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How pharma firms can transform sales performance & patients’ quality of life

How pharma firms can transform sales performance & patients’ quality of life

Written by:
Gregor Towers
Date created
August 23, 2023
Last updated:
Aug 15, 2023
5 min read
Table of content
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Key takeaways

Pharma businesses need to rethink their upskilling strategies. Only highly-skilled commercial teams will positively influence Health Care Professionals’ prescription habits.

While pharma firms continue to develop drugs and transform patients’ lives, their commercial success depends on building Health Care Professionals’ (HCPs ) trust in treatment options.

However, winning the buy-in of HCPs is increasingly difficult as the pharma industry witnesses three distinct trends:

  • Market competition increases revenue targets and limits market access
  • Sales talent needs new skills for omnichannel interactions and a broader network of commercial support
  • Patients’ increased knowledge complicates treatment options when consulting HCPs

Combined together, these trends are changing the skills needed to build commercial relationships and keep HCPs fully informed about new treatment options. At the same time, the treatments themselves are becoming more complex as patients start to make informed lifestyle choices.  

Therefore, pharma companies need strategic upskilling of sales specialists, Medical Scientific Liaisons (MSLs) and sales managers to build effective commercial teams and deliver transformative treatments to patients.  

Download your upskilling checklist for the pharma industry

Three industry trends changing skills to inform HCPs

1. Market competition increases revenue targets & limits market access

Sales teams are under increased pressure due to market competition. Pharma companies secure a 10 year patent to sell a drug. However, after the patent expiries, other firms can produce cheaper copies under a different brand name, forcing originators to reduce their price and protect market shares.

Combined with new drug developments and alternative treatments, sales talent has to position their drugs’ unique value against competitors. This means a deeper understanding of market dynamics, more objection handling and strategic account planning to hit higher revenue targets and ensure patients receive quality treatments.

2. HCP consulting demands robust omnichannel communication  

But sales skills are also adapting as HCP communication becomes omnichannel. Between 2019 and 2021 during COVID-19, the balance between face time and digital channels changed, with email communication growing by 72%.

While face-to-face and digital channels are rebalancing post-pandemic, omnichannel communication is set to stay as the pharma industry’s digital capabilities increase to cater for HCPs’ engagement preferences.  

The pandemic catalysed the use of digital engagement methods as traditional F2F interactions were restricted during parts of 2020 and 2021, accelerating a shift that had already begun.

Increased uptake of digital channels can lower the costs of promotion compared with deploying a large field- based sales force, grow efficiency in contacts per day and improve access to healthcare professionals who engage only digitally. Tom Woods, Life Sciences Consultant at IQVIA

Therefore, in this post-covid era, commercial teams now have to provide impactful interactions across multiple channels and strategically choose how to engage different HCPs. This requires sales talent with diverse skill sets to communicate their drug’s value in an omnichannel strategy and advance commercial conversations with HCPs.

3. Patients’ increased knowledge & lifestyle choices complicate treatment options

With one in twenty Google searches being for health-related advice, patients have increased access to health care information. As a result, two changes have occurred: patients are focused on the cost-benefit payoff and adverse effects on their lifestyle when choosing treatment options.

For pharma companies this signals a need for an insight-led and patient-centric approach to accommodate their lifestyle choices. Sales teams have to speak in the language of the patient to show HCPs their treatments’ emotional value and impact on patients’ quality of life.

With the skills to optimize patient insights and understand their health needs, sales teams can build stronger commercial relationships with HCPs and increase the number of patients on their drug prescriptions.  

Rethinking commercial upskilling

Changes in market dynamics mean pharma upskilling has to support complex commercial strategies, challenges in keeping HCPs fully informed and sales teams’ needs for advanced skill sets.

Upskilling sales talent to become product specialists

Need-oriented & patient-centric selling

Pharma companies need their sales talent to become product specialists. This demands a switch from pitching a drug’s product value to adopting need-oriented selling.

Skills in advanced questioning techniques are key to understanding patients’ needs and adapting a pitch to offer HCPs solutions. Therefore, this skilled consulting has to factor in the broader impact of a drug to take HCPs on a patient journey – combining data on how treatments transform patients’ lives with emotional storytelling.

However, as well as changes in skills, this approach also requires more intimate collaboration between sales teams, marketing and scientists to influence HCPs’ prescription habits.

Remote selling in omnichannel models

Product specialists have to transfer need-oriented selling to remote settings – video meetings, email and phone – and lead high-impact conversations with HCPs as part of an omnichannel approach to transform their relationships with clients.  

Assertiveness skills will be essential to challenge and consult HCPs via their preferred channel. This requires objection handling and navigating difficult conversations to gain trust in digital and in-person channels. And these skills are even more crucial to position a drug’s market and patient value amidst increased competition.

Medical Scientific Liaisons (MSLs) role in consulting HCPs

Medical Scientific Liaisons are essential to support commercial strategies. MSLs inform HCPs about medical data with an objective and scientific perspective. However, with treatments becoming more complex and higher market competition, MSLs have to increase their influence on sales teams.

MSLs need to adopt an  inquisitive mindset and switch from explaining product data to leading conversations with meaningful questions. They require skills in gathering information to feed patients’ healthcare needs to product specialists and quality treatments that factor in lifestyle choices.

Managers have to coordinate teams with advanced leadership skills

Sales managers are responsible for commercial strategies and sales performance. However, under pressure to hit challenging revenue targets, mentorship and feedback skills are key to retain and motivate product specialists interacting with HCPs.

But as commercial teams increase collaboration, sales and Account Managers (AMs) also need analytical and strategic account planning skills. They have to tie together product data, MSLs’ insights on patients’ lifestyle choices and competitors’ offerings to build compelling portfolio strategies that gain HCPs trust in their treatments.

Reskilling pharma talent to improve patients’ quality of life & sales performance

Pharma businesses must build highly-skilled commercial teams to influence HCPs’ prescription habits. As treatment options and informing HCPs becomes more complex, sales teams need a deeper understanding of market competition, patients’ lifestyle choices and more collaboration between roles to build trust with HCPs and achieve revenue targets.  

Therefore, talent’s skill sets have to develop to show HCPs’ the transformative impact of their treatments on patients’ lives. Upskilling solutions should target skill changes in specific roles – product specialists, MSLs and sales managers – to create a synchronized go-to-market and sales strategy.

With a holistic upskilling strategy, pharma firms can build effective commercial teams and gain HCPs’ loyalty in a competitive industry.

Download your upskilling checklist for the pharma industry

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