Retooling the Modern Life Sciences Sales Rep
Selling Skills – By Noël Theodosiou and Sergio Corbo
Shifting to on-demand relationships is changing selling skills
Before COVID-19, many life sciences companies operated a commercial model focused on in-person sales. Non-personal promotion was leveraged to add value to the customer experience (and drive higher marketing return).
This focus on face-to-face interaction was clearly supported by the evidence: Face-to-face visits resulted in higher conversion rates. While 59% of the doctors who received an in person visit would show an intent to prescribe, only 32% of physicians not contacted face-to-face were willing to prescribe.
So, it comes as no surprise that upon reopening, many commercial leaders have been focused on how to get sales reps back in front of healthcare providers. While some have suggested that face-to-face visits can be largely replaced by virtual ones, most agree that sales rep relationships with healthcare providers are critical and will continue to be their superpower.
However, the pandemic has changed the way healthcare is accessed and delivered in profound ways. Healthcare providers and patients are adopting technology such as digital health for monitoring and data collection. Virtual and remote care is providing convenience for patients and cost-effectiveness for the system.
The physician’s office, while still critical, can no longer be the focus for pharmaceutical sales.
Moreover, data published on pharma-owned websites is not the preferred learning channel for healthcare providers. Only 27% believe the data is credible and generally refer to pharma-owned websites for information such as product dosing, clinical trial information and patient assistance material.
With the proliferation of digital and alternative channels, selected steps of the buying process are becoming more transactional (such as reimbursement information and shipping samples), and physicians are becoming less dependent on reps.
As healthcare providers retool and self-serve from a variety of convenient resources to manage patients and inform their decisions, what will it take for the modern sales representative to build, nurture and sustain these relationships? Going forward, commercial teams must adapt to a customer-initiated buying process. Customer experience design, “consumerized” value propositions, creative content, agile execution and always-on insights and analytics are now even more critical to driving business outcomes. In addition, organizations need to overcome silos and work more seamlessly across marketing, sales, medical and market access functions.
Rather than the traditional push approach, sales reps need to take a pull approach. This means finding opportunities to build relationships and goodwill through personalized, consultative interactions at critical moments in the buying experience while leveraging digital technology to take care of the rest.
In this new environment of on-demand relationships, we believe the following skills are key to the role of the modern life sciences sales rep:
- Spot: Listen to customers, monitor and interpret data from multiple sources including CRM and market trends to anticipate and act on opportunities.
- Coordinate: Use technology, insight and relationships to engage providers with meaningful, personalized and just-in-time content.
- Facilitate: Deliver customized engagement plans, tailoring standardized digital, virtual and in-person interactions.
- Enable: Help customers (i.e., physicians, health systems, pharmacies) achieve higher levels of satisfaction with patients.
- Efficiently Execute: Invest time in creating customer value, building market share and maximizing product lifecycles.
Sales are ultimately achieved when customer needs are fulfilled through relationships. Good relationships are built on understanding, anticipation and empathy.
Modern sales representatives must shift their mindsets to embrace the change in customer dynamics and make the most of digital tools as part of relationship building.
Those who combine business acumen with technology to support authentic engagement and interactions will recharge their relationship superpower.