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Need for A Comprehensive Sales Force Automation Solution

It has been close to a decade now that Sales Force Automation (SFA) colloquially termed as mobile reporting was accepted as a sales force enabler for the pharmaceutical industry.

Mostly, the objective behind such (SFA) implementation was to use technology as sales supervision tool. Also, it (SFA) eased out chemist order booking and submission process, especially in countries like Bangladesh where the companies did the distribution itself.

Such bracketing, in our view, limits the scope of SFA both in terms of implementation and outcome.

So let us ask – What will make an “effective” SFA?

The answer could be a set of criteria mentioned below:

  1. Capability in the solution to enable good delivery of effort-be it calls, detailing, sampling etc.
  2. Capability to track and measure the effort almost real-time
  3. Cost of the efforts as well, so that investments can be tracked
  4. Track the quality of effort-not just quantity
  5. Track the results (Sales-prescriptions and market share) and disseminate the data to the sales force

If we consider market research as “Output” then SFA reports should be treated as “Input” or “Efforts”. Since we all know that “Efforts or Input” can be directed, it is imperative that SFA becomes the most acknowledged “Management system” for Sales & Marketing Managers.

Globally, the role of SFA has advanced to one single objective– “Aligning sales activities with business results”. Only then a company’s business strategy can be translated into action.

Example of an AOR (Activity-Objective-Results)

Alignment of Activity-Objective-Results. Reference: Cracking the Sales Management code
Alignment of Activity-Objective-Results. Reference: Cracking the Sales Management code

There are definite challenges to integration of AOR and only an effective SFA platform can help us by tracking four variables:

  1. Doctor
  2. Brands
  3. Channel (Multichannel marketing)
  4. Content ( Multichannel marketing)

This is best done by first segmenting the customers. It is necessary because, without segmentation, targeting and positioning will not happen. We need to remember that today all doctors in a given market cannot be treated as a single cluster. Such generalization could lead to wastage of input and efforts and is one of the many reasons why a new product launch fails. It will be ideal if a company can create 4-5 separate clusters for segmentation which then will be tracked through SFA reports. This exercise takes normally a year if done in the right manner and involves extensive RCPA (Retail prescription audit) by the sales force. Ignoring this step will lead to a shaky foundation for SFA.

The next step is to track the effort through analytics and dashboards. Once the basic KEIs (Key Effort Indicators) like Tour plan compliance, Frequency of visit, call average, coverage etc. becomes a part of the SFA report, one can switch to the next level. The market research data (outcome) can be linked to SFA report for evaluating efforts towards a brand and customers. At this stage, one can fix the execution benchmarks and then validate the performance levels of a region or a territory. This brings in a lot of objectivity and helps the Managers to correlate the sales force activity levels to an organizational objective.

Finally, the feedback loop. This is the “Moment of truth”. It is time to assess the marketing strategy, how well was it executed and what results did it bring in for the brands. Please compare the market response (% Prescription share ↑↓) otherwise it will be an exercise in isolation. Modification and changes to tactics or execution need to happen at this level. A fresh direction is then charted out and implemented in the next cycle.

Technological intelligence fosters sales & marketing alignment by integrating the above variables. Given below are statistics that relate to benefits emanating out of SFA:

So, if your company is the process of SFA roll out then it could be a good idea to list down sales and marketing KEIs (Key Effort Indicators) and then build them up into your SFA platform. This way, you could broaden the utilization of SFA as a tool.

In the follow-up article, we shall share what benefits you may expect from recent SFA platforms.

About the Authors

  • Arupendra Das is the Lead Consultant for ICA which is a Pharma consulting firm in Bangladesh. He has accomplished sales & marketing professional with exposure in Pharmaceutical, Medical Devices, and Medical Nutrition segment. His areas of interest; Multi-channel marketing, Salesforce design, Product Portfolio restructuring. He can be reached at arup@icalimitedbd.com
  • Krishnamurthy is the CEO of VSM Software P ltd., a leading provider of software solutions for the Pharma industry in the region. He is keenly interested in CRM and automation software for the industry.

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