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Adapting to the Evolution: Pharmaceutical Field Force in the Digital Age

Written by Peter Gasteiger, Partner AIMS Switzerland 

Undeniably, the role of pharmaceutical field sales must be fundamentally different from what it used to be when it was relatively easy to schedule face-to-face appointments with doctors, organize events at prestigious locations, and have more staff primarily discussing products using printed advertising and informational materials. 

Now, things have changed: 

  1. Most interactions with decision-makers take place online, often combined with (multimedia) presentations. 
  2. Product information is much more readily available on the internet compared to before. Consequently, discussions now tend to focus on other, highly customized questions (medical, economic, health policy-related, etc.). Effective relationship management, catering to customers’ (changed) needs and expectations, remains crucial. How can one best support them? What do they want? Empathy is required, especially towards healthcare professionals who are rarely asked how they are doing, while they tirelessly care for patients day in and day out. 
  3. The range of contacts has broadened, though it still depends on the product and indication: not just doctors anymore but also hospital pharmacists, managers, nursing staff, etc. The first step is figuring out who is the best point of contact (and potentially in what order) – the famous stakeholder mapping in a strategic sales concept. The expectations of all these players, from their respective viewpoints, vary, necessitating tailored communication strategies and content. 
  4. Using the right tools provides a clear competitive advantage. In other words, digital competence, considering AI, to compactly and comprehensibly convey new and targeted information. Ideally, it’s a combination of ‘digital & people’ – it’s not either/or, but both: IT-savvy, well-informed employees. 
  5. All of this also significantly impacts the performance evaluation of the sales team (the KPIs relevant for bonus calculations).   

In summary, in my opinion, the pharmaceutical field force will remain important. However, different and additional skills are required due to increased complexity, a different focus, and a new environment. Meeting the requirements described above is challenging, but it’s also promising: both from the employees’ perspective, who have an interesting job, and that of their employers. 

At AIMS International, we understand the evolving landscape of the life science industry. With over 20 years of experience, our global team of experts is well-equipped to assist clients in your local market. We provide boutique-style quality on a global scale when it comes to both finding and growing leaders. Our industry and functional expertise apply to all markets, no matter the challenges posed by the changing conditions. Contact us to learn more.