• May 3, 2004
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Vertical Focus: Pharmaceutical Firms Find a Spoonful of CRM Helps the Sales Pitch Go Down

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Does this sound familiar? "Ask your doctor if [medication name] is right for you." The barrage of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical ads and the availability of medical information over the Internet are creating the most knowledgeable customer base ever, but as consumer awareness increases, so do antacid prescriptions for pharmaceutical marketers. The ad campaigns create a pull-marketing effect, bringing patients into doctors' offices with product-specific questions. The challenge is keeping physicians up-to-date on new products, customized content, clinical evidence, and comparative analysis of medicines. According to an Accenture survey of 400 physicians conducted last year, 30 percent stated that pharmaceutical sales reps are important sources for this kind of information--but good luck getting face time with a doctor. Complicating the matter is the upsurge in the total number of pharmaceutical sales reps, which has quadrupled to 90,000 in the United States over the past decade, according to Tom Schwenger, a partner in the Health and Life Sciences practice at Accenture. As a result, the average talk time a sales rep has with a doctor has dwindled to only two minutes. "We've reached a point where doctors don't have any more time to give to sales reps," Schwenger says. So when a rep can squeeze in time with physicians it is paramount to bring the right message to the right doctors at the right time. To do so, more pharmaceutical companies are turning to vendors that offer pharmaceutical-specific CRM products. Dale Hagemeyer, principal research analyst of the CRM practice at Gartner, says pharmaceutical companies should "put the icing on their sales force automation cake," with tablet PCs to make it easier for reps to take tailored messages to doctors. Siebel Systems, which analysts agree leads the way in the pharmaceutical CRM market, has partnered with Microsoft, Pharmetica, Proscape, and Accenture to provide interactive multimedia content on tablet PCs in which the messaging changes as reps go through the presentation. And as with most tablet PC programs, the information reps collect doesn't need to be reentered into the system. What's more, firms can--and do--use that information to improve marketing and sales efforts. "The concept of closed-loop promotion is really about to have a major shift," Accenture's Schwenger says. "This is going to have a significant impact on the way salespeople do their jobs." Hagemeyer also suggests that to support their CRM efforts, pharmaceutical firms invest in analytics that, when cross-referenced with IMS Health's database of pharmaceutical sales activity, would identify when a doctor switches a patient from one product to a similar product from another company. This would alert the salesperson from the original firm to call that doctor to follow up. Hagemeyer says Dendrite offers the best tools to support this. Finally, Hagemeyer says that pharmaceutical vendors should consider a portal and call center for support and education purposes. He suggests starting with the portal because the "outlay is significantly less" than creating a call center or contracting outsourced call center services. Take Three and Call Me in the Morning What analysts are saying about the leading pharmaceutical CRM vendors: Siebel Systems
provides the best, integrated CRM suite, with a closed-loop, interactive marketing solution that automatically links to the CRM system. StayinFront offers one of the best sales force automation point solutions. Dendrite integrates best with IMS Health's database of pharmaceutical sales activity to enable sales reps to take action based on insight into each physician's prescription orders. Bioglan Cures the Paper-Overload Syndrome Bioglan Pharmaceuticals was itching to automate some of its sales processes to eliminate various inefficiencies. The company, which focuses on dermatology medicines and prescription pharmaceuticals, turned to StayinFront for its sales force automation solution. The inefficiencies surfaced mostly during manual processes. Prior to the SFA installation in the spring of 2003, Bioglan's sales reps had to fill out cumbersome paper forms that included such details as physician name, address, specialty, and state license information. One copy of each form was sent to a separate processing company, which scanned each form into a database. Only after all the forms for each month were digitally stored was the whole lot sent back to Bioglan. According to Boris Meyerson, senior director of IT at Bioglan, this process took between 20 and 50 days, after factoring in sales reps' tardiness and time for regular mail delivery. Despite the inefficiencies Bioglan paid roughly $20,000 a month for this processing service. After implementing StayinFront, Bioglan automated much of this process and is now able to keep better tabs on physical inventory. This allows Bioglan to proactively manage its sales force, and to ensure strict compliance with the Prescription Drug Marketing Act, which requires signatures from medical practitioners to acknowledge the receipt of product samples. Along with the cost savings associated with eliminating the processing company, Bioglan started to notice more smiles around the office. "Our sales reps started to lead happier lives, because they didn't have to deal with the huge flow of paper anymore," Meyerson says. But the primary benefit, he says, is the ability to compare selling efforts to results: "That is the biggest thing." --D. M.
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