eyeforpharma Philadelphia Conference VIRTUAL

Apr 14, 2020 - Apr 17, 2020, Philadelphia

FREE TO ATTEND: The world’s greatest gathering of pharma’s value-designers with 6000+ pharma decision-makers from marketing, patient engagement, advocacy, clinical, medical affairs, market access, RWE and IT,

Towards the sales force of the near future

Blending the digital and the personal can transform engagement, focus sales activity and help meet HCPs’ fast evolving needs if done right



Let this statistic sink in: Around 70% of HCPs are now digital natives. It’s just one factor that is changing the way doctors want to interact with pharma today. 
 
Their needs and priorities are evolving fast and pharma sales must adapt. Face-to-face meetings are a dwindling preference from a cohort of doctors who are under greater time pressure, want clinically relevant insights at their convenience and who are increasingly turning to online solutions.
 
The desire for more online and remote engagement is clear, says Mads Bjarni-Kornbech, VP, Marketing & Communications at Agnitio. “Our fastest growing channel is the remote channel. There is a lot of potential in adapting to these new engagement forms and empowering engagement beyond face-to-face.” 
 
Pharma is still working out the best ways to work with this new reality. And it is eager to learn - more than 1000 life science folk from more than 100 companies attended eyeforpharma’s recent webinar on the topic. 
 
But they want proof that the effort is worth it too. One of our poll questions from the webinar showed that being able to demonstrate the value and return from digital investments was one of the top drivers for tuning into the webinar.
 
 
 
Agile feedback
For those sales teams that succeed in getting the new rules of engagement right, the prizes are great.
 
The scope to use digital tools to gather better and more timely information, to enhance engagement and to build deeper understanding that improves the job the sales team does, is vast. It stands to reason that more relevant insights into the needs and preferences of doctors leads to better discussions with them, in turn generating valuable new insights. This offers pharma sales teams the opportunity to create self-sustaining, agile feedback loops.
 
The opportunity to produce qualitative data and so better understand the efficacy (or otherwise) of particular sales initiatives has never been greater. Digital tools offer the scope to personalise and segment in ways that have not been possible until recently, says Bjarni-Kornbech. “It enables us to see why one region or sales person is performing better, what they have been doing or what key message they have been delivering.”
 
The right content to the right HCP
Applied in the right ways, such knowledge affords a wealth of dramatic improvements. Sales teams can get relevant content to customers faster, even automating some of this altogether, says Jo Peddhinti, Head of Digital Marketing & Innovation at Sanofi. “We are seeing more intelligent systems that can identify the best content for a particular doctor and deliver that automatically to them based on their preference data from field calls.”
 
Better use of digital tools should also mean sales and marketing efforts can dovetail much more effectively, with marketing sharing its campaign data so that sales colleagues can blend it with personalised data gathered remotely and face to face. 
 
“In the next few years we will see a better and better integration in what we do in marketing and sales channels,” says Peddhinti, “for example what we do in terms of marketing automation and marketing emails as well as LinkedIn and other social media.”
 
Focused effort
Being able to segment customers with far greater precision also offers pharma the option to bring in specialist, third-party, remote engagement teams to handle certain groups, says Agnitio’s Bjarni-Kornbech.
 
“We can segment and define who are the ‘a’ customers or the ‘b’ customers.  Contract organisations can then engage with the lower segments or remote geographies they have the strength to reach.”
 
This leaves time for smaller but much more effective field teams to focus their efforts on key opinion leaders and on the prospects with the highest potential returns. These highly focused sales teams could also add much strategic value by supporting Market Access and Medical Affairs colleagues.
 
We may even see the ‘rebirth’ of key account management, says Bjarni-Kornbech. “There are a lot of decision makers when a drug is being prescribed and reimbursed. We need to be able to combine how we engage with those stakeholders. We need to better understand what is going on internally with the account, create best customer experience and support everyone in the best way we can. There is a lot for Market Access to leverage from what we have been doing in sales.
 
“Market Access may only get one shot with the committee that takes the decisions [on prescribing or reimbursement]. When they are there they need to be super convincing. They need to go in prepared for a meeting so they can deliver a more holistic story and frame their pricing within a bigger perspective.”
 
So the potential to drive deeper engagement cost effectively is clear and the outlines of this promising new future are already visible in the work some in pharma are already doing.
 
What works now
Agnitio has helped one client, a multinational medical device company, enhance the work its field teams do by supporting the sales cycle with digital engagements, says Bjarni-Kornbech. “They have digitised their customer engagements in a pretty simple way by building mini journeys around their face-to-face meetings. In that way, they extend the footprint with the customer in between meetings.”
 
They achieved this by using interactive e-detailing material, enabling the doctor to select the most relevant indications and treatments to discuss, including surveys and interesting data points. Based on the output of a face-to-face meeting, the rep provisions relevant, pre-approved, compliant material, enabling the HCP to consume the material at their convenience, he says. 
 
“Based on the data from the meeting and follow up activities, they then they meet again, and now they have a more relevant conversation and they can progress the adoption or progression even further.”
 
Measuring results
The results from this initiative included a 25% increase in engagement time and a click through rate from follow-up emails of 80%, says Bjarni-Kornbech. “That’s really impressive. In marketing, standard click-through rates are typically around a few percentages at best.”
 
The campaign also resulted in a far better understanding of the audience, he adds. “They’ve been able to improve their segmentation and thereby their ability to provide the right information and prioritise their reps’ time more cost effectively.”
 
Such an approach offers a way to stay top of mind and cater for customers’ individual preferences, says Bjarni-Kornbech. The personalised engagement continues in between the physical visits, either driven by the rep or buyer, or by other internal resources, perhaps a remote workshop driven by an MSL, or a conversation with a product specialist in the sales team. 
 
What’s really interesting is the estimated value of all of this. “From running around 100,000 face-to-face remote engagements a month on Agnitio’s technology,” says Bjarni-Kornbech, “it’s possible to estimate the time spent with customers. We can actually see an estimated quadrupling of the engagement time with a multi-channel approach. At the same time, numbers from various channels indicate remarkable engagement scores between 4 to 4.5 out of five, on average from HCP engagement with remote teams.”
 
Crucially such interactions are demonstrating good value too, he says. “If we take an average face-to-face engagement cost of €200 per meeting, there’s a great opportunity to become a lot more cost effective with a multi-channel approach. In one example, we actually managed to reduce the cost by 5%.”
 
Others are using mini surveys to further drive the positive feedback loops that generate faster insights, says Bjarni-Kornbech. “They build in a feedback mechanism so they can actually obtain actionable insights about individual doctors that they can then use and feed into their segmentation strategy. That level of understanding is super exciting and very useful.”
 
 
The power of peers
Convening conversations among HCPs is another approach that is paying off. Sanofi is helping improve engagement by tapping into in the growing trend of doctors seeking to share advice and insights on a peer-to-peer basis, says Peddhinti. “In the last year we realised the value of peer connections was growing. 
 
“To enable the conversation between peers, we started looking at tools that would cater to the need to discuss cases, to ask for a second opinion and so on. So we looked into tools and platforms that allowed us to enable that engagement. It is really popular and is working really well for us.”
 
Providing post webinar or conference portals offers another opportunity to use digital tools to engage more closely by offering relevant information and gather actionable insights, says Haider Alleg, Global Head of Digital Excellence at Ferring. “We want to make sure that we have thought about the doctors at those global symposiums, and that we have a ‘before, during and after’ customer experience that is sustained and consistent across the globe. 
 
The direction of travel
Where are all these trends going? – what’s the ultimate destination for digital engagement?
 
In some cases 100% digital engagement is already a reality. “Pure-play” online engagement with no field force for over-the-counter mass market medicines is a growing phenomenon in India, says Peddhinti. “That will grow but not for all therapies. I don’t see oncology or rare disease ever going that way.”
 
The emerging model, says Alleg, is a combination of physical and remote online engagement. “You can’t do a full, hundred percent digital campaign for example, if the doctor has a question and he wants an answer in the next couple of hours or days.
 
“So you still need to come back to some point to a model with layers, like having a first line of sales that could potentially in some cases be supported by digital channels and you could bring back your people in when it’s relevant. In a data-driven commercial organisation you can then use the salesforce in a third layer much more accurately and create better connection and engagement.”
 
 
Sustaining success through training
Clearly it is necessary to rethink how sales teams work with these new blended approaches to the digital and the personal. “As much as you can have tools that can help you stage that engagement, there will still be people and people means we still have to train them,” says Alleg. “You can’t just automate everything. At some point you have to deal with people.”
 
Realising such opportunities at scale requires investment in systems, training and support to ensure success, Alleg adds. “If you do it well and you do it in a in a best practice manner, it will bring you results but if you don’t have the right people, the right training, and the right stories, then it gets complex sustaining all those tactics altogether. It becomes a burden.”
 
Pharma organisations would do well to consider how coherent their approach is here, he adds. “Are we adopting those tactics one by one properly as an organisation? And do we have the right groups to scale them within the organisation?”
 
These new ways of working also imply a need for far greater investment in the digital tools needed to capture and make use of far more granular data, says Peddhinti. “The biggest challenge is in data. If you have enough data, you can leverage a greater personalised experience. If I talk about one particular doctor, do I have information on his preferred channels? Do I know if I can help him with CME credits?”
 
Embedding effective digital practices so that sales teams actually end up gathering these kinds of insights and then acting on them is therefore an imperative. Sales teams need to be trained to use CRM systems to best effect but there is little sign of this happening so far, says Bjarni-Kornbech. “CRM use is super static. It does not add value in customer dialogues or personalise an engagement. 
 
“In our experience, to add real value you need to tie customer engagement data into the CRM and ideally also connect with data from the marketing engine. You then need to make all that available to the field force in one place. This gives them a more holistic view of the customers so that they can find out what they are interested in, how they engaged with marketing material and disease treatment information.”
 
Marketing dashboards
There is much that colleagues in Marketing can do to help in this respect, by sharing the insights in a way sales teams can act on, says Peddhinti. Sanofi has already had some success here. “One of the biggest inhibitions that the sales teams had was the visibility into the multi-channel efforts, knowing what emails were going to their doctors and what content in these emails was being communicated,” she says. 
 
“So the marketing teams, created a dashboard for the sales reps to understand broadly what was the touch point when it’s delivered and what was the open rate? When they went back into the call next time, they were more equipped to have a better communication because they were kept the loop since their last call. The next time that they met the doctor, they were fully aware of the marketing communication that had already happened and the reps were definitely more accepting of digital and multi-channel campaigns.”
 
Creating compelling multi-channel stories that will serve doctors in this brave new digital on-demand world is a further challenge and on its own entails significant effort and expense, says Alleg. “Good customer engagement means that we also have to have great marketing and stories around our clinical data and key messages. It’s not easy."
 
Peddhinti agrees: “HCPs are definitely in control of what information they engage with and what they don’t. The sheer volume and variety of content that is required to create and maintain this digital engagement ecosystem means we will need to see a lot more investment apart from the digital tools. We need to invest in creating the volume and variety of content needed to engage with them. Every firm, every corporate will need to expand it.”
 
This entails a radical re-working of relationships with content creators, content agencies and also with regulatory groups to enable better tailored content to be created faster, says Alleg.
 
What about ROI?
Demonstrating that this is all worth investing in is a further task for sales leaders. Being able to demonstrate a good return on investment in digital initiatives is important but not easy.
 
Proving there is a link between higher engagement and higher sales is problematic but it is possible to make some inferences, says Peddhinti. “Does behaviour change eventually turn to sales and how do you measure that? I don’t think there’s a straightforward answer to it but our marketing teams have attempted this. 
 
“The first thing that we tried mapping was whether there was a behaviour change within a certain set of doctors, after a certain round of activities and multi-channel engagement. And the second data point that we tried collecting, both through market research and internal tools that we deployed in various clinics and hospitals in India, was to understand was that behaviour change actually reflected in the day-to-day practice of the larger group of physicians? 
 
“It works really well, we’re building on that model, and we’re trying to refine it as we go. Eventually we will be able to map whether the multi-channel engagement model that we’re deploying is working and whether there is a clear ROI coming out of it.”
 
Thanks to Agnitio for graphical support. You can find more of its life science case studies here.
 

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eyeforpharma Philadelphia Conference VIRTUAL

Apr 14, 2020 - Apr 17, 2020, Philadelphia

FREE TO ATTEND: The world’s greatest gathering of pharma’s value-designers with 6000+ pharma decision-makers from marketing, patient engagement, advocacy, clinical, medical affairs, market access, RWE and IT,

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