More than 100 people contracted COVID-19 at a Biogen management meeting in February of 2020 sparking the spread of the virus in Massachusetts. Amarin, Amgen and Merck announced their plans to halt in-person sales interactions shortly thereafter and most other biopharma companies followed suit. The pandemic has changed the biopharma sales rep role through the increasing utilization of virtual sales meetings.
Even without the change brought on by the pandemic, biopharma sales reps were facing more and more restrictions on their access to doctors in their offices or at hospitals. Everest Group reported that the amount of time, access and influence hospitals have been willing to grant biopharma sales reps has been dropping for some time now. DRG’s 2019 annual ePharma Physician Report reported that 54% of physician respondents said they saw biopharma sales reps in person in 2019 down from 67% in 2018. The pandemic is accelerating a trend that was already happening and heading toward the use of digital detailing permanently.
Not all biopharma firms were ready for the shift to virtual engagement. There has been a wide degree of variance in the maturity of the virtual healthcare provider’s engagement capabilities. Here are some suggestions for how to pivot to a virtual pharma sales model.
Take the money saved on travel and organizing and hosting conferences and other sales gatherings and divert it to investments in IT that supports digital engagement and content creation.
Engage Technology Partners
Source CRM solutions that are created for healthcare provider engagement. Make sure they are capable of being implemented quickly and are scalable solutions that offer omni-channel (email, web, mobile) and personalized engagement.
Content delivered virtually needs to be more engaging, more detailed and easy to consume. Live videos, webinars and web/mobile portals are a must. The more personalized the content the greater the conversion rate. Content must be compelling enough that the healthcare consumer will read it on their own time.
Train Sales Reps
Vendors should provide training to the sales reps as well as the marketing and other support staff utilizing the CRM tool. Time saved on travel and sitting in waiting rooms needs to be used to draft strategies for more engaging interactions using new tools.
Is the pandemic change to the biopharma sales rep role the new normal? “It remains to be seen whether the current extraordinary and testing circumstances will push humanity further into virtual space with little hope to go back to where we were before the pandemic struck,” said Valentina Gburcik, Senior Director at GlobalData.