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“Time to Flip the Digital Switch:” COVID-19 and Pharma Sales


ZS offers advice to ensure reps can stay engaged with their customers during these times of changing needs and constraints.

As COVID-19 takes a grip on healthcare systems around the world, pharma can take extra measures by putting a stop to in-person physician promotions to reduce traffic across sites of care, says a new blog by ZS’s Daniel Brox and Pratap Khedkar“It’s time to flip the digital switch,” say the authors, to ensure reps can stay engaged with their customers during these times of changing needs and constraints.

While 47.3% of physicians engage well with in-person pharma rep meetings, just 9.6% of physicians engage with digital tactics, according to ZS’s AffinityMonitor findings. “The new environment could provide a chance to level the playing field a bit now that reps likely will be coordinating the customer experience entirely via digital channels.”

Determining how best to respond to physicians’ changing needs will ensure that these customer-facing roles are armed for success while sequestered, say Brox and Khedkar. To that end, the authors outline some approaches that ensure sales reps can continue to effectively reach their customers from a home office:

1. “Play a more active role in directing non-personal promotion. There’s an opportunity for reps to use time usually spent in the field to further personalize the machine output. Customers tend to be more receptive to rep-triggered emails because of the personalized approach.”

2. “Help provide support to existing patients. Brainstorm with customers about ways to support patients in therapy areas that may get less attention due to the all-consuming nature of the pandemic.”

3. “Create even more personalized content-now and down the line. With the rep’s input into who a customer is, marketers can create more personalized messages that better engage the customer through virtual channels and address patient needs in the short term.”

4. “Sharpen remote detailing offerings. For e-detailing to be successful, reps need to find ways to bring the personalization of face-to-face meetings to video-based calls… It could be a good time to try it out with any offices that may be open to an e-detailing approach.”

5. Coordinate messaging campaigns across the organization. Don’t overwhelm or crowd physicians with too many messages, say the authors. “When messages are being pushed out via email, it’s very likely that all rep-generated emails could show up in a doctor’s inbox on the same day.”

6. “Brush up on skills. This is a great opportunity for reps to log some product training time, schedule regular account planning meetings with their teams to identify any overlaps in promotional campaigns and continue learning to optimize customer relationship management systems and other tech tools of the trade.”

“It’s hard not to look down the line and consider how COVID-19 might permanently alter the way that pharma works,” Brox and Khedkar conclude. “Once the industry and its customers learn to function in a world without face-to-face detailing, we may see the digital switch flip with physicians preferring to engage via digital channels.”

See the full ZS blog here.

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