"The future of communication? A genuine experience!"
How will pharmaceutical sales work in the future? Wolfgang Höfers says it’s time for pharmaceutical companies to leave their comfort zone and adapt to new communication channels such as digital meeting rooms.
What challenges do the various channels of the multichannel pose to pharmaceutical sales?
We will experience a completely changed communication landscape just by restricting access to HCP and through digitalization. A doctor expects valuable information for the work in his practice – precisely through the channel and, above all, at the time that is most appropriate for him. In fact, it is not so much the channels themselves that pose a challenge to pharmaceutical sales, but rather the content that needs to be presented in a different and more effective way.
What does this ideally look like?
The entire communication process with the doctor must be coordinated logically and consistently. And above all, the doctor should be given the feeling that everything is tailored to his personal and individual wishes. For this, the content must be of excellent quality and presented in an exceptionally interesting manner – anything else would just be a waste of time.
How far has pharmaceutical sales progressed in the digital transformation?
Digitalization is fundamentally changing the healthcare industry. The pharmaceutical industry and pharmaceutical sales are no exception. Nevertheless, communication between all participants in the healthcare field is nowhere near as slow as it is in this sector. For example, sales representatives have long been regarded as the only sales channel in the industry through which expertise could be imparted and which could interact with HCPs. However, the days are long gone in which a sales representative appears unannounced in a doctor’s practice.
What is the best way to reach doctors today?
Today, initial contact often takes place in conjunction with the home office. This can be, for example, via e-mail or newsletter, by means of a dynamic HCP portal, as well as via messenger or video conferencing. Digital platforms provide doctors with fast and comprehensive information. A multi-channel manager in turn informs the doctor about specific preparations, current news from the industry, congresses or further training courses and also shows clinical pictures. Always tailored to the information interests of the individual doctor.
What impact do the increasing restrictions on access to doctors have on the way in which sales work works?
Pharmaceutical sales are no easy task these days. The number of doctors is declining, especially in rural areas, while at the same time specialists in particular are increasingly burdened with administrative tasks and thus have much less time and energy to talk to pharmaceutical companies. This has progressed to the point that more than 50 percent of doctors have now introduced restrictions on visits by pharmaceutical representatives or, in the worst case, simply no longer accept any personal visits.
How can this dilemma be solved?
Modern pharmaceutical sales must place the doctor at the center. Of course, models for the field sales force must also adhere to this. No sales representative should appear unannounced. However, most doctors also reject purely digital consultations, as otherwise any form of humanity would be lost in this highly sensitive area. Hybrid models that support the field sales force with digital omnichannel solutions are therefore essential. Everything must be implemented on as personal a basis as possible, regardless of whether digital, analogue or on-site.
Will maintaining relationships continue to be the core of pharmaceutical sales?
A personal approach and qualitative consultation will always be a topic in pharmaceutical sales. As a highly personalized touchpoint, maintaining relationships through the field sales force will continue to play a dominant role. However, the field sales force only develops its true strength in the meaningful collaboration with the omnimedial orchestrated internal service by multichannel managers or customer journeys that are meaningfully tailored to the customer. Thus, HCPs can always be addressed on the channels that are tailor-made for them and at the right time. This combination of flexibility and the "human factor" will ultimately make the difference and take the relationship between all parties to a new level.
So, what is the future workplace of pharmaceutical sales?
The future workplace of sales can be found both in the doctor's offices on site, as well as in the digital, protected space, which above all reflects the atmosphere of a personal conversation. It will have to constantly adapt to the needs of the target group. For example, it is already possible to get in touch with the HCP in virtual consulting rooms and to share information, such as abstracts or studies, with it. This video chat is in no way inferior to an on-site conversation. It is therefore important for the pharmaceutical industry to move more outside its own comfort zone and to direct the choice of workplace according to the doctor's wishes.
About Wolfgang Höfers
With more than 25 years of extensive marketing and sales experience in the German healthcare sector, Wolfgang Höfers has real insider knowledge and a keen eye for potential. As General Manager of intouch hcc GmbH and Chief Sales Officer of the good healthcare group, he is primarily responsible for strategies and the support of new and existing customers. He also oversees the development of innovative sales solutions.