Defining how your sales force will be organized is a critical task leading up to new pre-commercial product launch. Traditionally, sales and marketing leaders in a pharmaceutical company have utilized regional or HCP-specialty methods for organizing the team that haven’t changed all that much since the 1990s.
In today’s world, new data and analytics toolsets can offer new insights into how to organize a sales force, based on real information about the product, the target HCPs, the patients, and competitive landscape.
Pre-commercial Part 1: Optimizing for a Competitive Launch
Use Case: Designing a sales force structure when launching into a crowded or competitive market with multiple established competitors.
Analytics applied to the right sets of data can offer new opportunities to view and assess the likelihood of patient churn for competitors’ drugs. The goal is to understand what the “stickiness” of different products with different pockets of the market and to optimize your sales and marketing strategy with that insight as a foundation.
In order to apply these analytical methods, the first step is to collect the data inputs that can be used by these algorithms. While there are many possible data inputs, the most critical to gather are around sentiment by product and use line. Information indicating sentiment can be found in several different datasets including expert publications, claims data, even lab data.
With the right data inputs assembled, a predictive model can be developed on adoption likelihood. Modern machine learning toolsets can separate out pools of HCPs into clearly defined categories and provide an understanding of confidence with the results by category.
Leading companies will use the output of this analytical process and compare it to other projections and forecasts that the company builds. With all the market insights in one place, a company can begin to make more tactful decisions about how to structure a salesforce to address the market. HCP insights that were previously hidden below the surface now become a visible and important consideration.
Ultimately, this process allows a leadership team to intelligently connect market insight with each sales team member’s unique skillsets and experiences to drive the best outcome.
Part 2 – Orphan / Narrow Indication Launch
Use Case: Designing a sales force structure when launching into an orphan indication or a space without existing competitors.
If you are launching a product into an orphan or rare disease space it can often be hard to understand the right allocation of sales force resources. In most cases, there is also a very limited number of qualified sales force resources ready to be deployed and there are constraints on training up new resources.
Just like more traditional launches, new datasets and analytical tools offer new insight into setting up that team for success in the market. Traditionally, businesses would first utilize a rules-based segmentation to better understand their HCP groups, but there are several disadvantages that this approach has over newer approaches such as clustering. Clustering brings to light natural hidden patterns in large quantities of data that can help you understand sentiment and address concern areas that HCPs have. Insights that emerge from this analysis should contribute to how you organize your team to address the market.
Assess the overlap between prescribing specialists and any other existing pools of HCPs they serve. If there is significant overlap between these specialists and those of another product you offer, there is value in those existing rep-HCP relationships. However, those HCPs are used to working with your sales team around a specific treatment and a different approach may be needed to support this new launch, especially in a new disease area. It is important in this situation to train the salesforce to deliver the knowledge that specialists need as two wholly separate products with different informational needs.
If there is little to no overlap between prescribers, the key is selecting the right HCPs. Perfect targeting data may not exist, so the goal in utilizing analytics is to get as close as possibly by creating a framework to merge disparate sources of data and identify the right targets. In this case, companies should invest in creating a platform that delivers insights on those likely to be interested in the therapy.
Designing the best organizational structure for your sales team is critical to a successful pre-commercial product launch.
Commercial sales and marketing executives have traditionally utilized regional or HCP-specialty methods for organizing the team, but it is time to change that approach for pre-commercial. By leveraging data and analytics toolsets pharmaceutical companies can adjust how they organize their sales team based on real information about the product, the target healthcare providers, the patients, and competitive landscape.
Contributions by Mike Onore and Devashish Pal.