Sales Rep Role Evolution | A 25-year-old, healthy male notices he is developing itchy, scaly patches of skin. He has not experienced anything similar before, so he goes online to do some research. Soon, he finds photos and descriptions that seem to match his symptoms and decides he has psoriasis.
He pores over content in patient forums and reads strong views on which medications work best. He then makes a doctor’s appointment, and when the physician prescribes a typical ointment, he asks to be prescribed an injectable biologic instead, even though the physician feels his case is mild and is unsure his insurance company will reimburse the biologic.
The traditional commercial approach based on mass-media advertising, hefty sales forces, ready access to physicians, and relatively uninformed patients is falling short. In particular, companies are failing to engage with patients in the early stages, when they look for information about symptoms. Extracted from Mckinsey.
How does this change the role of the representative?
So how do we help the physician who has been our target customer for so long and whom we have shaped our marketing strategies around? Are they still an important influencer? How does this change the role of the representative? Do we even still need a field force?
These are all valid questions to be asked. Of course, we need representatives of some sort. Every business needs a human channel, as machines can not do everything humans do yet and humans can still do what machines cannot and that is, humans can empathise and make rational of irrational behaviour – this is something humans are good at.
The most valued channel to all of us, whether over the phone or on live chat or in person, is a respectful, knowledgeable, empathic and empowered human being. However, the human channel is more than likely to be only part of the solution in these new scenarios and they may not always be there in person.
From Sales to Service
Many have started doing more in-depth patient journey mapping to identify opportunities and gaps. The brave are venturing beyond the comfortable boundaries of the prescribing and treatment section. And let’s assume we know that digital channels will play a significant role ongoing, so we will need to determine the role the human channel will play in solving this challenge.
A visit to a pharma commercial excellence conference will yield many examples of recommendations to shift from a product/sales focus to ‘customer centric’ service model, with case studies to show this has worked including visualised metrics with big lines pointing towards heaven to prove it was a successful strategy.
Two things to note – firstly, most case studies witnessed by the author of this blog, are older by the time you see them and the world is changing rapidly which means they may or may not be relevant; and secondly, now everyone is making the shift in some way, it is no longer a differentiator, rather it is a cost of doing business.
Then, there is a lurking third thing to note, that we dare recognise internally inside pharma while external consultants point out - that our leaders who grew up with the lucrative patents and profits, and the share of voice model, can not believe or refuse to believe or simply do not have confidence in alternatives.
In speaking with a variety of representatives, many have been asked to increase their service duties such as driving traffic to webinars and patient support sites or apps, which is a very good sign; it is in addition to their usual Share of Voice activities. Dig deeper and you will may find that the incentive is predominantly still on calls to targets, frequency and coverage in addition to sales results and only a small portion of the incentive may be allocated to other activities. This is not universal and there is some evidence of real transformation to new sales metrics and incentives, yet to be wide spread.
From Sales, Service to Curator of Content
The Pharma Sales Representative can potentially be a curator of content – an important facilitator of education, promotion, event host, technical support, patient advocate and company advocate.
As humans we are driven by emotions, irrational behaviour, and an unstoppable search for belonging. The success of your company depends on your ability to understand human nature and catalyse this insight into your brand, products and services. This is the innovation process of hatching and blooming. Extracted from Hatchandbloom.
Our journey is a human one and not just a commercial excellence one. Humans recognize the need to change and make decisions base on the assumption that change will bring about benefits. Humans plan the change and prepare for the change. Then the change is adopted by humans – you can not make humans change, (albeit you can coerce someone to change through incentives, punishment and threats, which is outside the scope of this blog).
Not a proven script, but rather a proposal…
The transformational journey may look something like this:
Introduce new customer preferred channels and strategically leverage the field force to direct traffic to those new channels e.g. links in eDetailing material to websites, invitations to webinars, invitations to congresses, and so on;
Utilise the field force to host local events e.g. organising local networking gatherings to participate in a KOL webinar with the representative hosting the event working with the local education coordinator, organising meetings with colleagues to solve unique problems, web-meeting customers who are out of reach or out of office hours – emailing, texting and sending files;
Empower the representative to serve up digital content or drive traffic to customer relevant content in personalised engagements. Marketing co-create content to meet the needs of the representative who is now a multiple-channel-within-a-channel, and in effect, a multiplier.
Incentives might focus on achievements in: driving traffic to other channels such as attendance to events, click through rates on websites, downloads of apps, utilisation of patient apps; and even patient related outcomes.
If you are interested in our mobile learning solutions on digital channels, contact Actando.
The Actando Consulting Team