The digital skills you need for customer centric sales

Sales & Marketing
digital skills

Over the last few years, the bar for the level of expectation for customer experiences has risen exponentially. Consumers and customers accustomed to excellent customer experiences from online retailers have higher than ever expectations of the digital capabilities of all the businesses they use, and have particularly come to expect a more personalised and instant service.

The pharma industry is no exception to this, and this digital evolution is leading to fundamental shifts in the way pharmaceutical organisations operate business. A generic sales strategy is no longer going to cut the mustard, and where pharma companies used to put product at the heart of sales strategies, brands are now realising that a customer-centric approach is crucial to remain competitive.

The newest advances in tech are enabling companies to become ever more customer focused, and to truly understand a customer's challenges, wants, and needs. For some though, with so many touchpoints to monitor, and the growing influence of patients on customer behaviour, it can seem overwhelming and teams can be lacking in the necessary digital skills to tailor content and messaging to best effect.

Businesses therefore need to look carefully at how they can best prepare their sales team for the new digital environment and the latest tech developments, in order to stay at the top of the game. But what are the latest skills that will empower pharma professionals to gather insights, analyse data, and deliver personalised experiences that resonate with customers?

Customer journey mapping

Customer journey mapping can play a central part of a successful customer-centric sales strategy. For sales teams, it helps to explain the journey a customer goes through when deciding what brand to prescribe to their patients, and it is also an enabler of truly understanding a customer’s challenges, wants, and needs.

The information and data you collect from the mapping process is different to what you may get from other sources and can provide a fuller picture. Sales teams have a deep understanding of customers’ needs, experiences, and behaviours, and this approach can help to capture that knowledge and identify the most valuable touch-points to focus on. It allows sales teams to visualise the customer’s experience from initial awareness to post-purchase interactions, building a picture of how customers want to receive information around your brand, and guiding the creation of tailored interactions at each stage.

By harnessing the latest tools that Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems offer, sales teams can gain insights into customer behaviours, allowing them to tailor their interactions accordingly. It can streamline sales processes by enabling teams to segment customers, manage interactions, track leads, and schedule follow-ups more efficiently. Proficiency in using these tools can enhance customer engagement and relationship-building.

Data analytics

One of the fundamental pillars of a customer-centric sales strategy, therefore, is data-driven decision making. The abundance of data available in the digital age provides a goldmine of information about customer behaviours, demographics, and engagement patterns. Sales professionals equipped with data analytics skills can extract meaningful insights from the data, identifying trends, preferences, and patterns to inform sales strategies and support customer journey mapping. It is important to understand the data you will need to use to create maps and measure your success.

Social media skills

Social media platforms have become powerful tools for connecting with healthcare professionals, patients and other stakeholders. Sales teams need to be proficient in utilising these platforms to engage in meaningful conversations, and to create compelling and personalised content for specific customers.

Spread skills across the business

Businesses operate far more effectively if the data skills are spread throughout the organisation. It improves resilience, removes the risk of single points of failure should employees leave or become unavailable, and will increase efficiency by tackling bottlenecks. Encouraging cross-functional collaboration can also help employees gain exposure to different perspectives on data analysis.

The pharmaceutical landscape is a mosaic of interconnected functions, including research and development, marketing, sales, regulatory affairs, and patient support. If everyone has a good level of data skills, it helps to foster cross-functional collaboration and creates a shared understanding of the patient experience.

Remember that you don’t need or want everyone to be a data scientist. The focus should be on getting a base level of data knowledge and equipping people with targeted skills to help their day-to-day work. There is a real skills gap in the country of people who have the capabilities to use the new technology that is being rolled out all the time, and you will help to future proof not only your employees in their careers, but your business, by making sure that everyone has the basics when it comes to understanding data and how to apply it to business decisions.

In the rapidly evolving landscape of pharmaceutical sales, embracing a customer-centric approach is not just a trend - it’s a necessity. The digital age has ushered in an era of personalised engagement, and with it comes a requirement for pharma professionals to acquire a diverse set of digital skills to allow them to connect, engage with, and serve customers more effectively. As technology continues to reshape the way businesses interact with customers, the ability to harness these new tools will be a defining factor in the success of any customer-centric pharma sales strategy.

Sarah Gilchriest
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Sarah Gilchriest
10 October, 2023