The challenge in the pharmaceutical industry has always been to keep up with innovation and technology. With huge disruptive changes in society with COVID-19 and new technologies springing up all the time, it has become crying needs for pharmaceutical companies to figure out how to adapt to get ahead of the game and how to get the impact and education possibilities they need to get in front of the hard-to-reach audience.
To take a deeper dive into this we hosted a webinar in August looking at “How to connect with healthcare professionals and consumers in the new digital world”, and how to overcome the challenges along the way. Here is a summary of what we found.
From face-to-face to remote engagement
COVID has opened the door for the industry to really push digital transformation in ways that we have been talking about for years or even for decades. It’s a challenge and an opportunity. Since face-to-face meetings are prohibited, now we're seeing the shift towards remote engagement, which has become the key way to contact customers from a sales perspective. Customers are obviously well aware of what to expect from a face-to-face meeting. But the sales force needs to be a little bit clearer on what's going to happen with the new way of engagement by keeping the discussion simple and jargon free, virtual but of high quality.
From push to pull approach
There was a time where sales representatives went to a hospital knocking every single door trying to find a doctor, sometimes stepping in even with the patient in there. And they started to have conversations about irrelevant topics and then only 2 minutes on the real topic, the time for quality engagement is limited, versus appointing a time where deep engagement can really happen.
“Push” has been the main approach in communications with HCP for a really long time. However, now “pull” is starting to happen. HCPs also pull whenever they need it rather than Pharma companies pushing all the time, potentially in the times that are not really the right time for HCPs. “With the omni-channel, now HCPs with different preferences have the opportunity to engage through the channel that suits them and at the time they need that information in different levels of granularity.” Mauricio Campos Suarez, Head of Digital CEE Region at Novartis pointed out.
Meanwhile, the “push” will not completely stop, but with the complement of the pull approach, a more valuable interaction and engagement is created.
Biggest challenges and solutions in digital communication
Except from the skillset and mindset shift to the digital side, there are other major challenges.
The first one is actually securing that remote call, and there can be a series of challenges involved in that, depending on an organization's consent for the communication process, that may mean that the sales team needs to go through a long process full of difficulties before successfully booking a call, which is a big challenge in the first place that the marketing teams and head office teams can really support with. From a corporate or an enterprise perspective, “new strategies of collecting consent need to be created to have a database with the companies, to be able to see the segment dissect and really give consumers personalised communication that's needed”, said Arpita Pani, Digital and Multichannel Strategic Consultant at Ferring Pharmaceuticals.
Then it comes down to the individual representative, they need to really think about how they approach the gatekeepers out of the customers. “The challenge is all about helping sales teams maintain their confidence, particularly if they've had a bad experience, there needs to be a really robust coaching and support team in place, which provides ongoing support to ensure the sales representatives feel fully confident and competent to deliver high quality valuable calls.” Roslyn Robertson, Remote Engagement Specialist mentioned.
All those challenges require the sales force to be more humble, patient and flexible. They need to put themselves in the shoes of customers and to find out what they really need. And they have to acknowledge that many times, they might not have enough information about new customers, which highlight the importance of data-based decision making rather than purely assumption or preconception. It is also critical to be flexible, by quickly reacting to customers’ feedback and moving with the change of needs of the customers.
Lockdown ends and the pandemic will subside eventually, but the digital transformation it has brought on is here to stay, whether for pharmaceutical companies or other industries. It is mindset which really makes the difference between success and failure, understanding the new challenges and opportunities are faced with and embracing the new normal. That is what will make individuals and brands stand out from the crowd and allow brands to connect smoothly in a digital way with their customers and consumers.