4 Ways to Shape Your Sales Team for Success Post-Pandemic

Posted by The Bowdoin Group on June 28th, 2021


Originally published on PM360.com and authored by Dave Melville, CEO & Founder of The Bowdoin Group.

COVID-19 Has Changed Physician Engagement Practices; Is Your Team Equipped for the New Normal?

The ability to engage physicians through marketing and sales efforts has grown more challenging for pharmaceutical companies over the past two decades with evolving regulations, stricter supplier and rep vetting processes, and simply less time for physicians to spend outside the clinical practice.

The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded these issues with health facility shutdowns, tight access restrictions, and physicians overwhelmed by virus patients. Throughout the pandemic, the savviest pharma sales and marketing teams have approached engagement in ways that meet physicians’ preferences and needs.

Most notably, is the tremendous shift from in-person to virtual meetings. Prior to the pandemic, 64% of meetings with pharma sales reps were held in person. During the pandemic, this shifted to 65% of meetings held virtually.1 While some physicians say they want to resume face-to-face meetings, others prefer a hybrid approach of in-person and virtual—even after the pandemic ends.

To gain a competitive edge moving forward, pharma companies must evaluate their current teams, structures, technology, tools, and processes to determine if they have what it takes to thrive in this “new normal.” In many cases, they will have to shift job requirements to find sales, marketing, and medical affairs professionals with the necessary skills and adaptability to succeed.

Follow these four steps to hire the right talent to succeed in the new pharma sales and marketing reality.

1. Segment your customers and teams for sales success

A “one size fits all sales rep” who can serve all of your customers will never exist. Physician engagement is about human relationships. Different physicians will want to communicate with your company in different ways.

The same goes for your sales reps. You likely have on your team experienced individuals who excel at connecting with customers in the traditional way of in-person meetings. They have strong, existing relationships with physicians, and these physicians are accustomed to a personalized approach. Continue to leverage these individuals to target accounts where face-to-face interactions are a critical part of your team’s success.

Attempting to rewire reps who have been successful with traditional, in-person modes of engagement will likely lead to frustration and failure. Let those reps with skills and connections do what they do best, but arm them with training and tools for virtual engagement of physicians when the need arises.

Chip Romp, Executive Vice President, Commercial at Seagen, a global biotechnology company that discovers, develops, and commercializes transformative cancer medicines, explains why it is important to maintain practices that work today and not try to completely reinvent the wheel.

“One of the things that has been underscored during this pandemic is that quality matters. Having a rep at a local level with deep understanding and deep knowledge gives you a better chance of finding the preferred path for that customer and engaging them.”

For those physicians who prefer digital outreach, you will need a distinct type of sales rep, one who is skilled in digital technologies. It’s not just about knowing how to schedule and conduct a Zoom meeting with a physician. Rather, this new phenotype must have deep knowledge of the digital tools at their disposal, the interest and aptitude to embrace new approaches, and the ability to leverage data to successfully target physicians and patients. These individuals are often working hand-in-hand with marketing for inputs to their sales interactions.

This digital sales force will also be able to engage with far more physicians in a shorter period of time compared with the traditional in-person approach. You may even find that you can operate successfully with a smaller team than you had before. For each of these teams—traditional and digital—you will need to establish separate goals and metrics.

2. Target the data-driven individuals

When expanding or enhancing your sales and marketing team with individuals who will succeed in the new digital engagement environment, look to those companies who are early adopters in data-driven decision-making. While it is still important to target talent with expertise in your vertical (e.g., specialty, disease state, treatment methodology, etc.) and strong physician relationships, you’ll also benefit from acquiring individuals who are ahead of the curve in terms of technology.

“COVID-19 has changed how we invest in our marketing budgets. Digital spend is up,” noted Romp. “One of the benefits of a digital approach is the ability to quickly access metrics to assess its effectiveness. Digital marketing provides a clear understanding of what’s resonating with physicians and allows us to scale and expand what truly works.”

It’s no secret that digital tools can track clusters of diseases in a specific geographic area. Leveraging web search data, sales and marketing teams can see spikes in a certain condition among a specific population. This happened early in the pandemic when web searches for symptoms revealed where COVID-19 was surging before physicians even knew it.

Early adopters understand marketing and sales technologies and know how to use them to engage physicians and patients at the time of treatment decisions in the most effective way. These are the people you will want to enhance your sales team.

Read the full article for more.


[1] Reinventing Relevance, New Models for Pharma Engagement with Healthcare Providers in a COVID-19 World, Accenture Healthcare Provider Survey May 2020, https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/PDF-130/Accenture-HCP-Survey-v4.pdf#zoom=40

[2] The Impact of Covid-19  on Manufacturers’ Commercial Model, Numerof & Associates, December 2020  https://info.nai-consulting.com/acton/attachment/5655/f-6a353041-b931-4c47-b816-67c863dd07af/1/-/-/-/-/Numerof%20Commerical%20Model%20Report%20-%20December%202020.pdf

[3] Reinventing Relevance, New Models for Pharma Engagement with Healthcare Providers in a COVID-19 World, Accenture Healthcare Provider Survey May 2020, https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/PDF-130/Accenture-HCP-Survey-v4.pdf#zoom=40

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