The Big Squeeze
Posted: 09.01.05 - By Michelle Maisto

olutions for automating mobile sales forces abound. When it comes to automating pharmaceutical sales, however, vendors of pharma-specific solutions are quick to make clear that their very distinct market demands very distinct solutions, in large part because the customer isn’t the average customer, and the reps aren’t exactly “selling.” In the realm of pharmaceutical sales, says Dale Hagemeyer, a research director with Gartner, “When I say, ‘sell more,’ I mean, ‘persuade doctors to prescribe more.’”

Increasing prescriptions is the ultimate goal, and the numerous pharma-focused SFA offerings assist reps in this specific pursuit. Within this niche, however, the differences are often subtle, and a manager may be forgiven for not immediately knowing which solution will offer his sales team the greater advantage. How to choose? “It’s so basic,” explains Hagemeyer. “There is no competitive advantage.”

SFA solutions no longer offer a significant competitive advantage, he explains; instead, the advantage, today, is in including an SFA solution as “one spoke in the wheel of your capabilities” and using those combined capabilities to make the most of your time in front of the doctor.

There are a few subtle differentiators, Hagemeyer concedes. “But for field sales automation, the first thing you have to understand is, it’s sort of like a sinking ship. I may have the nicest cabin on the sinking ship, but it’s still on a sinking ship. When I started covering this space four years ago, you got four to five minutes with a doctor. Today, you get two. The second thing is, all the other companies are trying to get their reps in there, too. Plus, there are more drugs than ever. They didn’t know what cholesterol was in the ’60s, they didn’t know what schizophrenia was, they didn’t know what erectile dysfunction was,” he says wryly. “Now there’s a drug for everything.”

The first differentiator, offers Hagemeyer, is ergonomics, in both software and hardware—“Some are just a little easier to use.” If a rep runs into a doctor and has a solution on a PDA, it’s easy to pull it out, turn it on with a single tap and quickly show a few slides; with a laptop, that exchange is less possible. “I think it’s also important to weave in here that there’s a difference between sales effectiveness and sales efficiency,” says Hagemeyer. “Sales efficiency means using one screen instead of flipping between two screens. Sales effectiveness is I walk into your office with the right message at the right time. That way I have maximum control of the physician during those 120 seconds.”

A second differentiator is targeting. “Sometimes it’s called analytics. That gets into predictive modeling and a good understanding of causality. So instead of saying, ‘I’m going to the northwest suburb of Dallas,’ you can say, ‘Where should I go today? Where is the greatest concentration of doctors that I haven’t seen in a long time?’ So you can apply rationale and reasoning: ‘Where can I go to apply the squeeze to yield the juice?’”

A third example is detailing, which is “not in the SFA, per se, it’s in the other media you can use to reach the doctor. I walk into your office and say, ‘Dr. Maisto, do you know about this drug? Want to read more about it? OK?’ And I tap on the screen of my gizmo and it automatically cues up a job to send you a URL or a PDF file [depending on your preference]. And as soon as I cradle my device tonight, it’ll process that order and send you the URL, which will invite you to set up a password and get details online.”

Hagemeyer follows that with an example of a doctor who calls a call center because she’s out of samples. “The call center agent takes that call, pulls it up, sees the rep is Hagemeyer and tasks me with dropping off the samples. … We call that multi-channel CRM,” he says, “meaning that you’re using the combination of the call center, the Web and field sales, and they all have visibility together. If I go
out to see you and I say, ‘I hear you called the
call center. I just wanted to make sure your question was answered to your satisfaction. Was it? Yes? Great. Now let me tell you what I have for you today.’ So you can have your SFA, but you also have it linked into all of those other capabilities that wrap themselves around it to make it more efficient. If you only have SFA, you only have one view of the customer. You don’t have visibility into the call center or other things to have that one cohesive view to maximize those two minutes.”

Considering the Options

Mobile Pharma, from iAnywhere, is a customizable, packaged software application for Windows Pocket PC and Palm devices that offers always-available access (company literature says it’s the only one to offer this feature) to SFA systems, CRM, Web and legacy apps. With an available adapter, Mobile Pharma can also support Siebel 2000 and Siebel 7. These abilities, says Lubos Parobek, senior product manager for Sybase’s iAnywhere Solutions, make it specifically suited for pharma.

“One of the things that’s real important in the pharma space is the ability to get to a variety of different enterprise systems, and this is one area where [pharma] is rather unique, compared to other verticals,” says Parobek, echoing Hagemeyer’s allusion to SFA as a spoke in the wheel. “For example, CRM is almost always part of the mix. So almost any pharma organization you go to will have a Dendrite or a Siebel CRM system installed. And that’ll have physician information, it’ll often have info about the call details, about the meetings reps are having, but often there’ll be other info that won’t be included in there. A good example is samples information, which is often kept in other systems [such as] Sample Guardian from Dendrite. So a pharma organization might have their CRM system or their physician information on Siebel, but then they’ll have their samples information in Dendrite.”

Siebel Systems is the number one provider of solutions world wide, optimizing people, processes and technology across numerous industries. Siebel also offers a specific pharma solution, Siebel Pharma, which it claims is the only “comprehensive suite of multi-channel business software specifically designed to meet the unique needs of the pharmaceutical industry.” The suite contains eight complete components (sales; service; call center; analytics, marketing and e-marketing; handheld; wireless; customer- and partner-facing applications; and healthcare), allowing enterprises to capture customer interactions in all their manifestations.

Dendrite, conversely, focuses solely on pharma solutions and counts the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies among its clients. During the ’90s, there was a call for greater functionality, and Dendrite responded by observing the way reps in the field interacted with physicians and then creating solutions based on “human-centered design principles,” explains Drew Bustos, director of marketing at Dendrite. The resulting Mobile Intelligence solution offers robust sales force effectiveness, or SFE, capabilities, which enhances usability and maximizes a rep’s efficiency, among other features. Through Dendrite’s Sample Guardian application, a pharma company’s home office personnel can account for and reconcile every single sample, as dictated by federal regulations.

iAnywhere is distinct from its competitors in several ways, says Parobek. “Our differentiation around our Smart Client architecture comes in a couple different areas. One way is reliability. We’re a vendor that has done the most in this area. … We’re on our fifth version of our sync engine architecture.”

He continues, “We focus on a couple of areas to make sure we’ve got the easiest application to use. One is just pure speed on the device. As you use it, the responsiveness should be instantaneous. It’s something we’ve gotten used to with PCs, but on handheld devices, dealing with limited processors, that’s not always the case, especially with the large data sets [common to pharma].” Another focus is having a user interface that mimics the Web. “We use buttons that are visible on the screen—you don’t have to go to the toolbars to find them. And we have hyperlinks to indicate that you can jump to another record that’s related to what you’re looking at. So we’ve really put a lot of focus there, as well as workflow capabilities—the ability to take lots of information and divide it between a series of screens in a very intelligent way. That’s something we’ve really focused on because we’ve seen in some other industries the data requirements aren’t as large; you have one or two screens for a call and that’s OK. But in pharma, we often see 10, 20 screens required, and you want to be able to deliver those screens in a really cost-effective way.”

Educated Consumer

When it’s time to buy, what are the key points to consider? “Absolutely having access to a variety of backend systems is key,” says Parobek. “You’re going to want to tie into the popular CRM systems, you’re going to want to be able to plug into and access Web content, and you’re going to want to be able to go to hosted data providers like ProMetrics, for example, or IMS Health, which provide doctors’ prescribing habits, which is a really important piece of data for the reps. That’s absolutely critical.”

Hagemeyer seconds the need for plugging into this data. “Where the market is going is into closed-loop systems,” he explains. By purchasing syndicated data—the published statistics of which physicians are prescribing which drugs—a rep can know which sales methods (postcards vs. e-mails vs. office visits, etc.) are working better than others and adjust his or her tactics accordingly, says Hagemeyer. “So I applied the squeeze on Dr. Jones, and Dr. Jones then gave you the prescription. So I keep applying the squeeze, measuring the juice and tweaking to optimize it. That’s closed-loop.”

That said, Parobek offers these additional considerations: Make sure your vendor supports a wide range of devices on the platform that you want to use. Pay attention to performance—you want it to be fast in the field, because that will greatly affect adoption. Go with a solution that’s easy and cost-effective to deploy and maintain. “Any of this is doable with an infinite budget, but you’re going to want a solution that’s very packaged and that enables you to tap into different resources and deploy quickly and cost-effectively,” he says.

Effective pharma sales requires more than just
the mobile application. “You must optimize the two minutes you have with the doctor,” Hagemeyer stresses. “SFA has to be a component of a multichannel solution. You have to have more.” •


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