COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the way in which the pharmaceutical and medical technology industry has been operating in 2020. Fast-tracked product development cycles, escalating demand for COVID-19 products and fully utilized production capabilities have significantly altered the focus of some organizations, as the industry plays its part in addressing this global pandemic. For others, especially those without COVID-19 related product portfolio, the pandemic has tremendous negative impact on their business. However, companies are equally impacted by the need to put staff health first, reduce exposure and find new ways of working to maintain productivity under new constraints.
No area has felt this more acutely than the sales force, where reduction of face to face engagement has effectively grounded a large proportion of sales activities in many organizations.
Despite the enormous uncertainty, the prolongation of mitigation measures appears to be the most likely scenario. Restricted access to hospitals and doctors could potentially continue post COVID-19, as part of a broader trend of tightening regulations. This is increasingly turning a spotlight on the preparedness of different sales forces to engage through digital channels – more prepared organizations are leveraging their advantage, whilst others are rapidly searching for innovative solutions to address the impact of reduced interactions on overall sales volumes.
The level of preparedness, however, also depends on the country-specific digital readiness. Given their level of investments, their available human capital or their technological infrastructures, countries like Singapore, Luxembourg or the US seem to be better prepared to leverage the opportunities brought by the digital transformation, while others, like Germany, France or Canada, still have to keep up the pace.
COVID-19 is challenging and accelerating the evolution of the Pharma G2M model. It also presents an opportunity to re-consider the fundamental ‘truths’ that define the traditional engagement model - to assess whether these ‘truths’ best support organizations now, and whether they should be evolved to drive success into the future.
The traditional engagement model in pharmaceuticals is underpinned by five widely accepted ‘truths’:
Adherence to these ‘truths’ specifies the current engagement model - it relies heavily on interpersonal contact as a method of establishing strong sales relationships and competitive advantage:
However, this model has become increasingly less fruitful, as regulations are tightening and the window to access doctors, pharmacists or clinical procurement managers is narrowing. In parallel, doctors are increasingly reaching out to alternate, more objective sources of information. Especially online resources providing access to other physicians, curated content on the newest developments in their field or medical education material are in great demand. This trend is likely to continue as the generational change in the medical profession – within the next decade 2 in 5 physicians in the US will be over 65 and likely to retire – will spawn a new generation of digitally-focused physicians.
COVID-19 has further exposed the issues in the current engagement model and accelerated its evolution, leading into a new, more digitally enabled future. In discussions with key industry stakeholders on this topic, Strategy& has identified that whilst not being obsolete yet, the five ‘truths’ have evolved to better serve and define the modern engagement model:
What should we take away from these observations? Based on a reassessment of the current pharmaceutical G2M model, Strategy& has identified 6 key takeaways:
Edward Hamer has also contributed to this article.