The pharmaceutical and healthcare industries are experiencing a profound evolution, market requirements are reshaping, and companies need to shift their business orientation towards customers and the satisfaction of their needs. As customers’ demands change rapidly, one of the key “reactions” of pharma companies should be to focus on Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize the sales force effectiveness, boost sales, and face competition.
“AI can be a game-changer that fundamentally shifts the competitive position of a business. The winners will be the companies that use AI for the full range of benefits, from back and middle office productivity to front office product innovation and customer engagement.”(AI transforming the enterprise: 8 key adoption trends, KPMG Advisory, 2019).
It is a matter of fact that AI and machine learning represent incredible tools already supporting PharmaCos into their R&D activities and investments. However, by integrating those innovative technologies also within their commercial strategies, PharmaCos could obtain further benefits, as capturing evidence-based insights to proactively support their sales force in the daily or monthly planning and suggesting it on the next best actions.
“Internal organizational teams should support the field force from the inside to evolve the role of sales representatives”
These advanced technologies could enable the possibility to segment customers according to more dynamic and specific conditions, allowing the sales reps to highly personalize the activities for each of them. Furthermore, AI and machine learning “make it possible to optimize multichannel marketing (MCM), run brand diagnostics and uncover specific physicians and patients’ insights, without compromising data privacy rules.” (“Using AI and machine learning to drive commercial success in the EU,” IQVIA, 2019). Hence, mutual benefits will be delivered: customers will take advantage from a greater experience and more tailored solutions, and at the same time, the field force will be more productive and efficient, thanks to a better user experience and a smarter support to their daily activities.
Studies confirm that the evolution of the traditional Sales Force Effectiveness (SFE) could represent a key company growth driver, since it has positive impacts on both revenues and profitability, specifically when oriented at increasing the impact of customer interactions (“SalesForce effectiveness Explorer Study”, ZS, 2015). Deeply understanding this context and aiming to more effectively engage customers and satisfy their needs, in October 2017, Zambon has created its global commercial excellence department. Global commercial excellence in Zambon has the objective to implement tools and plans to drive the sales growth and the sales force productivity in all the affiliates and through all the channels, to better capture growth opportunities and guarantee customers a distinctive experience.
Through the cross-functional collaboration with other global functions (Strategic planning, global marketing, IT, digital strategy and HR), Zambon Global CommEx orchestrates the activities of all the local affiliates through three main initiatives and executes the group strategy to develop impactful customers interactions:
1. Advanced analytics, to provide the best understanding of sales opportunities;
2. Selling model and In-field coaching, to develop the best behaviours in the sales teams;
3. Advanced CRM, to select and provide the sales force more efficient tools to be more productive and ensure a greater experience for customers.
Indeed, through investments in these new tools, Zambon aims to respectively improve the Analytics and the CRM system to better support its selling model. Even if belonging to different activities, these projects are strongly inter-connected, since the prescriptive analytics platform will be integrated into the new CRM system, along with a marketing automation software, to strengthen the collaboration between marketing and sales, and better support the field force in the daily working activities. The salesforce productivity maximization is one of the main results expected from these initiatives. Within this challenging scenario, equipping Zambon’s field force with these innovative tools enables the company to interact with customers through a wider range of touchpoints, both offline and online.
Although trends show that the pharma industry is always more data-driven and PharmaCos are embracing a completely new mind-set oriented towards customer experience and digital channels, it is expected that the sales force will still represent the most important “channel” for them, at least for the next five years. Internal organizational teams should support the field force from the inside to evolve the role of our sales representatives. Especially the marketing department should play a leading role providing the sales force with the right contents to access the right channels.
Question is, how to succeed in this complex arena? According to Zambon’s experience the answer can be summarized in four main principles:
1. Global commercial excellence in Zambon keeps unchanged the attention on the traditional SFE foundations (i.e. Sales Force planning, Performance KPIs and Incentive Plans) with renewed processes. Even in an evolving scenario, traditional activities are not neglected, and the updated processes can optimizethose tasks in efficiency and costs, freeing up resources for transformational projects;
2. Combing the long-term vision with thecapability to deliver new solutions in the short-term, to support the existing business and to gain credibility within the sales teams;
3. Main focus on the operational strategy’s execution,using only technologies with the greatest business impact, such as prescriptive analytics to capture every growth opportunity and Advanced CRM to ensure distinctive customer experience;
4. Strong emphasis on enhancing people’s skills and capabilities, with people always at the centre of all strategies, to then move to advanced technologies’ implementation.