We’ve all heard the statistics. It sometimes feels like every presentation starts the same: “The traditional pharma sales rep is becoming outdated as changes in the marketplace drive a shift in customer behavior. Access restrictions are increasing, with digital interactions replacing one in every four reps. Technology adoption is spreading, with customers spending 11 hours a week online for work purposes. Channel preferences are changing, with 67% of MDs rating digital media as their preferred information source. And finally, the locus of control is shifting away from physicians as the sole decision maker.”
But what does it all mean? In order to keep pace with shifting customer habits, pharma companies have to change. Integrating the field and digital channels is a key way for companies to evolve and improve the relevance of its sales force—but how?
As I browsed the exhibition floor at the Eye for Pharma conference, I was struck with how many companies are offering technology solutions to arm reps with information on the various customer touchpoints. There are neat apps and cool UIs that give information on all customer interactions with the company. Some apps simply provide information to the field. Other platforms actually allow reps to change the tactic to engage and orchestrate the customer experience. Regardless of the functionality, I still couldn’t help but wonder: Is the cool technology enough?
The change of a rep’s role from promoter to “orchestrator” among channels is much more than just what technology can lead. We have to truly enable our organizations to see this successful shift—with six success factors to help us on the journey.
1) Gather genuine senior-level sponsorship, where sales and marketing unite (rather than conflict) and all levels are bought in. The field recognizes this helps them be more effective, and marketing realizes they aren’t giving up control.
2) Paint a clear vision and roadmap for the change and ensure everyone understands where you’re going and how long it’s going to take. Working with an early experience team to refine and gather proof points will help.
3) Build the field enablers required for success, from training and coaching to aligned incentives and performance measurement. First-line managers will also require a significant degree of up-skilling to succeed in the evolving role.
4) Empower your customer marketing group with a clear data and analytic strategy to enable sales and marketing integration, including the ability to have a “customer 360” analytics view, and the ability to link between sales and marketing systems.
5) Change the organizational mentality of measurement from one of reach and frequency to one of quality customer interactions.
6) And finally—where the exhibitors were all focused—have the tools, technology and/or platforms to push the information to the field (and receive feedback to HQ) in real-time.
Then, and only then, will we see the true change that the technology companies are promising. How many of these six success factors has your company completed? What barriers to the change concern you?