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Transforming Pharma Field Sales Requires Digitally Empowered Teams

Big data has the ability to transform pharma field sales — if pharma manufacturers can translate data into actionable insights and real-time outreach at the individual territory level. 

Sales reps typically search for information across several data sources to determine the next best action with customers and identify those with the highest value. Most don’t consistently have all the data they need in one place. In an IDC 2017 survey with 155 life science participants, over 20% of respondents said they access nine sources of data on a daily basis and having all data accessible in a single location is a priority. 

Despite the pharmaceuticals industry investing in external data sources, software and CRM platforms, most data sets remain disparate and difficult to act on. Sales reps are spending more time on administrative functions and less time with healthcare providers (HCPs). 

Access to unified data is key to uncovering insights and enabling more informed decisions.  

When combined, data sets can help reps follow up with their customers and be better prepared for their next visit.  According to the IDC survey participants, business performance could improve an average of 35% if the data and insights were more accessible, complete, timely, accurate and actionable.  

Reducing the administrative burdens associated with data mining and pre-call planning is pivotal to improve territory management, so field reps can see more viable targets, set clear call objectives and optimize their digital and face–to-face engagements. Sales leaders must find ways to apply technology by merging big data and leveraging automated analytics in real time to improve sales force efficiency.

Field reps have long call cycles making it challenging to deliver real-time information for follow up and to profile new targets.

Along with the shift from PCP to specialty markets, there’s been a steady decline in field sales force size.  Individual sales reps are carrying larger call loads, and for many territories, it can take 4-6 weeks to complete or reach a call cycle on targeted HCPs. This can be challenging to field reps needing to deliver important news on label changes, new indications, approvals and clinical data.

News travels quickly through social and news media channels. To swiftly increase awareness or share of voice in communicating important or time-sensitive information, marketing teams are expanding their multichannel efforts by increasing their digital engagements. Field leadership teams typically turn to remote sales to deliver information to HCPs. If sales reps don’t have advanced digital interaction tools to deliver more immediate and relevant communications to their targets, they’re automatically behind with HCPs, and vulnerable to having “nothing new to say” when on a call. 

While it’s recognized that many pharma manufacturers have higher frequency goals set for high-decile, high-volume HCPs, these practitioners often perceive the information the field rep is delivering as stale. This can be frustrating for the HCP who has limited time, and for the field sales rep who has limited HCP access. In these situations, the perceived value reps bring to their customers is undermined.

Compounding this, many pharma companies have turned to an account-based selling approach within large accounts, profiling and detailing mid-level providers and influencers to increase efficiency and drive revenue. Pharma sales teams need the tools to keep up.

Integration of big data, automated analytics and real-time information will drive efficiencies in territory sales planning

Empowering field sales territory managers and reps with advanced technology tools is key to overcoming these challenges and bringing added value to the customer. Preferred digital channels such as text and email are transforming how HCPs and field reps engage with one another. Reps are increasingly using direct email communication with HCPs to extend reach and increase frequency. In a survey, 12% of HCPs indicated they had emailed with a rep in the past six months, while 36% said they prefer email rather than waiting for the next visit when the rep needs to communicate important brand information. 

Profiling activities are also critical to identifying new targets and ensuring messages delivered are relevant. Field reps who consistently engage their remote sales counterparts in these digital outreach activities can drive an increase in the number of new targets and have better follow through with HCPs.    In a 2018 brand analysis of an adjuvant launch, territory reps saw their visits double in a three-month timeframe — proving that technology-enabled teams working together expedite access to new targets. 

Digital technology is calling

Field sales leaders today must continually transform their operating and business models to remain competitive.  There’s a pressing need to move to an omnichannel, automated, personalized and predictive platform for meaningful insights and real-time decision making. 

Using a collaborative digital platform, sales reps will be able to identify key HCP targets, changes in a physician’s prescribing habits, referral patterns, patient volume and channel preference. Armed with knowledge in real time and a user-friendly format, rep can be better prepared for their face to face HCP visits, ability to identify new targets, and determine the next-best-action and ready to deliver relevant messages.

A remote and digital sales engagement platform is pivotal to reps’ ability to deliver immediate, intelligent, individualized, analytically enabled support on shared sales targets — and efficiently collaborate for sales success.

In the future, sales reps will rely on voice assistants using natural language recognition for entering new contacts; scanning for notes, to-dos and tasks; leveraging state-of-the-art structured and unstructured data analytics.  Rising technologies like machine learning will help reps analyze their communications and automatically escalate or route for appropriate action using decision workflows — reducing administrative burdens and improving execution through quicker calls-to-action.   

Integrating powerful digital interaction capabilities for their field reps will be a game-changer for pharma companies’ success going forward. With a robust collaborative platform, field reps will be able to greatly reduce their administrative burdens, improve time management, set clear call objectives and optimize face to face engagement.

Conduent’s Pharma & Life Sciences teams design custom platforms and services to drive breakthrough success for pharmaceutical sales teams and leaders.  Learn more here, and contact to connect with an expert.


By Sharon Rubin
Director of HCP engagement, Conduent Pharmaceuticals & Life Sciences Solutions

About the Author

Sharon Rubin is the Director of HCP Engagement solutions for Conduent. She is a marketing expert with more than 25 years of pharmaceutical industry experience and 16 years of physician and patient marketing expertise across numerous therapeutic areas (Cardiovascular, Oncology, Asthma and Allergy, Dermatology, and Women’s Health).

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