Yes we still need the salesforce post-pandemic
Digital is not a replacement for the pharma salesforce; its role is to enhance the effectiveness of the salesforce by providing complementary communications and supportive services. Integrated Channel Communications, or Omni-channel Marketing, includes both digital and human channels – with human interactions still believed to be the most impactful channel in healthcare. What is interesting is the evolution of the role of the Sales Representative, MSL and other customer-facing team members into a hybrid of digital and virtual channel tactics. The salesforce can also act as a multiplier to your other channel efforts, by driving traffic to those channels or utilising those channels in their own interactions to enhance the value they are adding.
With the continuing pandemic challenges, the use of other channels by the sales or marketing teams makes resource allocation, a critical exercise to ensure you make good use of valuable and high-cost resources, even more complex.
Traditional Salesforce Sizing
What do you need to consider when conducting a salesforce sizing exercise?
- Your strategy – Market share or profitability? When profitability is important, consider that any incremental contact with a Healthcare Professional should generate incremental sales revenue, recognizing that costs also grow incrementally. There is a sweet spot to maximise your resources. After that, each sales dollar costs more to produce, profitability declines and subsequent contacts have less effect.
- Market Size – Consider whether your market is more broadly defined, including direct competitors, alternatives, and substitutes. Look beyond the strict therapeutic classification, knowing that the market may be bigger than we realize. The bigger the market size, the more importance we should place on excellent targeting to ensure we maximize the return on our resource allocation.
- Market Concentration – What % of the customer universe is seeing 80% of the patients? Writing 80% of the scripts? Low market concentration increases the number of Salesforce Representatives needed to achieve the same results.
- Segmentation – On what basis are you segmenting your customers? Is this segmentation consistently reflected in your marketing and sales activities? Whether a simple 2X2 matrix or a more sophisticated method that includes behavioural criteria, be sure your cross-functional teams are aligned in their planning and implementation of resources to high potential customers, aligned to your strategy.
- Promotional Response – Understand and communicate the anticipated promotional response of your various channel activities. Know that multiple contacts over time are required for a lasting effect from field force activities, whereas events such webinars may create a higher lift but for a shorter period.
- Cost per call and call capacity of each Sales Representative – How many field days does the salesforce achieve in customer contacts [after holidays, sales meeting and training days are removed]? How many calls are considered the benchmark in the market? Do you need to make adjustments e.g. build in a vacancy rate; before calculating the cost per call?
- Value per target customer – Looking at your target customers, is there a difference in potential among the specialties? Is this reflected in your resource allocation planning and implementation?
- Other products in the portfolio and overlaps – Include in your planning the position of the product in a call, which affects how much time is spent discussing it and the level of costs to associated. Launch products should always be first-line;
- Carryover effect – The level of sales generated in one year without promotional activities is the basis for your planned level of investment during the year. Products with a lower carryover may require more promotional spend.
There are probably other factors that come to mind as you read the list above. Salesforce sizing was already a challenging exercise and now requires a wholistic multichannel resourcing exercise.
If you intend to leverage digital channels along with the salesforce, adding another layer to your segmentation, for example, ‘communication preferences’ will help target your communication strategies. Attitudinal and behavioural categories can help you refine the right content to be shared with individuals. These will require some market research and validation.
Types of service models you may be considering:
- Digital-only – full digital service model;
- Hybrid – digital and remote salesforce and meetings; and
- Full service – salesforce with digital channels and meetings
Customers, patients and stakeholders will have multiple touchpoints. When developing a multi-channel campaign, you may face these challenges:
- Integrating data to get a comprehensive perspective from different angles;
- Understanding the portfolio and the competing priorities for resources;
- Evaluating the contribution of each channel; and
- Allocating resources across those channels aligned to your company and individual brand strategies.
A multi-channel approach is inherently more complicated than selling through a single channel. Channels often have to be carefully aligned with each other for maximum benefit, and more channels usually add more complexity. Take the time to consider the salesforce involvement in each scenario and where they can be leveraged to increase the effectiveness e.g. salesforce visit before a webinar to increase attendance and post a webinar to follow up. The Sales Representatives should always be given the visibility of activities across other channels, so they can make contact in person or via digital meeting tools with better information, drive traffic to other channels and of course make the best next decision to drive adoption and loyalty.
Allocating budget and resources to multiple channels without a clear strategy is wasted money. Optimizing your resources in alignment with your strategy in accordance with customer needs and preferences will help to ensure that you achieve your desired results.
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Article Contributor: Melanie Brown, Managing Partner
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The Actando Consulting Team