Jan 1, 1970 - Jan 1, 1970,

Yes We KAM! Why Key Account Managers are the Future of Pharma Sales

Zuzanna Fiminska speaks to Domenic Maccarone, Senior Sales Director of Lundbeck Canada about the emergence of Key Account Managers and why they'll continue to play a pivotal role in Pharma Sales.

“A Key Account Manager (KAM) is a big-thinker who considers the overall benefit to the company, and not just their territory,” says Domenic Maccarone, Senior Sales Director at Lundbeck Canada about the ideal candidate for the position that aims to increase patient-access to your products.


Key Account Managers are field representatives who target a group of different customers within, for example, hospitals aiming to increase the company’s access on a local level. According to McKinsey & Company, KAM is a topic on the mind of most senior leaders in the pharmaceutical industry, with nearly every pharma sales conference hosting a breakout session dedicated to KAM, and most organizations having some form of a KAM.

You have to identify who your different stakeholders are, and what their needs are

What used to be a fragmented customer base, made up of individual prescribers and scattered hospital landscape, is now coming together. For example, in Switzerland, individual prescribers are handing over decision-making to physician networks. In other countries, individual hospitals are creating centrally-managed hospital chains, changing the rules of negotiation relationships with the industry.

“You have to identify who your different stakeholders are, and what their needs are. You have to be able to provide solutions. You need to collaborate with different people within your own organization to make sure that everybody is working toward the common objective,” Maccarone commented on the trends that created a demand for someone who can do more than just sell drugs.

“It's a job for someone who knows how to move things along, with good interpersonal skills, able to work with a group of people,” he added.

KAMs are responsible for creating plans specific to the accounts that consider long-term goals of an entire portfolio of products offered by a company, not just a single drug, like in the case of sales representatives. They collect information on key players and develop long-term relationships with them, draft and negotiate contracts, and guide initiatives that their company launches to target the particular account.

“It's like managing a project, where you bring in several of players, not only sales reps, but also your medical science liaison, and other people able to provide information that the hospitals are looking for, helping them through the decision-making process, so at the end you get your product on a hospital formulary,” Maccarone explained.

Unlike traditional sales reps – who worked on their own, and needed excellent sales skills, product and disease knowledge – for KAM ability to navigate complex environments, negotiate, and oversee teams are key to success. Getting products on a hospital formulary is a priority, as without that product demand in a given region is less than satisfactory.

“If a patient, who takes your product outside hospital, gets into an ER, and your product is not on the formulary, he will be put on something else. In other cases, when they need medication from the same class, if your product is not on a formulary, they'll get put on something else,” Maccarone elaborated. Hospitals represent 11% of the pharmaceutical business in Canada, and have a significant influence on prescribing patterns of physicians in a given region, a KAM is expected to overcome stumbling blocks and go all the way up to the regional level where decisions for hospitals are made.

“More coverage of our products on a hospital formulary means having greater sales in the community. A physician, who sees that a drug has been put on a hospital formulary, [meaning] it went through thorough testing required for hospital approval, gains confidence in the product.”

But hospitals are not the only key accounts. Patient medical homes (PMH), a type of practice that embraces multidisciplinary approach to medicine, providing comprehensive and continuous care, have recently started to emerge. In Ontario alone, their services reach 2.7 million patients (20% of the population), but gaining access to them has proven difficult for individual sales reps. PMHs provide a challenge for KAMs who have an opportunity to become their long-term partners.

The timing is right to step up the activity in calling on the head offices of chain pharmacies

At the same time, pharmacies are becoming much bigger stakeholders too, following new regulations that allow prices of generic drugs to go down by 25% (instead of 90% as previously), once the exclusive rights have run out. Another change is the reduction of promotional allowances, which have been reduced to 20% in some provinces, and in others, e.g. Ontario, eliminated entirely.

“It used to be that those generic companies were able to form partnerships with pharmacy chains, but with the new legislation, the pharmacies [are more interested] in working with brand companies. The timing is right to step up the activity in calling on [the head offices of chain pharmacies]. It’s a triple-win situation, as patients benefit here as well.”

The shift from sales representatives to key account managers means that the industry is moving away from talking about their products, and toward discussing the needs of their customers. They are learning to recognize problems and develop solutions that benefit all stakeholders involved, which is necessary for players who want to keep up with the changing landscape of healthcare providers. Nevertheless, the journey toward KAMs, although promising, is not easy. While the definition of an effective KAM is still evolving, it’s important to recognize that it entails entrepreneurship, an opportunity-driven mindset, and companies that are willing to provide their employees with autonomy, resources and support.

Domenic Maccarone will be speaking at our Sales Excellence Canada Summit this June in Toronto. For more information about his presentation or to see the full lineup visit the official website.

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Jan 1, 1970 - Jan 1, 1970,