma marketing within a remote engagement framework.

1. REVAMP with a service platform

It’s important to make the distinction between the service itself and being able to access it in a seamless, on-demand manner. For example, it’s great to have a brand-enabled at-home visit from a nurse for administration and monitoring, but it’s another thing for a chatbot to suggest it and schedule it in real time.

Platforms, different from one-off services, are data- and content-driven, where contributors and consumers create value through participation. These platforms are powered by data and value is created by enabling an exchange between creator and customer.

The systems at the core of a REVAMP effort require a transition to being “always on”—they use behavioral data, integrate cross-channel access, and engage dynamically to allow interdepartmental connections between sales and patient support.

The idea of an always-on platform operates on two levels—access and value creation. It can be compared to an app store, but instead of offering apps selected by the customer, the pharma store would include all customer interactions. The key enhancement is that the apps would share data and allow real-time remote access to features across the apps or touchpoints. These touchpoints would include salesforce details, personalized emails, virtual booths, speaker meetings, and other functional goal-oriented interactions, which are digital, trackable, and support a shared master data set about the customer.

2. REVAMP with new value drivers

The relationship-based sell is a function that has outlived its usefulness. Relationships are important, but creating real-world value will always win over small talk, especially at a time of crisis. Clinical relevance and depth is what customers value. Pharma reps are being forced to take a hard stare at how to deliver on this, especially with high-decile prescribers who might already be familiar with the data and talking points on the product profile. What’s wanted now is real-world evidence, best practices on telemedicine, innovative ways of providing remote care and monitoring, and of course, outcomes. Pharma must rebalance the rep-to-medical-science-liaison staffing ratios and adapt marketing plans to be content- rather than message-centric.

In other words, clinical content needs to go beyond top-line messages and data that can be gleaned from a cursory read of the product profile. It’s more imperative that real-world opinions, evidence, and patient experience come alive in a way that is clinically relevant and meaningful. The shift from selling to listening, sharing, and supporting is not an easy one, but that is what the customer demands in the post-COVID world.

3. REVAMP by shifting hours

“Patients first” is a mantra that is etched on the walls of big pharma. The most profound shifts in engagement will take place only if we truly embrace that idea. The first consideration is that pharma does NOT engage with physicians during work hours. There are too few doctors, too many patients, and too little time to sufficiently care for them. With the always-on world of remote engagement, unfettered by geographical and physical constraints, reps must now engage before or after hours and connect with physicians when they’re involved in research, CME, or other non-clinic times.

It’s both a matter of pragmatism and principle that pharma plays a supportive role to the healthcare professional’s daily schedule, rather than a disruptive one.

Prodeep Bose, Growth and Innovation lead, The Bloc

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