Pf Feature: No first-data nerves

pharmafield logo - pharma news

The sales technology revolution involves more than flashing your new iPhone around. It’s about bringing together the hardware, the software applications and the crucial data in the right place at the right time.

Why can’t you install Heaven on your computer? It’s a cloud-based application. Jokes like that were once the province of IT nerds – but these days, anyone in the commercial pharma industry environment who isn’t familiar with this decade’s business technology is on first-name terms with epic fail. Without the means to capture and analyse major data resources, communicate rapidly and effectively from wherever you are, and relate your commercial offering to the customer’s local business environment, you’re left with mimicking your customer’s body language.

Pharmaceutical sales now demands three resources: hardware (notably the smartphone and tablet computer devices that have consigned last decade’s must-have technologies to the office dustbin), software (including CRM and market analytics, enabling the user to extract critical information from vast NHS and industry data resources), and footwear (the means to take yourself and your technology to where they will achieve results). Integrating these three elements is the key to commercial success.

Why is this stuff suddenly so important? Well, for a start, have you tried finding a phone box these days? But it’s not just about mobile phones, or even mobile computers, vital as both are for _ eld-based work. It’s about harnessing the data processing and communication potential of new technology in order to engage with customers who are time-poor and tech-aware, and who spend much of their working life online. It’s not good enough to visit the internet when you return to the office. And if your role is office-based, do you want to be isolated the moment you step out the door?

Sales expert Geoffrey James makes four predictions for the sales environment of the near future. Cold calling will become impossible, due to the call filtering technologies already in use. Sales management will depend less on fallible ‘intuition’ and more on performance data – the end of ‘talking a good game’. CRM will become invisible, due to ‘smart’ systems that make the integration of customer data faster and more reliable. And video conferencing will become universal through the prevalence of smartphones and tablet computers.

Pf spoke to two expert service providers about how pharma companies can make the most of this technologically enlivened sales world. It’s all about reaching for the clouds while keeping your feet on the ground.

From facts to insights

Murali Venkatesen, Partner at ZS Associates, observes that new technology is “changing the landscape” for pharma.

“Technology can lower the cost of operations; enable better collaboration between people in the field and people in HQ; provide opportunities for a more tailored customer experience; and give better insight into data, whether targeting, profiling or segmentation.”

These major benefits do not mean any loss of the human touch, he argues: “Technology should not drive business; business should drive the use of technology.”

Pharma has been a late adopter of IT, Venkatesen notes. But the increasing volumes of data present sales professionals with the challenge of how to “take all that information, integrate it with the right sources and then basically make sense out of that and leverage it for better decision-making.” That’s a major step away from the traditional emphasis on persuasion as the key to sales.

Mobile technologies empower the field sales rep because key data can be stored “on a cloud” and accessed when needed. Healthcare providers have “less and less time” for sales interactions, so using mobile technologies is “a great first step” towards getting the message across. Digital content management enables the rep to “be in front of a doctor and have information available that they can pull up quickly, or they can ‘phone a friend’ (a colleague) for the information.” The technology enhances both the sales and the relationship-building processes.

Technology also enables the sales manager in the office to “look for the right spots when it comes to marketing and selling products”, using the data from the field force to generate “action-oriented” insights. So instead of reps having to “look through pages of data and then figure out how they should analyse that on the fly, and provide the services to their customers,” the office manager can “provide insights and alerts to the field force”.

Technology is an enabler of teamwork. What companies need, Venkatesan says, is not just “data dumps” but “actionable insights at the time of decision making that are also adaptive to individual feedback.”

ZS Associates has been working “to solve emerging business needs through emerging technology, such as convergence of analytics, mobility and social, to significantly improve business productivity.” It offers a range of business intelligence solutions that use the potential of smartphones and tablet computers, from customer segmentation to alerts-based “on the fly analytics” and iPad Clickstream analytics. ZS Associates can help the company to build its own solutions or provide ‘software as a service’ to meet its day-to-day needs.

Seize the data

Adam Nicholson, Commercial Director at Conigi, emphasises that the context of pharma sales is changing fast. There is a need for more localised NHS data, a more tailored approach to the new NHS customers, and a way of determining “the right combination of the data for your business, then how and where it can be used for business planning, on the road in daily planning or with customers”.

New technologies can meet these needs, Nicholson says, through their speed, analytical power and mobility. “People want access to data/information when they need it, not when someone can send it to them.” That’s as true of sales professionals as it is of their customers.

There is a need for portable technologies that can “handle multiple datasets, from different sources and different timelines of updates/ refresh, all in one place, without the inherent issues of long times to download or update.”

In addition, he notes, field sales professionals need their data to be “presented as information”. _ ey should not have to be IT experts to translate the facts into customer-friendly terms. Both “overview and detail” need to be available “a couple of clicks or screen touches away”, reachable within seconds.

The needs of a key account manager are more to do with creating the “right environment” and understanding “relationships across the payer/prescriber interface” within the local NHS. As a consequence, the KAM needs a wider range of different types of data, but also needs to have all these data resources in one place.

The KAM needs to juggle priorities “as the environment changes,” Nicholson explains, so the technology must “help flag up the changes to them as soon as they occur” (an alert-based system). The information must be focused on local needs and constraints, not a national model: KAMs have to “look at the data in the same way as their customers” without a lot of prior research. Finally, the KAM needs to have access to “soft data” such as networks and professional roles and relationships alongside the “hard data” of economic and health statistics.

Conigi provides a range of web-based solutions for pharma sales, marketing and business intelligence, using industry and NHS data sources. These solutions are bespoke to each client, and are adapted to the client’s specific mobile technology resources.


They include CRM, KAM and business analytics solutions – the technology tools pharma companies need to thrive in the new commercial landscape.