Customer centric pharma: an evolving go to market model

by Phil McNamara

The pharmaceutical industry has historically benefited from blockbusters with strong brand equity, favourable pricing and access that has enabled industry players to achieve high margins. But the commercial landscape is changing, and pharma companies are now facing challenges in the form of more complicated buying environments, the rise of digital, and increasing cost/competitive pressure. How do pharma companies need to evolve their go to market model to compete in this emerging commercial environment?

This evolving commercial landscape provides the imperative for a new way of doing business, fundamentally reorganising around the customer. For pharma companies, this means recognising that health care providers (HCPs) are now increasingly time poor, expect relevant information delivered across a range of channels, are going through more complex decision-making processes, and are both key opinion leader (KOL) and peer influenced. They are also increasingly tech savvy, raising their expectations around digital interactions with pharma to match their non-pharma experiences.

A new go to market approach

This changing customer environment demands a new go to market approach, one that is more customer centric, more integrated, and more technologically-enabled. Customer centricity can no longer just be a good intention, it’s now an operational imperative across all parts of the business. Legacy silos must be genuinely integrated, with new levels of connectedness and collaboration across the business. This doesn’t mean totally doing away with functions, but rather it’s about figuring out how to connect them and collaborate to put the customer at the heart of everything. Finally, new technologies and closer data integration will be required to deliver relevance at scale and set customer-facing staff up for success. This is an opportunity for CRM and marketing automation platforms to add value.

What does the pharma organisation of the future look like?

To succeed in this new environment, pharma companies need to make customer centricity an operational imperative across all parts of the business. There are four key shifts to consider – value, personalisation, efficiency and experience.

1. Value

Pharma companies need to shift away from being product/brand led and focus more on customer needs. It’s a significant change given the industry has traditionally been very product led, but an important one given product launches have become riskier due to more volatile product lifecycles and a shift to niche specialty therapy areas and markets. In the new environment, HCPs expect much more subject matter expertise rather than product expertise and are looking for information that expands their thinking and therefore the value of any interaction they have with a pharma company.

2. Personalisation

The traditional sales model has seen HCPs get ‘sold to,’ with focus on coverage and frequency metrics. However, in the new world, the customer wants the process to feel much more about them and more personalised.

3. Efficiency

HCPs used to wait for face-to-face or phone interactions in order to get questions answered. They now expect greater responsiveness from pharma companies, feeling it makes more efficient use of their time to be able to access the information they need whenever they want it.

4. Experience

It’s not uncommon for customers to have multiple touchpoints with a company, be it across different sales people, functions or different channels. Pharma companies can differentiate themselves around the consistency and seamlessness of their customer experience across all interaction points.

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What does the ‘Rep’ of the future look like?

When organisational change like this takes place, how are people’s roles going to change and what’s going to happen to the ‘rep’ in whatever official frontline title they hold? Our view is that sales isn’t going anywhere – there is still clear value and need for high quality, face-to-face interactions – but sales must adapt to be relevant to today’s customer.

Sales will need to undergo some role purpose shifts. We’ve identified three characteristics which sales should look to embrace in adapting to this new environment.

1. Be purposeful

Changing HCP preferences and reduced face-to-face time have made it harder to deliver messages through a direct sales force. Sales reps need to therefore shift from the traditional ‘road warrior’ approach to becoming customer experts and advocates, sharing customer insight with the organisation. While reps have been accustomed to controlling the sales process, they now need to support the decision-making process. They also need to embrace digital technology as an enabler, leveraging it to support the customer journey and make it more personal. 

2. Be effective

Sales reps have tended to focus on knowing their products and solutions and on building strong relationships. The new environment calls for sales reps who can make the move to specialising in specific areas of thought leadership and who can hone in on really understanding value for the customer.
 
3. Be productive

Sales reps are often burdened by admin and CRM data entry. Pharma companies need to look at how to absolve sales people of low value tasks and ensure that technology drives value for reps and makes them more productive.

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Our view is that the role of the sales rep is going to evolve and those who can make the switch will find it to be a powerful, valuable and rewarding role in this new commercial environment.

Find out more:

Watch this video for more insights around how we define the sales ‘rep’ of the future and discover how can support your drive for success within the health science industry.