Pharma Sales Strategy Faces New Digital Questions and Opportunity

March 29, 2021
Pharma Sales Strategy Faces New Digital Questions and Opportunity

It has been a year since the COVID-19 health crisis began. While we didn’t know then how long it would last, we knew it would change how we conduct business across multiple industries, and the health industry has been front and center from the beginning.

While much of the media has focused on the amazing vaccine development and success that has taken place in record time, the rest of the health industry has been plugging away with reduced resources. And, as new drugs and lifesaving solutions become reality, one of the primary vehicles for marketing new drugs has been drastically reduced. The in-person interactions between sales representatives and physicians need to be reimagined.

New Digital Foundations

When the pandemic was declared, it was clear that telemedicine would gain in popularity and help shape the future of medical care. As healthcare providers (HCPs) become more accustomed to the technology, pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity to incorporate more digital solutions into their sales process and product promotion strategy.

Online engagement programs have come a long way over the past year, and as they take hold, we will likely see more nuanced programs that address different needs and improve the experience to make it more personal in nature. Some popular videoconferencing services, such as Zoom, are working on creating more intimate experiences and upgrading security offerings, while others are experimenting with virtual reality. Society has become more accustomed and appreciative of the ability to meet and do business virtually, and the opportunity to adapt the pharmaceutical sales experience is hard to ignore.

Do You Need to Reimagine Your Sales Strategy?

While many pharmaceutical companies are already testing new strategies, some may be wondering if it is worth the investment to reimagine their sales strategy when vaccines are already positively impacting the trajectory of the pandemic. If virtual meetings are no longer necessary for health reasons, to what extent will there still be an appetite for these meetings? Or will HCPs want to go back to predominantly meeting in person?

We think it is smarter to invest into a diversified approach that will ultimately make your sales team more nimble and potentially more profitable. Consider that your employees and the HCPs they interact with have spent the past year improving their communication skills through technology and finding efficiencies in the digital world. There is some work to be done to figure out the best combination of tactics, but it makes long-term sense to put the effort in now for a better future.

Four Steps to Reoptimize Your Sales Strategy

What you understood about your audience and your strategy a year ago may have changed. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Understand your target HCPs’ channel preferences post-pandemic: Find out how the HCPs on your call plan want to be engaged in this new world. Some may want to return to in-person interactions, whereas others may prefer the flexibility of virtual meetings or email. Consider, too, that channel preference might depend on the nature of the information you are delivering (e.g., detailed information for a newly launched brand vs. reminders for a mature one).
  2. Test different platforms: The strengths and weaknesses vary by the many platforms that are available. Define your requirements and see what works best for your team and the physicians your work with. Here is a list of 27 platforms to consider.
  3. Be creative in your virtual approach: Instead of simply retooling the in-person interaction for a virtual platform, consider gathering 2–3 customers for a short discussion to allow for peer interaction. Another option is to devise an online bulletin board in which multiple HCPs can log in and contribute to the discussion.
  4. Train your team: Making a personal connection in virtual settings requires different skill sets. Just like we advise for telemedicine visits, set expectations for how the interaction will play out. Assure HCPs that they will still receive samples and other materials through the mail or via a quick drop-off. Put your customers at ease by focusing on providing the same value as the in-person experience as much as possible.

If your company hasn’t already started to leverage digital resources to help optimize your current sales strategy, this is a good time to start. Right now there is opportunity to test new strategies with little impact to your business model. What you do today could shape how you move forward tomorrow. If you want help, send us a note; we are happy to help you manage through this unprecedented time of disruption and uncertainty.

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Caroline Brennan, PhD
Caroline Brennan, PhD
Vice President

Caroline Brennan is a vice president in the Health division at Escalent. Caroline has over 24 years of market research experience with both professionals and consumers across many therapeutic areas such as neuroscience, oncology and rare diseases. She has expertise across a variety of methodologies, including segmentation studies, conjoint designs, brand equity models and concept/message tests, and she has a knack for matching clients’ needs with the most effective research approaches. Before joining Escalent, Caroline earned a doctorate in social psychology from the University of Notre Dame and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Franklin & Marshall College. Caroline can often be found at various sporting events with her children, either cheering for them or with them!