How do pharma sales representatives engage in a multichannel world?

Digital regulatory affairs

Chris Wade, Director of Multichannel Strategy, Veeva explores how the pharma sales representatives of the future will engage successfully with customers in a multichannel world

The life sciences industry is entering a new phase of intelligent engagement, in which field and medical teams can better use data and insight to drive value-based conversations with customers, through the channels they prefer.
Within this new commercial model, the role of pharma sales representatives is evolving. The representative of the future will use data to decide when and how best to engage with the customer, and via which channels. As organisations seek to deliver smarter, informed interactions, this new style of representative will be key to helping pharma better align its approach to shifting customer needs.

“In the new, multichannel world, a key part of the representative’s role will be to understand what channels will work best to deliver the optimal customer experience”


An increasing number of healthcare professionals (HCPs) are now digital natives – in fact, by 2020, close to 70% will have studied medicine at a time when the internet was already well established.
Empowering pharma sales representatives to use various digital channels to reach and engage HCPs is therefore fast becoming a priority across the industry, but progress has been inconsistent. While channels such as representative email and remote engagement are now enabled through CRM, adoption across the industry varies.
For example, e-detailing has become a standard approach (used by 84% of companies) and representative email adoption has risen to 49%, with another 38% planning or currently running pilots. However, only 17% of companies say they are currently integrating cross-channel campaigns as standard practice, although 56% plan to pilot this approach.


A survey by Across Health asked HCPs about their digital experiences with pharma and found that almost half (48%) still have ‘monochannel’ experiences, with no engagement with representatives through other digital channels. Only 6% said they engage on all three levels – representative, representative email, and remote engagement. Of these last two channels, email is the most used, with 43% of HCPs engaging with representatives through email versus remote engagement (12%).
Digital provides the life sciences industry with a greater opportunity to reach and engage with HCPs through the channels they prefer, especially those that typically don’t engage with pharma sales representatives in person. For example, 13% of HCPs who meet with representatives face-to-face engage with pharma companies through other digital and non-personal channels, while 20% of HCPs do not engage with pharma at all. This signals a tremendous opportunity to interact through digital channels.


In the new, multichannel world, a key part of the representative’s role will be to understand what channels will work best to deliver the optimal customer experience for each individual HCP.
Research shows that 75% of HCPs aged 50+ are reached through representatives, as opposed to just 59% of those under 35. Interestingly, figures for email are consistent across all age groups, ranging from 43% (50+) to 45% (35–50 years old), with under-35s in the middle, at 44%.
Remote detailing has its highest impact in the youngest age category, but even in older groups it has a similar score to that of representatives. 50% of HCPs find the timing of face-to-face meetings inconvenient. Veeva Engage remote meetings tend to last 15 minutes (three times longer, on average, than face-to-face visits1), and 90% of those that take part in remote meetings do so again.
Considering this, the opportunities for remote detailing are clear. Combining them with other, face-to-face engagement channels is therefore the perfect way to maximise their impact and boost the customer experience.

In short, as life sciences seek to meet changing customer needs and deliver a better, more tailored experience, the role of the representative is as important as ever. The pharma sales representatives of the future will play a critical role in the effective execution of multichannel strategy.

1. Source: Veeva Engage product team, July 2018


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