In desperate times, the pharma industry needs to deal with medical realities rather than corporate myths. Maxine Vaccine looks at the role of Key Account Management and consultative selling in helping the industry to change its role.
As the world economy continues to implode, public health is rapidly deteriorating while healthcare systems face severe austerity measures… and pharmaceutical companies are announcing a fall in profits. At which news, of course, shareholders demand that heads must roll, jobs must be cut and facilities must be closed down. Here’s a thought: if we’re all in it together, expect less profit. Less money in society plus less money in healthcare equals less money for pharmaceutical companies. Deal with it.
We’re now living in a climate where ‘brands’ and Armani suits count for very little. That Porsche you told your bank manager was vital for your professional image actually looks a bit stupid next to the beat-up used cars in the hospital car park, where doctors and nurses are facing pay freezes and reduced hours. Your customers will be scraping their keys across it. That ‘brand’ your company spent millions on promoting is about to be ditched by your local PCT in favour of a cheap and nasty generic from the bargain basement. And so, ironically, is your local PCT.
What can sales representatives do to hold onto their jobs and keep their products in circulation? Basically, the answer is: make it relevant. Never mind the brand image, the corporate image or any of that 1980s crap. Can you help your customers meet their clinical and financial challenges in a way that has staying power, reducing costs and improving outcomes not just today but next month and next year? Can you do so better than your rivals? Can you advise your customers – many of whom have even worse job security than you – how best to square the circle of growing need and declining resources?
Yes, it’s back to the KAM formula you’ve been hearing for years – but this time your job depends on it. The consultative selling model relies on you working with your customers to give patients more effective service and thereby, in the medium term, save your customers money. The customer can’t do that alone, and you certainly can’t. If you think it’s more important to mimic your customer’s body language, you’ll be alone – and that Porsche will be repossessed faster than you can say “share of voice”.
So if KAM is the real thing and not just a new (or old) acronym of the month, what does it take? The answer is:
• a serious knowledge of, and interest in, your customer’s therapy area and NHS geography, as well as the challenges facing patients
• an in-depth understanding of how your products fit into specific healthcare services and provide value in that context
• the backing of marketing and drug development functions guided by the same principles, with a shared focus on providing value.
There’s a pretty good article on this theme by Tony Swift of Apodi on the Pharmaceutical Field website here.
Don’t just make the noise, feel the noise.
Maxine’s views are not necessarily those of Pharmaceutical Field.