The life of a pharmaceutical sales representative is a tough one, and it’s only getting more difficult. The amount of time spent sharpening your clinical knowledge won’t mean much if you can’t get in front of a physician or prescriber – a task that includes an increasing amount of obstacles, such as the Sunshine Act. In addition, many physicians are changing their policy regarding how they receive non-patient visitors, with a reported 45 percent of prescribers restricting access to sales representatives.
Undoubtedly, an avalanche of sales calls forced physicians to change their protocols, but the truth is that some of the highest prescribing specialists, like oncologists, say they prefer face-to-face interaction to other forms of marketing communication. Another paradox of this policy can be found in a study by a Clinical Journal of Hypertension that found prescribers who don’t see sales reps are less likely to head FDA Black Box warnings and are slower to adopt new medications and doses.
So how can you find the balance in the two extremes? Pharmaceutical sales strategies are moving away from antiquated bombardments of a physician’s office to an emphasis on customer-centric, value-based tactics. Customer data plays a key role in executing this new type of strategy, so smart reps will quickly become experts in using the best source of customer data available – your organization’s customer relationship management software.
CRM Isn’t New, But It’s Vital
Major pharmaceutical organizations have been using CRM products for decades, because the nature of the pharmaceutical industry demands that reps keep detailed information on prospects and customers. Spreadsheets are clumsy options for this type of data storage, and sharing spreadsheets filled with rows and rows of data isn’t ideal either – all of which make CRM software a natural choice for pharmaceutical companies.
We’re even at the point where CRM are made specifically for pharmaceutical companies.
And while you’ve probably been trained on how to use a CRM product, it’s the methodology that goes along with the software that can change the way you interaction with physicians. Instead of just using a physician’s location, prescribing habits, and personal interests as a method for pushing general, high-priced products, make sure you come equipped with samples laser focused on the niche population that physician is treating.
After all, even if some physicians prefer in-person encounters, the ideal length of time for a conversation with a sales rep is 5 minutes or less. That doesn’t leave much time for small talk, so get straight to the detailing and make sure your conversation is guided by the evidence, i.e., the data about this customer from your CRM.
Use Personas to Scale
Another key change in the pharmaceutical sales process is a movement away from one to one sales interactions towards tactics that produce value for entire organizations or multiple prescribers. But how do you accomplish this while staying focused on the preferences of each physician? Isn’t that counterintuitive?
Not if you build personas. Personas are mixes of qualitative and quantitative data – hey, just the kind you have in your CRM! – that represent different types of customers. By using personas that represent different prescriber types you’ll be able to devise strategies that work on a larger scale than a one to one basis.
For example, high prescribing physicians will of course each have different personal interests and ways of practicing, but they likely all share certain characteristics and professional habits that you can identify and sell toward. Common objections are a great qualitative data point to start with, and seasonal prescribing habits are an example of quantitative characteristics for your personas.
By building personas, you’ll be able to scale your strategies and spend less time worrying over one specific prescriber.
Become More of a Marketer
With access increasingly restricted and the Sunshine Act barring opportunities for hosting events, it’s time to think of alternative mediums for reaching your target prescribers. Based on the personas you’ve built, you’ll know which ones prefer to interact over email, and if you’ve got a decent CRM, then you’ll be able to send mass emails from inside the same program.
In this sense, you’ll need to think like a marketer. Forget about your quarterly numbers for a moment and consider how you can generate the most value for your prescribers. Likely this will involve including new product information, clinical trial results, or enrollment opportunities in your email, but it really depends on which personas you’re targeting.
Because you’re not going to send the same email to everyone, are you? Segmenting your email efforts by persona is an excellent use of your CRM data and it’s something that your marketing department is likely already involved in.
Again, if your CRM is up to snuff, you’ll be able to see which prescribers opened your emails and which didn’t. Email’s also great because a significant number of people still open most of their emails, so while it may seem simple, if you do it well, it’s effective. In fact, 79 percent of physicians prefer e-detailing to face-to-face encounters.
By refocusing your tactics to be more customer centric and data driven, you’ll be able to develop more efficient strategies and ideally increase your market share. And it all starts with data in your CRM system. Using evidence for your sales and marketing decisions is par for the course at this point, so if you’re only using your CRM for sales automation, you’re falling behind.