We all know the industry sales model has changed and now industry buzz has it that the sales rep is a fading memory in this new multi-channel model, with digital technologies replacing human interaction.

True, digital and other forms of non-personal outreach are an increasing part of the communication mix, but to jump to the notion that reps are no longer needed is truly throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Although the old model is no longer effective, the core of that model—human interaction— is vital to our future.

LEVERAGING THE TECHNOLOGY

The beauty of digital communication is the media’s ability to, on-the-fly, tailor messaging to the specific interests of the physician based on data compiled from that physician’s, or similar physicians’, prior interactions. And, to do so more cost-effectively than a personal detail.

So you may ask: If digital technology can be so effective, why do we need reps? The key to successful multi-channel marketing is having someone orchestrate the various outreach tactics to meet the individual needs of the target. And who better to do this than someone who has built up a relationship with the target through personal details?

Many physicians still prefer some human contact, but it needs to be contact when and where they want it. Therefore, to be effective in the multi-channel mix, sales reps must leverage the technology at their disposal, actually becoming the outreach leader. They need to own the technology, not be threatened by it. Once they do, there are tremendous synergies to be gained in driving brand lift. Indeed, some of our client engagements have shown a 60% higher brand usage rate among physicians receiving digital and personal details over those receiving digital outreach alone.

DRIVING OUTREACH

Certainly the push is on to integrate these online and offline tactics. There are some pilots and small programs where online content delivery is becoming a connector to a live detail and vice versa. A typical program could look like this:

Through data mining, a company has honed in on targets able to prescribe their brand. During a detail to one of these targets, the rep learns that the physician is interested in the science behind new findings related to the brand but does not have time during the detail to review it all with the rep. So the rep invites the physician via email to a KOL-led webcast on the topic, giving the physician the flexibility to learn more when he is able. After watching the webcast, the physician has additional questions and goes to a website where the topic is explored further. This activity is captured on the database to which the rep has access. As a result, the rep schedules the appropriate follow-up, such as an invitation to a digital presentation or a live video conference, or a telesales call to send samples and additional scientific studies. In the rep’s next detail, there are tremendous opportunities to engage the physician, since the rep has appropriately met his needs and therefore further strengthened the relationship.

GROWING UP

So in this love affair we have with technology, we need to remember that although details benefit significantly from digital support, it is important that technology remains in the supportive, not lead, position for primary brands. For instance, a rep should never walk in with their iPad turned on, ready to fire away. Nor should they rely solely on digital outreach tactics to get the job done. The human element of the interaction should drive the exchange and so allow this baby to grow into a full-fledged adult.

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