We are in an era of AI or should I say “Weak AI”; wherein if you are not using it, you will be outsmarted by competition sooner or later.
The digital tools and technologies have allowed pharma executives to ensure a robust sales pipeline with more and more physicians translated into sales. The Pharma industry is one of the biggest investors in this area and has subsequently demonstrated a lot of successes.
Sankey Solutions is working closely with one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies from Germany (Fortune 500 company, with global pharma rank 14), and other multinational pharma companies, as their digital transformation partner.
Pharmaceutical Sales is one of the most challenging field sales jobs with the need to operate in a highly regulated environment with in-depth product and domain knowledge. Kudos to the industry, as they have been evolving the sales function with more sophisticated technology and data. However, the challenges have also evolved and require more than just problem-solving abilities. The industry needs a combination of defining the right problems, picking up the ones to solve, and being able to solve them at scaled levels.
Let us look at a few challenges faced by the pharma sales currently:
- Reduced access to physicians and KOLs (this is even compounded with outlier events)
- The overall cost of sales is going up while the topline revenue is shrinking
- The knowledge gap and time taken to bridge the gap are a hindrance to upscaling
Before we don the solution hat, let us pause and visualize this in a 2-dimensional problem space:
There are a couple of key takeaways from this framework. The first one is that the problems do not occur in isolation, rather they are interconnected. The second helps you define what actions should be taken. The unproductive zone problems are the last ones to be taken up or taken up as a sub-project for solving dependent problems. The disruption zone is where the C-suite should typically focus their energy on. Empowerment Zone problems should be gamified and allowed for the field teams to solve this will ensure innovation at the edges. The intervention zone is where the most interesting problems get solved through a combination of business context, data, AI (ML), and technologies to scale.
The effectiveness and efficiencies of modern-day sales teams lie in the intervention zone and I would like to present 2 different use cases of this problem space:
Barking up the wrong tree: How often have we seen sales personnel, targeting a particular physician because he or she is easier to access and is sweet-natured. These biases in the field leave out potentially higher return sales opportunities. With so much data being collected, it’s important to create a closed-loop sales system where the sales representatives receive a daily target list which also tells them what will be the most potent content for each physician. This requires not only a robust AI model but an effective technology platform to deliver the messages and collect the feedback. The feedback makes sure the AI model is most current.
Sankey has now equipped one of our large pharma clients with a real-time propensity score provided to salesperson along with recommended sales tactics to prioritize who to talk and what to talk. It is powered by Advanced ML models that use data about the physician, the demographics, and physician’s previous interactions. Their sales effectiveness has gone up by 3x by using such a data and technology-driven approach.
Flash & Bang: The only reason the Homo Sapiens survived over their more superior species was due to their ability to build networks. Networks are the DNA of sales teams. However, they are now more burdened with learning the content, which itself is very dynamic. What if Augmented Reality and Voice Assistants take away this burden and let them focus on the softer aspects! It is not just possible but also it makes the training and development department more efficient. The end-users in this case the physicians would really appreciate the ability to get complete, unbiased and at disposal information in a unique way. A feedback system helps improve the content. The ability to scale for the Sales heads increases tremendously with such initiatives.
Another of our multinational pharma clients is doing a POC with an AR app where the physicians can get details of the drugs, molecular structure, etc. just by scanning a card which the sales representatives leave with them. For some physicians, they are also experimenting with a voice-based virtual assistant to get the information on demand. 90% of physicians in these control groups perceive the company as more digitally advanced than others and the projections are that once fully implemented, the project will self-fund itself in its first 6 months of launch.
Summarizing, these are just 2 of the multitude of problems that technology and data have helped us solve. While most opinions are sounding alarm bells for the sales teams, it is just transforming from an army of mavericks to an army of empowered trendsetters.
Sankey Solutions is a next-generation IT Consulting & Services Company with a special focus on the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector. We help organizations make the promise of digital transformation a reality.
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