Seeing the Doctor as a Customer

If doctors are customers, than pharmaceutical representatives need to adopt a more customer-centric approach, according to a new Accenture survey. This approach includes providing more customized content, clinical evidence, and comparative analyses of medicines. "In the current climate doctors are so busy that sales representatives may have as little as 90 seconds to meet with them, and having to refer to a dizzying array of hard copy data just doesn't make sense anymore," says Tom Schwenger, a partner in Accenture's pharmaceutical CRM practice. Schwenger says that a major business-process shift is taking place, where sales reps are letting technology do the talking. "The tablet PC can be configured into a flexible, robust sales tool, which guides the doctor through all the data surrounding a new product," he says. "The representative now only needs to be responsible for fostering a relationship with the physician." Using the tablet PC can help pharmaceutical companies better segment their marketing efforts, which Schwenger says has been a major problem in the past. "Segmentation is the holy grail. Before, companies with up to 12,000 sales reps could not effectively segment their promotions for all the different types of physicians," he says. But now, reps can easily prepare a presentation on a new drug tailored for the interests of a pediatrician, for example, as opposed to a general practitioner, Schwenger says. In the survey nearly a third of physicians surveyed said they consider pharmaceutical sales representatives important sources of information. When asked to identify top influencers on their prescribing decisions, physicians cited only peer-reviewed clinical journals (80 percent) and industry associations and meetings (34) before sales representatives (30 percent), with colleagues and the Internet rounding out the list at 27 percent and 16 percent, respectively. "After several decades the basic detailing model is ripe for evolution," David Blumberg, a partner in Accenture's Health & Life Sciences practice, said in a statement. "The opportunity for the industry lies in moving beyond sales force growth and mass promotion to arming reps with tailored information for individual physicians that will help improve their practices and patient care." According to Blumberg, some industry leaders are beginning to adopt an approach called closed-loop promotion, which allows sales representatives to present and discuss customized education and information based on ongoing feedback from physician interactions. Representatives can use these in the way that best supports an individual physician's needs, while meeting regulatory standards. Companies piloting closed-loop promotion are increasing representatives' time with physicians from 90 seconds to five minutes. Accenture estimates that with the greater access and educational value of these new approaches a pharmaceutical company can increase sales of a $500 million product by 15 percent, while lowering marketing costs and increasing patient access to new medicines.
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