*Why the inside sales force, a channel with a very old-paradigm reputation, is crucial to the emerging new customer-centric model of sales*
Why the inside sales force, a channel with a very old-paradigm reputation, is crucial to the emerging new customer-centric model of sales
It sometimes seems that telemarketing has been around so long that the second call Thomas Watson got after he received the first one from Alexander Graham Bell was from a telemarketer selling time shares in the Berkshires.
Of course, we do not actually know when the first telemarketing call was made, but we do know that the paradigm it established has changed very little since.
In the pharmaceutical industry, the paradigm is based on calls to targeted physicians and other health care professionals (HCPs) delivering a sales detail similar to that delivered by outside sales representatives.
Originally, the pharmaceutical industry contracted with outside suppliers to provide telemarketing services and relied on its inside call centers only for answering inbound communications.
Since the most common telemarketing application in the pharmaceutical industry was to support short-term marketing programs, this model was ideally suited to the industrys needs.
Over time, however, pharmaceutical companies have began to use telemarketing to promote to physicians whose prescribing profile is attractive but who are located outside the geographic or decile range of the outside sales force.
Using telemarketing, or tele-detailing, to promote to these physicians requires permanent (or, at least, very long-term) activity.
As a result, a growing number of companies have started to deploy inside sales teams, either on an in-house or outsourced basis, to extend promotional reach.
Over the past few years, inside sales has finally begun to change.
Indeed, it has changed more in the last two years than in the two decades previous.
The model that has emerged for inside sales encompasses changes in three critical areas: technology, strategy, and personnel.
The most dramatic advance represented by the new model is technological.
A limited number of vendors can now equip the inside sales representatives with one-way, two-way, and multi-person video capability.
This not only eliminates several of the most significant drawbacks of the old paradigm but it increases quite dramatically the promotional scope of the inside sales representative.
Of course, a video-enabled inside sales representative still makes traditional telemarketing (tele-detailing) calls.
However, the representative now has the option of making video calls as well.
With one-way live video, the physician can see the sales representative deliver the sales presentation live on his or her computer screen and the sales representative can support the presentation concurrently with visual materials that also appear on the physicians computer screen.
A video call can often be scheduled in advance, since a physician is more likely to accede to participation in a video conversation, which has the allure of novelty, than to participate in a telemarketing conversation, which has the taint of intrusion.
Further, with the sense of personal engagement that accompanies a live video conversation, the physician is more likely to agree to schedule a subsequent call, leading to regular meetings over time.
In fact, identifying physicians who like to receive their pharmaceutical information this way allows the inside sales representative to convert those physicians to a regularoften monthlycycle.
According to a 2009 study by Manhattan Research, 57% of physicians indicated they were interested in using video detailing.
The inside sales representative can also transform a tele-detailing conversation into a video meeting on the fly.
During the tele-detailing conversation, the representative can send an e-mail that contains a Web link to the person to whom he is speaking.
When that person clicks on the link, the call is transformed into a video call without the need for the recipient to have a Web camera or microphone.
The experience is sufficiently interesting that the inside sales representative can often use it as a means to persuade a gatekeeper to provide access to a physician.
With two-way video, not only does the physician see the sales representative but the sales representative also sees the physician.
Because the physician must download and install software in order to participate in two-way interactions, and have a Web camera and microphone, it is best suited for physicians who have established ongoing relationships with their sales representatives.
Physicians so equipped can initiate as well as receive calls, allowing them to interact with representatives at their own convenience.
This ability to obtain information about pharmaceutical products at a time of their choosing rather than when the outside sales representatives appear in their offices is a benefit of substantial perceived value to physicians.
Physician convenience confers benefits on the inside sales representative as well.
On average, a video sales call lasts in excess of eight minutes whether using one-way or two-way, which is significantly longer than the average achieved by outside sales representatives.
Another distinct benefit afforded by longer call time, coupled with the increased attention given by the physician, is the potential for the inside sales representative to detail as many as three products during one video call.
When an inside sales representative is using multi-person video meeting software, either for a one-way or two-way video conversation, he can add additional people to the meeting simply by clicking a button.
If, for example, a physician poses a question that the representative is unable or unauthorized to answer, the representative can bring a medical science liaison (MSL) into the discussion and the physician will be able to see both the representative and the MSL.
If it is inappropriate for the sales representative to participate in the ensuing discussion, the representative can simply put himself on hold or drop off of the call entirely.
The changes wrought in the model by the addition of video technology also have led to changes in the way in which the inside sales team can be used.
While video-enabled representatives are now even better prepared to provide coverage in white spaces and vacant territories, their expanded capabilities give rise to several new applications, some of which not only increase the value of the inside sales force but enhance the efforts of the outside sales force as well.
Because video-equipped inside sales representatives can see a physician at a time of the physicians own choosing, and because the video experience is both novel and interesting, the inside sales representative can often extend the companys promotional reach to include many physicians who have closed their doors to the outside sales force.
Even the best outside sales representative faces three territory management problems that reduce the call frequency on key physicians: time out of territory (equal to over 15% of time in territory), missed calls, and doctors on the geographic extremities of the territory.
All of these problems translate into reduced frequency of exposure to the promotional messages.
In the traditional inside sales paradigm, the role of the inside sales representative was primarily to extend the companys promotional reach, not its promotional frequency.
However, in the new model, the inside sales representative can become part of a team with the outside representatives to generate a significant increase in promotional frequency as well.
If each outside sales representative identifies those highly valued physicians on whom they would like to achieve more calls plus those physicians who require greater-than-average travel time to see, and introduces them to one-way or two-way video conferencing technology, then the inside sales representatives can provide the additional details that are currently lost to the practical realities of the outside representatives schedule.
Indeed, prior experience with physicians who are given the opportunity to use video to interact with a video representative in addition to their regular outside representative indicates that physicians will regularly make calls incremental to those delivered by the outside representative.
The new inside sales model introduces substantial changes to the role of the inside sales representative.
As a consequence, the profile of the ideal representative must change as well. (For more on the changing role of reps, see New sales force models: Get ready for the hybrid reps and The pharma sales rep repair kit.)
In the past, it was most critical that the inside sales representative have good telephone skills.
Now, however, the new inside sales representative is seen live on camera and, in addition to possessing exceptional telephone skills, must also be trained in how to present well on camera.
He must have presence on screen, and be free of habits or peculiarities that might distract the physician and detract from the on-screen encounter.
Since the representative can now deploy visual aids to support the verbal communication, he must also possess the ability to use visual materials effectively during the conversation.
This requires not just familiarity with the video detailing technology but a high level of knowledge and familiarity with the materials being used.
Additionally, the inside sales representative must appear to use such materials effortlessly.
In addition, videoconferencing participation changes the nature of the relationship between the representative and people to whom he speaks.
As a result, the inside sales representative must be extremely well trained, especially in relationship selling, building and maintaining those relationships, and bringing continuous perceived value to his customers.
Because physicians give video representatives so much time, it is also important that the inside sales representative learn how to make effective use of these opportunities for extended sales conversations.
One of the critical skills of the successful outside sales representativetaking a complex and sophisticated message and converting it into an effective 60-second presentationis not only of little value to an inside sales representative in the new paradigm, it may be quite detrimental.
With video detailing, because the physician can participate at a time and place of his convenience, he is more open and willing to enter into a detailed discussion about the representatives product(s), and review the data and visual materials presented.
Integrated sales and marketing opportunities
In the old inside sales paradigm, the telemarketing channel was frequently separate and detached from the outside sales organization.
It was seen as largely a stand-alone medium and reflected the prevailing company-focused approach to marketing and selling.
Increasingly, pharmaceutical companies are deploying inside sales teams as part of the mainstream sales organization, and converting to a customer-centric orientation, offering the information that the customer wants to hear at a time of the customers own choosing through a medium that the customer prefers. (For podcasts on customer-centricity, see Creating a customer-centric sales strategy and Creating a customer-centric sales force.)
The new inside sales model reflects this transition, and it should be fully integrated into the pharmaceutical companys broader ecommerce strategy.
There are many channels that can now be deployed to assist inside sales teams in communicating with a companys physician and HCP audiences.
For example, Web links that launch a video call can be embedded in an e-mail, and any e-mail marketing program should consider the advantages of providing to the recipient the opportunity to meet directly with an inside sales representative.
Also, in any direct marketing campaign, a URL can be communicated in a fax or a direct mail communication, providing the recipient with the opportunity to meet face-to-face with an inside sales representative, simply by typing a short URL into their Web browser.
Additionally, because a face-to-face video meeting can be launched from any website by clicking on an invitation, the opportunity to enjoy a live personal interaction with a trained representative can be made available as part of any Internet marketing program.
The inside sales approach has come of age; it is a new model for the future, a new paradigm.
Inside sales teams are multi-channel equipped, highly trained, and a valuable asset within the mainstream sales organization, catering to the differing communication needs of physician and HCP targets, as well as richly augmenting the activities of the outside sales force.
Patrick J. Miller, Ph.D. is executive vice president, market research and advanced analytics, and Peter J. Moriarty is chairman & CEO with Clinical Information Network in Scottsdale, Arizona.
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