- Photo Credit / Unsplash
Reports of the death of the pharma field force are grossly exaggerated, even in a new normal where lockdown has forced reps off the road and driven a huge increase in digital engagement. We all know that pharma’s sales model has long been considered outdated, but the role of the rep won’t disappear – and neither should it. We still need something ‘human’ at the heart of the relationship between pharma and healthcare professional (HCP). However, in the multichannel age, it can’t - and won’t - be an exclusive relationship.
The idea of non-personal promotion is, by its very wording, wrong. We should be focusing on ‘personal dialogue’; not selling, but solving; not non-personal, but hyper-targeted. Technology – and a growing culture to embrace it, accelerated by the mandate for social distancing – gives us an opportunity to transition engagement from one-to-one to many-to-many. Previously, peer-to-peer conversations, orchestrated by pharma, were logistically impossible; geography alone made it just too difficult. Now, virtual engagement models mean that reps can bring many peers together at the same time, and they can also call on additional support from Medical Sales Liaisons (MSLs) if they want to delve deeper into more hardcore science.
Virtual engagement is, of course, not new, but HCPs’ willingness to adopt it as their default approach has heralded a seismic shift in both customer engagement and customer expectations. Now all we need to do is enhance the experience. People are all Zoomed out, but they’re eager to see where tech can take them next. If we can turn up the volume of creative innovation, and automate the comms before and after, we can transform the dialogue between pharma and HCPs – and carve out a new, value-added role for the reprogrammed rep.
For many, this may sound like old hat; we’ve been recommending it to clients for many years. Now, supported by great technology and a world that’s (had to) become more amenable to change, it’s actually happening. The next normal for the pharma field force will finally – properly – put the ‘multichannel rep’ at the heart of customer engagement.
- Simon Stebbing, CEO at Wunderman Thompson Health London