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Despite advances in the digital age, sales reps still prefer a traditional approach to their marketing strategy. So how should they go about integrating face-to-face interactions with digital technologies such as Cloud storage and tablets? How can they better involve multi-channel marketing in their day-to-day activities.

The time of sales representatives descending on GP surgeries in their hordes is dying out. But that’s not to say their services are no longer required: in fact, the representative is still a key figure in the marketing of a new drug.

Sales reps have seen a number of changes over recent years, including key account management and the deployment of field-based market access teams. But to keep up with the times the Pharma industry also needs to introduce changes in line with the continuing evolevment of technology and the digital world.

Julian Tompkins, regional president of Ashfield Commercial and Medical Services, told PME that as downsizing has bottomed out, another approach needs to be taken: “Across Europe, lots of companies have cut quite deeply – in some cases up to 50% - but many are now in a phase where new opportunities are emerging and they’re looking to reinvest in sales resources.

“The most progressive companies are resisting the temptation to revert back towards a bloated headcount and are instead resourcing sales much more flexibly.” Tompkins suggests that companies are increasingly considering different channels in an attempt to supplement the activity of the field force while making it more efficient and cost-effective.

However, new technologies will never be able to replace the response gained from face-to-face interactions between the sales rep and the buyer. Alex Idea, principal commercial analytics at IMS Health, said: “As the industry’s customer-base has expanded, companies now fully recognise the need to understand why each stakeholder is important, and how they must tailor their communications in line with the diverse needs of individual influencers.

“However, in some organisations, marketers go through the process of stakeholder mapping with real rigour- but conclude by writing job profiles that ask representatives to perform in exactly the same ways that they would have done five years ago. The tendency to lapse back into old, familiar habits is a barrier to multichannel progress.”

A multi-channel marketing approach is required for the sales force to move forward, involving a range of both digital and face-to-face interactions across a variety of channels, in order to help build the relationships required and better communications between both sides.

Although Pharma is putting these multi-channel marketing approaches into place, they are still operating them in silos, according to Jan van den Burg, VP commercial strategy at Veeva Systems: “To progress, everything needs to be integrated across all channels. Interaction information rarely makes it back to the rep. The most effective models provide the representative – or anyone with customer-facing responsibilities – with full end-to-end visibility of all interactions.”

By allowing representatives to easily view all interactions across the sales process, they have the ability to develop a more informed and viable marketing strategy.

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