An interview with Serkan Erkovan of Boehringer Ingelheim.
Serkan entered the pharma industry with Boehringer Ingelheim Turkey in 2003 and successfully held cross functional roles with progressively greater responsibilities with history of achieving cost savings, enhancing system functionality and improving business processes. In 2011, he was appointed as IS Business Partner for Prescription Medicine, Consumer Health Care and Animal Health Sales & Marketing Businesses, and is responsible for all Online Activities, Social Media Affairs and Information Protection & Governance.
A full transcript of this podcast is below:
How Do You Think, Speed & Usability Will Attract Physicians & Get Engaged In Your Communications?
Thank you for asking this question. This has become one of the major priorities for pharma companies, especially for the ones who have countrywide limiting regulations in reaching to health care professionals.
In my opinion, since the measurement of physician engagement is not so easy, while you change the way of trying to attract physicians.
Since the technology is evolving, companies should take into account that speed & usability are the major bullets in their communication strategy.
Speed is the indispensable component in communication platform, while considering that sales rep has a limited time frame in physicians office.
One of the key messages about speed from my experience would be that you need to keep your content offline (as well as online) on your mobile device.
With the other words; Rep needs to switch to different slides or videos or any content without losing time, in case your internet connection speed is low or the connection is totally lost.
Browser based web applications should be replaced with mobile applications, in order to get use of fast browsing and the speed of your information access during the interaction.
In many surveys, it’s obvious that, physicians prefer usability. They have limited time for their rep interactions and this speedy functionality will make their life easier.
While designing the communication platform, marketing teams have to make sure that they establish clear goals and just try to focus on them with prioritising those goals using key messages.
So the reps will not suffer from reaching the content in their devices with long waiting sessions. It will make both sides life easier and the physicians will be a fun of it.
How Do You Plan To Have Your Sales Force Adapt This New Technology?
In order for sales force teams to meet expectations, they must know more and faster.
The new technology will enable sales force teams to store, retrieve, and analyze the data which physicians need and respond
with specific answers that are customized for each type of profile.
adaption period to this new technology will turn into a competitive advantage in between pharma companies, all business processes in pharma companies need to be changed. For example, when you recruit a sales representative, you look for standard skill set like communication skills, negotiation, good
looking, time managing etc.
Now HR colleagues need to look for digital savvy selling skilled people who can use such kind of digital components or interested in the new technology era.
Otherwise you’ll need a huge training budget.
For example, Reps on field should be trained for using shortcuts and reaching the content within the fastest manner.
As a result, pharma companies have to re‐define their skill sets for classifying their sales organizations with different skills, because of high tech digital devices and new functions in various operating systems.
At the same time, they have to provide online and offline learning courses, create internal available digital savvy talents in the company.
What Are The Key Learnings From This Process?
Actually during this switch to new digital technologies, we still have some road to go.
Starting with Pocket PC solutions and now coming to mobile devices, tablets – I’ve had the chance to gather practical information from all regions of Turkey with different conditions.
As far as I’ve experienced from the colleagues in the field in my company, they’re really positive in new mobile solutions suggested to them. For most of them, they look for speedy, time‐saving, simplified solutions which will enhance their daily sales routines and increase the effect of their visits and the
efficiency of work life balance.
Let me give you some more details about field experience:
Firstly, I’d like to emphasize on this operational workload. They really spend a valuable time period in the late afternoon or evening instead of spending time with their families or other private things etc.
They also have adaptation challenge during short sales visits. In most cases the sales visit does not last more than 15 minutes for several reasons like Physicians availability or hospital’s policies.
Managing follow‐up questions is another challenge in daily sales routine. During their visits sales reps face the situation in which the Phyician asks questions for which they do not have the answer.
Then, they try to set a date for providing the information.
First, they have to record the question and then find the answer from the relevant colleague in head office, which takes long time.
*When reps have a long gap between their contacts, what they can do is to wait for the next meeting. They may try to visit another doctor but most of them like them to call them beforehand, sometimes a few weeks in advance.
Such kind of time lost on the field can be managed by mobile devices and save time from the evenings.
Every time reps come, doctors expect to have something new. They also want to hear other doctor's´opinions, their experience with the drug. Even though you know your drug quite well, a doctor believes another doctor more than the rep.
Using KOL’s videos / speeches in rep interactions would bring the opportunity to inspire from them, pop up the image that rep is supported not only by a fancy mobile device, but also rich content is with them on the field.
Not only for related content, but some additional services would be provided by mobile applications during off topic chats between rep and physician. For example, one of my colleagues on the field told me that, some physicians ask them for searching or checking into flights and make life easy during the day. When the rep gives this unexpected service, they’re really pleased and give rep the chance to promote their product.
Additionally, sales people also need information notifications from the headquarter. From office people perspective, marketing and medical people would also like to know what sales people are doing on the field with in real timeline.
With this collaborative thinking approach, sales organisations will be able to be fully supported by marketing and medical people from headquarters.
Companies have spent much money on sales force automation projects in order to create additional value for business, and they will continue spending for testing issues.
All these bring us to new generation solutions, which are appearing on the market one by one.
To sum up the key learnings, companies should make their priority list for each of their business segments, theraputic areas and start implementing with pilot teams involving each level of employees in sales and try to see the outcomes. In the first phase, it is going to be tough for measuring the success of those initiatives, but later on we will have differentiating metrics in the pharmaceutical market.
* From 'Supporting the Pharmaceutical Sales Force through Mobile Information and Communication technologies: an
Exploratory Investigation', Chihab BenMoussa
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