How to achieve sales force and marketing excellence

Ian Thompson, managing director of Amgen Australia, on the challenges of ensuring excellence throughout a pharma sales and marketing organization People who work in the pharmaceutical indus

Ian Thompson, managing director of Amgen Australia, on the challenges of ensuring excellence throughout a pharma sales and marketing organization

People who work in the pharmaceutical industry are generally smart and well educated, with an ability to grasp complicated industry dynamics and medical products.

Theyre also usually hardworking and well paid, which means its natural for them to think of themselves as excellent at their jobs.

The truth, according to Ian Thompson, managing director of Amgen Australia, is more sobering.

We all think were doing a great job, Thompson told the audience at eyeforpharmas Marketing Excellence and Analytics conference in Sydney, Australia.

But if you actually use the metrics by which they analyze excellence in sales and marketing, [excellence] turns out to be quite elusive.


Lackluster launches

Superior product launches are one area for which we tend to give ourselves too much credit, according to Thompson.

An IMS Research special report in 2007 identified only 21 out of 3,081 launches as being excellent.

A similar report in 2009 identified 35 out of 4,000.

The criteria for launch excellence are initial uptake, return on promotion investments, and market share leadership.

IMS defines excellent market share leadership as holding the number one or two spot within two years.

We all know that the launch window is tight, said Thompson.

Getting that trajectory right at launch is key.

Robust segmentation, which is essential for identifying early adopters, can help, said Thompson, as can diversifying sales targets beyond physicians.

Dont just call on prescribers but also the hospital formulary team, the CEOs, CFOs, the administration team, Thompson said, because thats where the decisions get made today.


The myth of customer satisfaction

Another area where we think we excel but rarely do is customer satisfaction.

Were a little bit deluded about how good we are with our customers, Thompson said.

Bain conducted a customer growth study that found a 72 percent delivery gap between companies that believe they provide a superior experience and companies whose customers agree. 

A second finding was that, on average, companies whose customers do experience superior treatment exhibit seven percent larger annual net profit growth.

Its therefore critical to deliver, rather than delude yourself about, excellent customer service.

Thompson said to do so pharma sales people must view the world from their customers perspectives and determine their points of pain and delight.

This is about peeling the onion, Thompson said.

You really have to deeply understand what the customers motivations and needs are.

Pharma reps also need a dose of reality about their own performance, Thompson said.

If they believe they perform at a seven or an eight out of 10, the motivation to get to a nine or 10 isnt that great.

But if were honest with ourselves and stop colluding with ourselves and say you know what, Im probably just a four, the motivation and the action plan to move to a six or a seven is great.


Embrace technology

A final area of faltering excellence is overall business performance.

The pharmaceutical industry has arrived at an inflection point, Thompson said, where current ways of doing business have begun to offer diminishing returns.

Companies now face a number of options.

They can put [their] heads in the sand and continue as usual, as Thompson put it, and drive themselves into obsolescence.

They can improve current processes and modelsprofiling, frequency, segmentationwhich will help maintain or minimize decline but may not be enough to ensure a successful future.

Or they can change the game completely, which is what excellence requires but few companies have seized.

The reality is that none of us volunteer for change, Thompson said.

Most of us would prefer to keep things as normal. We get good at what we do, so our appetite for change [diminishes].

One key to affecting change and attaining excellence into the future is embracing technology, Thompson said.

The number of hits successful blogs and websites get is staggering, as is the speed with which popular apps can spread on smartphones.

Pharma companies are yet to fully commit to online channels, but the future will require it.


Winning over senior leadership

Another key to instituting changeperhaps the keyis winning over senior leadership.

Whether the goal is shifting focus from the physician to the payer and formulary holder or streamlining internal organization to ensure full brand support, change wont happen unless general managers and those above them agree.

The bosss boss and the bosss bosss boss will determine how enthusiastically change is adopted, Thompson said.

And since those bosses have risen to a position of leadership by way of old processes and models, its difficultbut essentialto get them fully on board.

For more on using online channels, see How to get ROI from social media.


For more on the Australian pharma market, check out the upcoming conference Sales Excellence & Business Intelligence Australia.


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