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Industry focus: How CRM is changing the face of pharma

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16th Oct 2008
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The pharmaceutical marketplace is in a state of flux, but whilst the industry has moved into the 21st century, the supporting sales and marketing solutions are often still mired in the past, ensuring that organisations are unable to provide a robust response to the changing market. Annette Giardina suggests it's time the sector woke up to CRM.

By Annette Giardina, Cirquent Ltd

Today’s pharmaceutical marketplace is in flux – increasing government regulation; downward price pressures on patient medicines; increased traffic on the grey market; rapid changes in the NHS – and there is a need to change how companies address the market to help ensure business success.

The traditional approach – sales representatives detailing products, national account managers targeting trusts – is no longer enough to get results. In addition to traditional solutions, companies need to focus attention on areas such as key account management, team selling, securing tenders, e-detailing, effective marketing and medium and long-term adoption plans. These new techniques, coupled with traditional methods, can provide a more robust approach to an ever-changing market.

"Unfortunately, whilst the pharmaceutical industry has moved into the 21st century, their supporting sales and marketing solutions are often still mired in the past."

To make these changes effective, companies must have systems which support not only the traditional method of selling but also the new methods as well. Additionally, these solutions must meet both today’s and tomorrow’s market challenges.

Unfortunately, whilst the pharmaceutical industry has moved into the 21st century, their supporting sales and marketing solutions are often still mired in the past. Many of the solutions currently in use were developed in the 1990s as electronic territory management systems (ETMS) and were designed mainly to track and check sales representatives’ activities.

Over time, these systems have morphed into customer relationship management (CRM) solutions with added functionality for marketing and sometimes field service. However, at heart they are still an ETMS system which puts the sales representative at the centre, rather than the customer as would be the case in a true CRM solution.

Additionally, these systems were not designed with self-sufficiency in mind, with many changes - even minor ones - requiring vendor involvement. This lack of effective and efficient solutions makes it more difficult and costly to effect change.

It’s time for a new generation of solution. It’s time for better CRM.

New solutions

New solutions need to provide functionality that will support how pharmaceutical companies need to work in today’s market. The customer – be it the Trust, the GP, the midwife or indeed the patient – needs to be at the heart of the system. This heart needs to be fed with information from various sources: national account managers, key account teams, sales representatives, service teams, marketing and others, all coming together to provide a 360 degree view of the customer.

Along the way, functionality helps enhance this information – sales representatives’ call reports, formulary reports, adoption plans and key account management strategies – to make it richer and more valuable. Finally, this enriched information needs to become actionable. This is accomplished through the use of management information tools, dashboards, reports, trend analysis, etc., which provide all levels of the organisation with the right information at the right time to enable them to make the right decision.

"One thing of which we can all be certain is that new government initiatives, regulations and changing market dynamics will all force innovation and change in the industry."

These new solutions need to be adaptable enough to support on-going change in the marketplace and in regulatory compliance. Yet there are two additional features that these new solutions also need to possess – they need to be designed with flexibility and low total cost of ownership in mind.

The solution should possess an easy-to-use toolset, preferably one which is GUI-based, which can be used to add or modify new record types, automation rules, screen layouts, field definitions, reports and so on. It should also provide features to easily re-align or assign data, bulk edit data, import data, check for duplicates and merge results and provide a security model that is both robust and flexible. Finally, the solution needs to provide the ability to easily integrate with other systems and data sources.

The focus until now has been about the new technology required to support the pharmaceutical markets’ ever-changing needs, as technology acts as both an enabler and as a barrier to change. However, technology alone is not the answer. A new solution will only be effective if it focuses on People and Process in addition to Technology. Processes need to be modified to support the new methods of selling and marketing, the solution has to support these processes and the people need to be trained and buy-in to the new approach. Focus on this triumvirate – people, process and Ttechnology – will help ensure success.

One thing of which we can all be certain is that new government initiatives, regulations and changing market dynamics will all force innovation and change in the industry. It will be imperative that the solutions selected now can support your company not just today but tomorrow as well.

If you are interested in understanding how changing market dynamics can affect your business, download our free white paper to find out more.

Annette Giardina is head of Microsoft CRM Practice, Cirquent Ltd.

For more information on the future of CRM in life sciences, click here.

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