Mani Sethi co-wrote this blog post with Mike Powers.
Think about the last time you bought something on Amazon: The website provides a list of your recently purchased items, suggestions based on your browsing history, and insights into what products similar shoppers have bought. Chances are at least one of those tailored offerings factored into your purchase decision.
That’s precisely the type of experience that pharmaceutical companies should be delivering to their customers. For example, what if pharmaceutical sales reps knew not only who to target (Dr. Smith), but also when (next week), why (insight on Dr. Smith’s behavior), how (what message will be delivered), and where (through which channel)? By implementing a strategy we call “dynamic targeting,” sales reps would be provided insights about the specific behaviors and patterns of the doctors they call on and equipped to personalize each encounter to specific customer opportunities.
Pharmaceutical companies already know which products physicians are prescribing, but many don’t have the right tools to understand what goes into those purchasing decisions. For complex, high-value therapies, like those in oncology and rare disease, this level of specificity can ensure that the right message is delivered to the right physician at the right time.
Many e-commerce sites perfected targeting years ago, but efforts in the pharma industry have been hampered by too little data, slow data retrieval processes, immature analytics capabilities and outdated technology. While that’s no longer the case, a dynamic targeting strategy also means changing the culture within sales and marketing organizations to ensure that healthcare providers are targeted with relevant and applicable information. Many of the components—including data variety/velocity, simple user experience, advanced analytics and technology—are already in place and prepared to disrupt the traditional sales model. To ensure success, however, it’s imperative that sales reps accept and adopt the new go-to-market strategy.
Here are four key steps to encouraging sales reps to leverage a dynamic targeting strategy:
- Communicate consistently and effectively with the field. Dynamic targeting introduces a new way of working, one that enables sales reps to make effective, data-driven decisions in real time. Pushback from the sales force—particularly from reps who’ve followed the same call plan in the same territory for many years—is a potential barrier that pharma companies need to prepare for. The key is to create a change management program that clearly articulates the “What’s in it for me?” so that reps feel heard and involved in the process.
- Give sales reps more time to do what they do best. Today, pharmaceutical companies often rely on reps to independently analyze data and perform investigations, but their time is better spent on selling. By moving that competency in-house, reps are supplied with the insights (not just data) they need to identify specific opportunities to target customers with the right messages.
- Engage with key stakeholders to develop your value proposition. Reps need insights that are actionable and help them quickly capitalize on opportunities. For example, with dynamic targeting, a rep would learn that Dr. Smith diagnosed a new patient with asthma, initiated a treatment plan and referred the patient to Dr. Jones and Dr. Williams—potential new customers for the rep—for related health issues. The sales rep can then relay the clinical value of his company’s top-selling respiratory product to Dr. Smith and close the loop by engaging with the other prescribers as well. With near real-time insights into physician behaviors, reps can continue to perfect their customer engagement strategies, expand their reach and increase ROI on future calls.
- Establish a strong and ongoing governance program. Once change management—the final piece of the dynamic targeting puzzle—is in place, companies can reach their most important customers more effectively. However, the work is far from done. Pharma companies need a solid oversight mechanism to ensure that all customer needs are met even as the market inevitably shifts due to new product launches, territory realignments and provider consolidation. Ongoing training and education for sales reps and operations teams will ensure that dynamic targeting continues to drive sales and provide value to prescribers.
With the other components of dynamic targeting ready to be incorporated, don’t let change management prevent you from keeping up with the world around you. Changes of any kind often take patience as they gradually unfold, and adopting a new sales strategy is no exception to the rule. After all, even Amazon had to build its sales approach incrementally to transform from an online bookstore to the e-commerce behemoth it is today.