How will you measure success in 2011?

Richard Jenkinson

Interactive Medica

For many years, pharmaceutical companies have relied on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as agent coverage, average cost per sale and spend per customer, to gauge success. In most cases this has worked well, but in today’s fast-moving pharma world these data aren’t enough.

That’s not to say that these performance measures are no longer valuable. Far from it, they can be incredibly useful, but measuring your return on investment with these KPIs alone simply cannot provide the level of detail that sales directors require. To identify what is and what isn’t delivering value in a modern pharmaceutical company a new approach is needed.

Nowadays, companies in the life sciences industry require metrics that can define critical actions and help senior managers develop more accurate sales forecasts. Sales directors need to be able to view a wide range of KPIs such as timelines to contract renewals, customer progression through the sales funnel and forecasted outcomes.

Although having access to the right data is clearly essential, it does not guarantee success. For pharmaceutical companies to truly benefit from this information it needs to be accessible and displayed in a way that all employees will understand. After all, sales directors want to spend more time driving success than trying to measure it.

“After all, sales directors want to spend more time driving success than trying to measure it.”

The full monty

To fully understand how your teams are performing against their sales targets, you need to be able to access all of the data that you require at once. There’s little benefit from only being able to view market share data from December if you want to compare it with data from October and November. Not only is this inefficient, it can be really frustrating for sales managers who may be forced to spend a great deal of time performing comparisons that could have been done automatically.

On the other hand, too many data can be a bad thing. If you’re trying to find out which team sold the most antidepressants, you might not want to know which team sold the most beta-blockers or nasal sprays as well. Clearly the data that are displayed have to be relevant. This is of particular importance in global companies, where managers may need to drill down to specific regions, sales teams, product lines or even individual staff members.

Equally, it’s just as important that you have access to relevant data from external sources. If sales figures for a flu vaccine increase rapidly in one country and you don’t know that there is an influenza epidemic there at the moment, you could waste time trying to work out why sales teams in that region have outperformed those based elsewhere.

Right time, right place

Having access to the right data is imperative, but if the data aren’t up-to-date it’s not going to be as useful as it could be. Every business needs real-time information, but in a global pharma market it’s becoming increasingly important to allocate resources more intelligently. This insight into what is and what isn’t selling well at any given moment, can enable pharma companies to be much more agile, focussing sales and marketing efforts where they will be most beneficial to the bottom line.

“This kind of tailor-made solution is vital for pharma companies if they are to manage an increasingly disparate network sales teams and agents.”

Of course real-time data rely on sales reps updating their reports in a timely fashion. In an ideal world, sales staff would all update their reports at the end of each day, but in practice this doesn’t always happen. If a rep has been out for much of the day meeting prospects they might not be able to return to the office at the end of the day to update their reports.

With cloud-based systems this isn’t a problem, as sales staff can update reports anywhere. After a successful meeting a rep can simply use their smartphone or tablet PC to enter the number of orders that were requested and any notes that they might have, whilst making their way to their next meeting. Not only is this great news for sales reps and managers, who will be able to see how well they are doing against they’re targets, it benefits the customer too, as new orders can be processed a lot quicker, improving the sales cycle.

Easy to update

Now that time-to-market for new drugs is shorter than ever, speed really is of the essence for pharmaceutical companies. It’s vital that reps can get out on the road and start selling as soon as possible. Unfortunately sales teams can sometimes be held back by outdated legacy IT systems that are difficult to update and require expensive alterations.

The sheer amount of time and money that’s required to keep existing systems up-to-date is one of the main reasons why companies are increasingly investing in Software as a System (SaaS). With cloud-based systems, modifications can be made swiftly and without great expense. Pharma companies can even benefit from access to bespoke portals that present employees with a personalised interface that meets their specific needs exactly. This kind of tailor-made solution is vital for pharma companies if they are to manage an increasingly disparate network sales teams and agents. With a little change, companies in the life science industry can reap the rewards of more flexible and detailed KPIs.

About the author:

Richard Jenkinson is CEO of Interactive Medica. Interactive Medica is a leading supplier of web-based applications to the Life Sciences industry. Established in 2002, the company works with 140 national sales organisations from 52 companies in over 30 countries.

How do you expect to measure success in 2011?