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Clinical Evidence Key to Commercializing Life Science Products


Pharmaceutical Executive

Companies need to find compelling ways to present facts, rather than slick but insubstantial promotions.

Parth Khanna

The days when pharmaceutical sales reps could show up at a doctor’s office with tickets to a baseball game or keys to a company’s beachfront timeshare are long gone. The 2013 federal Sunshine Act and related state laws brought tighter restrictions on payments and other “transfers of value”-meals, trips and the like-to healthcare providers. Doctors are still open to product information, but they have less time and patience for personal meet-and-greets.

With increasingly limited access to clinicians, life sciences companies have a harder time bringing life-changing, and potentially profitable, new health products to market. A study by Bain & Company found that 50% of current launches in that industry fail to meet expectations. The companies that succeed are the ones that differentiate their products through unique messaging and a smart focus on customer experience.

Instead of relying on money to help build relationships with healthcare providers, today’s reps must sell on their product’s clinical benefits for doctor and patient alike. Successful product launches require companies to create marketing materials rooted in hard data and clear results.

Sales reps in the field need their brand’s support-including the latest technology-to bring providers easy-to-digest clinical success stories. Companies also need to capture information about which initiatives work well with providers (and which don’t), so they can adjust their “micro-battle” plans in real time.

“Be Brief, Be Bright, Be Gone”

The Bain & Company study found that the most successful product launches happen when life sciences companies effectively communicate key clinical benefits to physicians and other decision-makers. This requires marketing teams to find compelling ways to present facts, rather than slick but insubstantial promotions.

Sales teams need to know-and effectively communicate-the latest research supporting their products’ health benefits, safety, and cost-effectiveness. They must also be ready to answer the medical questions physicians have, without having to pause and thumb through volumes of information. 

Providing research papers and results of clinical trials isn’t enough to ensure clear and consistent messaging. Companies also need to help reps make sense of the data and train them to effectively communicate clinical evidence to key decision makers.

Doctors simply have less time these days to speak with life sciences companies. According to a study in the Annals of Family Medicine, for every hour spent with patients, doctors now spend two hours dealing with administrative tasks, including managing patients’ electronic health records.

Given that time crunch, sales reps need to provide doctors with the right resources to help them quickly make informed purchasing and prescribing decisions. Because providers are often in a hurry to get back to their patients, reps need to be able to communicate, clearly and succinctly, how their products demonstrably improve health outcomes.

Sales reps also need to customize information for individual clinicians. CRM systems often direct reps where to go for sales calls, but companies also need to provide reps with background information about each provider or practice to help them tailor messaging.

Actionable feedback

While the way marketing teams spend money has shifted, the amount spent only continues to rise. A Dartmouth study found that total medical marketing expenditures in the U.S. grew from $17.7 billion in 1997 to nearly $30 billion in 2016. Another found that in biotechnology, as much as one-third of revenues go towards “sales, general, and administrative expenses” (including salaries).

Despite these sizable investments, companies often lack objective data about which sales strategies are working with customers-and which are not.

It is critical for companies to capture and analyze real-time feedback from the front lines. Getting insights from salespeople on meeting outcomes and calls is key to distinguishing a company’s innovations from those of its competitors.

Significant innovations are taking place in drug discovery, development, and clinical research. New big data and AI tools are leading to powerful R&D insights, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices are helping researchers better understand how drugs are affecting patient outcomes.

Pharmaceutical and life science product marketing is similarly ripe for technological disruption. Sales reps need continuous remote access to the most recent, relevant clinical data and the most effective messaging strategies so they can maximize limited time with clinicians. Sales teams armed with personalized, compelling facts and knowledge of tried-and-true strategies will be the ones to carry breakthrough products to successful launch and long-term success.


Parth Khanna, is CEO and co-founder of ACTO


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