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Archive for April, 2013

ID-10087536I know, I know – we’ve seen lots of articles with titles like this in past. For many years, the imminent death of the pharmaceutical salesperson has been forecast.

And, for good reason – taking into account increasing government takeover of healthcare decisions, past shady sales practices, and the unwillingness or inability of many doctors to even see reps anymore, these are not great times for the pharma sales industry. I’ve seen incredible cutbacks in staff over recent years.

But, for now, the role of the sales rep continues. So we come to the question: what does the future hold?

I think the best way to approach this question is to broaden it and link it to the larger movements (I call them trend currents, as opposed to current trends) that are shaping business and culture.

So, let’s consider this question: What is happening to the role of face-to-face information exchange in all of life and business? Especially, what will be the role of person-to-person exchanges of information that can be easily accessed by other means?

If I want to know about a drug, do I have to wait for the right sales rep to drop by? Or can I, with a few clicks on a tablet, find what I need in real-time (without a potentially biased presentation)? How many of us research information on-line now, that we used to discover only through person-to-person interactions?

If I can use a (free) search engine to point out the facets of knowledge I’m seeking, do I need someone to point out those knowledge bits on a glossy piece of paper, or on their company-issued tablet?

If I can get an e-detail whenever I want it, why would I prefer the model of having people interrupt the office flow in the middle of the day to give a pitch?

Take these principles and apply them to every industry outside of pharmaceuticals, and you’ll see that we are undergoing a major change in the way we communicate and do business. It’s called disintermediation (removal of non-value-adding layers between us and what we need). Every time you use Amazon.com, and not a brick-and-mortar store, you are living in this trend current.

It’s not that face-to-face interactions don’t have value (they do), it’s just that the broader trends across the entire landscape of our culture are driving us to real-time connectivity to whatever we need – especially in the realm of knowledge.

Is pharma sales dead? I don’t think so. But I think it’s losing the race of relevance in our current technology and business climate. Which means we’re going to have to re-think the model – fast.

Your two cents?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Why aren’t companies bolder to differentiate themselves?

Once again, this morning, I came across a website for a digital (pharma/healthcare) agency. And, once again, there was the familiar list of bullet points, similar to this:

  • Digital Strategy
  • Web Analytics
  • Creative Services
  • Digital Sales Aids
  • Audio/Video Aids
  • eLearning
  • E-Mail Marketing
  • Microsites, Campaign and Brand Websites
  • HCP Social Media
  • Medical Animation
  • Mobile/iPad Development
  • Application Development
  • Web Development
  • Social Media
  • SEO/SEM

PenguinsWeDoThatIt could have been any of a number of such firms, because most of them claim to do – well, everything. Just like all the others.

Yes, I understand that agencies want to give the impression of being a one-stop shop so more marketing dollars can flow into their coffers. You’re afraid to miss out on some piece of work because the net is not wide enough. So you do bullet-point marketing. But at what price?

You’re now just like everyone else. “Will Work for Revenue.” There’s a biz-ugly word for that: Commodity.

In my Vendor Selection workshop, I show a web page with a very similar “we do it all” bullet point approach to training solutions. It’s disingenuous, really. Nobody does 10-12 disparate things well. And customers instinctively know it.

I’ll tell my pharma clients the dirty little secret: vendors may be ABLE to do 5-10 things, but typically, they’re going to do 1-2 things really well. That’s the differentiator. And, when doing clarity consulting with small companies and individuals, I say the same thing. Narrow your message down to your uniqueness; don’t broaden it to everyone else’s generalities.

It’s actually quite a liberating experience to move away from the broad message, where you’re competing with everyone; and instead, defining and promoting your unique offering.

It’s best not to lead with the 5-10 things. Clients cannot remember you for that – you will be dumped right into the commodity bin of their memory banks, soon to be deleted. Instead, lead with your tangible, demonstrable differentiator and build your message around that. Become a trusted supplier of something you excel at, and maybe the door will open later to some of the other things that you do.

“We’ll Do Whatever!” is not a message that sets you apart in the minds of your clients. Focus. Differentiate. De-commoditize.

Unlike everybody else!

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Impactiviti is happy to announce the finalized version of the very first pharmaceutical Training Vendor Map template (static screen shot below).

ImpactivitiVendorMapFinal

This comprehensive spreadsheet will enable any training department to fully map out its landscape of outsource suppliers, by category and sub-category, in order to better classify existing vendors and identify needs for new suppliers.

How many times have people asked, “Who’s a good vendor for _____?” The Vendor Map allows you to bring all this scattered information together!

Used in conjunction with the Vendor Funnel, we now have a comprehensively designed approach to rationalizing the entire vendor selection process – saving a ton of time, trouble, and needlessly duplicated effort.

There are 10 major buckets (spreadsheet tabs) under which your vendors can be arranged:

  • Training Development
  • Strategy
  • Live Training
  • Technology Platforms
  • Sales Skills
  • Management & Leadership
  • Compliance & Human Capital
  • Trainer Skills
  • Specialized Training
  • Specialized Services

…and under each of those buckets there are sub-categories. For instance, under Specialized Training, there are columns for: Managed Markets | Federal Government Accounts | Marketing Training | MSL/Medical Affairs Training | Direct to HCP or Customer Training

BONUS: There is also a template for arranging your content development vendors by therapeutic specialty – making it much easier for members of your department to select potential suppliers based on areas of proven capabilities.

Want a copy? Just e-mail me (stevew at impactiviti.com) and I’ll send it along.

I extend thanks to the many folks – on both the client and vendor side – who contributed valuable input during the development of the Vendor Map tool. It is a version 1, so it’s not perfect; but, since it’s a spreadsheet, you can adapt it to the needs of your department. And, because Impactiviti’s business is to make vendor recommendations, I am happy to assist you in filling out your map, including making recommendations of targeted vendors for any needs you identify.

By the way, if you have colleagues attending the upcoming SPBT (Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers) conference, this is a great tool to help intelligently plan, in advance, targeted visits in the vendor exhibition hall. Impactiviti can help you with that process as well.

>> Speaking of Vendor Selection/Management – did you know that SPBT and Impactiviti are sponsoring another public Successful Vendor Management full-day workshop for biopharma training professionals on May 9th? Go here for all the details, and to register your training managers!

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During recent Vendor/Project Success workshops for clients, I’ve been describing a process that can help alleviate a constant issue that pops up – not having the right vendors properly categorized and lined up when a specific need arises.

In other words, a project comes up, and the question is raised, “To whom can we send this RFP (request for proposal)?” Then suggestions are hastily sought as to potentially workable vendors.

Unfortunately, that means that some vendors are walking in the door for the first time, in the midst of a high-stakes process, AND they may not already be in your paperwork system as a supplier. This creates headaches getting a project off the ground; or, in some cases, simply disqualifies the best candidate because the time crunch is too short – so the project goes to a sub-optimal incumbent vendor.

Here is how to fix that. I call it the 3P Vendor Funnel.

3PVendorFunnel

At one point in time, every department needs to create its pool of potential preferred suppliers (I recommend that this pool be refreshed annually, as new vendors and needs appear, and as current suppliers decline in favor). This can be done through a RFI (Request For Information) process, whereby you seek out possible vendors that you may want to consider for the year ahead, and have them present themselves in a general, non-volatile format (that is, a big project is not on the line). The goal here is to gain familiarity with the vendor, and especially to narrow down to one or two areas of core strength. All vendors in the pool can then be placed in your Vendor Map (see this blog post), according to capability, therapeutic experience, project scope, etc.

Potentially desirable vendors at this point commence the paperwork (Master Services Agreement or equivalent) process so that they are already in the administrative system when it is time to choose vendors and allocate work.

Once the Vendor Map is established/refreshed, and a project needs to be resourced, you have already established a short-list of suitable vendors by core capability, so that the number of RFPs issued can be limited and well-targeted. This saves everyone – especially vendors – a lot of time, trouble, and angst. You really only want proposals from optimal potential providers anyway – it wastes everybody’s time to have a Request for Proposal filled out, to sit through a solution presentation – and then to conclude that the vendor really isn’t even in the ballpark. Or, worse, if time is very short, that a desirable new vendor has to now grind through the entire MSA system.

I recommend that a Decision Grid be used to evaluate vendor presentations (I have a sample – feel free to ask and I’ll forward). This helps make any kind of team evaluation of presentations more systematic and objective.

Finally, the process to Pick a supplier is far more efficiently reached, and the movement to contracting is not delayed because the vendor is already part of the pool.

POOL – PROJECT – PICK.

Make sense? Having been on the vendor side of the fence for many years, and having experienced many….shall we say….sub-optimal RFP processes, I can assure you that an approach like this is better for EVERYone involved. It just takes some proactive planning. I can provide a brief consulting engagement for clients that would like assistance setting up their vendor map and filling their vendor pool with recommended partners. Just call 973-947-7429 and let’s talk….

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