The COVID-19 pandemic caused major market disruptions that permanently altered the pharmaceutical industry and required novel approaches to Healthcare Professionals (HCP) and patient engagement. During a recent panel with Dan McCormick, President of Generis Solutions, a specialized management consulting firm serving the life science industry, we discussed COVID-19’s short- and long-term effects on pharma sales. We covered how marketing and sales teams have begun to evolve, including their innovative adaptations and their growing use of analytics to support customers and improve outcomes. Here are the top insights and predictions from our discussion.
1. Pharma sales teams will supplement field teams with fully remote teams dedicated to virtual interactions.
One of the most obvious effects of COVID-19 was that it grounded field forces due to health and safety concerns. Prior to the pandemic, two-thirds of all promotional and field engagements were face-to-face. Post-COVID, that statistic has flipped — 65% are virtual.
Even as more of the population gets vaccinated and begins returning to previous work locations and patterns, we expect virtual engagement to keep a permanent place in pharma sales. This is driven by three factors:
- Biopharma and provider organizations are more receptive and comfortable than ever before leveraging digital and virtual engagement options
- Biopharma field representatives have received virtual meetings positively
- Virtual engagement provides improved access to HCPs with a larger percentage of former “no sees” being engaged
To support remote sales reps, we expect to see increased adoption of mobile and digital tools. These tools will primarily help teams collaborate through omnichannel communications to reach key targets and execute brand-defined sales strategies.
2. Pharma marketing and sales teams will continue to innovate, going high-tech.
Integrating powerful digital interaction capabilities for sales and their customers will be a game-changer for pharma companies’ success going forward. Using integrated platforms will enable them to analyze all communications with HCPs to create a single view of the customer.
As pharma marketing and sales teams feel a push to be disruptive and transformative while creating growth, they’ll also strive to get a better grasp on analytics. Unifying and analyzing data will empower pharma marketing professionals to place targeted HCPs in communications journeys based on their relationship with the brand. When done well, this should improve ROI and the customer experience by delivering more relevant information and messaging and consequently, more value. Therefore, we expect to see:
- A data-driven, automated approach with cloud-based deployment that will enable better insights and decision making
- Segmentation to maximize impact and reach addressable markets faster
- A coordinated approach with multiple, disparate campaigns and HCP touchpoints
- Technology-enabled collaboration on new and shared targets
According to an IDC survey, sales performance could improve by an average of 35% if the data and insights were more accessible, complete, timely, accurate and actionable. For sales reps, access to unified data is key to uncovering insights and enabling more informed conversations and decisions. Prior to fully and effectively leveraging data analytics, pharma companies must establish a strong data strategy foundation, including:
- Qualitative data: Base guidance and decisions on customer insights and data
- Quantitative data: Leverage data and analytics that optimize the channel mix through quantitative and regression models and inform the marketing mix and budget
- Knowledge and skills: Activate alternative channels and the use of integrated AI and machine learning-based platforms for real-time insight on the next best action in engaging the HCP
3. Pharma marketing teams will use AI to inform strategies.
Biopharma needs to genuinely listen to the conversation before responding. Marketing and sales teams have a better shot at this when using AI tools that allow them to capture insights from discussions that happen on professional and social networking sites. They must leverage it appropriately, enabling human decision making vs. automating the decisions themselves.
4. Pharma sales teams will be optimized for maximum efficiency.
As we move deeper into 2021, we will see sales as a channel go through an optimization process that involves right-sizing teams. We also expect to see more data integration, automated analytics and real-time information that will drive efficiencies in territory sales planning.
With a robust platform, field reps will be able to greatly reduce their administrative burdens, improve time management, set clear call objectives, collaborate with team members and optimize more limited face-to-face engagement.
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