Digital sales enablement in the life sciences

Digital sales enablement is a common term in pharma and medtech but it can be confusing because it is used to describe many different things. This page will help you understand its different aspects, point to good examples, and outline how you can apply its best practices.

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What is the meaning of digital sales enablement?

Digital sales enablement at its most basic level means empowering your customer-facing staff with technology to be more effective. This often relates to improving face-to-face meetings with better communication tools, but it equally applies to engagement outside of these physical meetings. As companies progress with digital sales enablement they often look to empower their customer teams with more channels to provide HCPs with information and services 24/7.

Technology is obviously fundamental to the new possibilities of pharma sales enablement. It is a necessary requirement but it is just part of a pharma sales enablement solution. Rather, digital sales enablement has three aspects: technology, strategy and content.

Technology
A solution that enables sales teams to better engage healthcare professionals.
Strategy
A strategy that makes the most of the possibilities of the technology.
Content
Content that empowers reps to the needs for for individual HCPs.

Each are equally important. Successful digital sales enablement happens when all three are fully considered, planned and correctly implemented.

How companies begin with digital sales enablement

Digital sales enablement is a big topic potentially covering a lot of different elements. As such, it has the potential to be a large and complex undertaking. But it can also be very simple.

For most life science companies, digital sales enablement is a journey – moving gradually from where you are now, adding elements as required. The following list outlines the general progress that the industry has made with digital sales enablement over the years. Of course, different companies will have different starting points and priorities.

1
Digitization of content
Turning paper materials into digital assets
2
Tracking content delivery
Collecting data on what content is actually delivered
3
Content adaptation
Using ‘delivery data’ to make changes to your content
4
Account planning
Managing accounts and contacts as well as calendar tools for scheduling HCP meetings
5
Tracking customer response
Adding interactivity to content to get feedback from HCPs, providing data for later review
6
Customer relationship management
Building individual customer profiles on a CRM system to allow more effective targeting
7
Increase channels
Providing reps with more options for content delivery e.g. approved email, remote presentations, websites
8
Customer journey creation
Connecting channels into a logical sequence that provides HCPs with an experience that unfolds over time
9
Flexible content
Providing reps with a store of approved content so they can respond to individual customer needs and build highly targeted customer journeys
10
Content automation
Deploying new technologies to supplement the sales teams’ work through digital assistants and ‘self-detailing’ systems

Choose a scalable sales enablement solution

If you want to start small and expand later, you can begin now with a scalable digital sales enablement platform. At Agnitio, we’ve developed a system that quickly empowers your customer teams with sales enablement technology to:

  • Distribute compliant content to the right people
  • Equip customer teams with the right information/presentations
  • Centrally schedule and execute meetings – and get an overview of past and future activities
  • Start to drive insights on content performance, meeting trends, and customer contacts
sales-enablement-choose-scalable-software-illustration

What is the difference between sales enablement and marketing?

It can be confusing because, in some ways, digital sales enablement helps sales teams to behave more like marketers.

Traditionally, the Marketing Department was ‘in charge’ of the channels beyond sales calls. Customer-facing reps spoke to HCPs directly and Marketing mostly did it indirectly through mass communication channels like advertising, direct mail, and public relations.

Digital sales enablement changes this because customer teams can now use channels in addition to face-to-face contact. You could argue that, in this way, Sales has become more ‘marketing like’.  What we’re experiencing is a stronger overlap between the two communication disciplines. There’s still a difference, though. Marketers do not have the personal contact with customers that sales teams enjoy. In the immediate future, that’s unlikely to change.

What pharma sales enablement can achieve

Digital sales enablement means empowering customer teams with digital tools. But the long-term objective is usually to enable reps to switch from being ‘message deliverers’ to service-minded providers of experiences.

The best digital sales enablement software enables customer teams to provide HCPs with a rich multichannel experience.  Here, physical one-to-one meetings can be supported with other channels.

In addition to on-demand channels like websites and apps, reps can be equipped with approved email which enables them to respond to HCPs' needs with pre-approved fully compliant content. There is also the opportunity for remote contact which takes the traditional face-to-face meeting and moves it online for increased flexibility and convenience.

Example: channel combinations with e-detailing

E-detailing – the primary face-to-face channel for many companies – is an excellent springboard for these kinds of experiences. Simple yet powerful channel combinations are possible which enables your sales teams to extend the HCP engagement beyond physical meetings.

Use Benefits
E-detailing + remote Supplement face-to-face meetings with online presentations Access HCPs in a more flexible and cheaper way

Often preferred by HCPs

E-detailing + approved email Empower reps to engage HCPs with email content while maintaining control of messaging Increase access in a cost effective way

Provide information as a service to HCPs

E-detailing + microsites Enable HCPs to explore content in their own time via targeted mini-websites Reinforce key messages from e-detailing presentation

Provide additional service to HCPs

E-detailing + remote
Use Supplement face-to-face meetings with online presentations
Benefits Access HCPs in a more flexible and cheaper way

Often preferred by HCPs

E-detailing + approved email
Use Empower reps to engage HCPs with email content while maintaining control of messaging
Benefits Increase access in a cost effective way

Provide information as a service to HCPs

E-detailing + microsites
Use Enable HCPs to explore content in their own time via targeted mini-websites
Benefits Reinforce key messages from e-detailing presentation

Provide additional service to HCPs

Using these technologies together makes it possible for reps to alternate between face-to-face meetings and purely digital communication to follow-up or speedily respond to requests.

Creating customer journeys

In advanced forms of digital sales enablement, channels can be sequenced to maintain and build engagement over time. In effect, you are creating customer journeys – different kinds of experiences for HCPs depending on their needs and your market segmentation.

A customer journey is an engagement strategy that sequences channels. You can design a customer journey that emphasizes face-to-face contact and uses on-demand channels to deepen these discussions over time. Alternatively, you can design a journey for hard-to-reach groups or simply those individuals who prefer to engage outside of normal work hours.

High levels of personal contact supported by on-demand channels

Emphasis on ‘distance’ channels like approved email and remote HCP engagement

 

In fact, with the right kind of sales enablement platform and content, sales teams and individual reps can be empowered to create all kinds of highly specific experiences.

Working with data

Data is also big factor driving pharma sales enablement success. It provides two major opportunities. First, you can work centrally to update materials and make informed decisions about the channels on which to focus. Secondly, you can work locally, in a tactical way, to respond to specific situations – and even address the needs of individual customers.

There are generally two kinds of data that sales enablement software makes possible: content delivery data (quantitative) and customer response data (qualitative). Both kinds of data are beneficial.

Message delivery
Data on how the content is used by reps and customers

  • How long and how often a presentation is used
  • Length of time spent on content elements e.g. slides of an e-detailing presentation
  • Content never shown
Customer response
Users' personal opinion and understanding of topics

  • Degree og which HCPs afree with key messages
  • UNderstanding of a product e.g. efficacy or contraindications
  • Likelihood to prescribe

Quantitative ‘message delivery’ data is what is being shown to your customers, such as the specific slides in an e-detailing presentation. It may sound simple but is often revelatory – providing much greater transparency over customer engagements than was previously possible. You actually see what the HCP gets to see. For an e-detailing presentation, for example, you may discover important slides that many customers are never shown – and then work to fix this by changing or reordering the presentation.

While message delivery data can work for any kind of content – you are simply tracking what is being shown to HCPs – the other kind of data, qualitative ‘customer response’, requires that your content is interactive. Digitizing content opens the possibility for turning HCP engagements from a passive ‘look at this’ experience to one that involve HCPs in your product story. In addition to more effective communication, this also brings the benefit of the feedback that these interactions create.

Each time that customers interact they are, in effect, telling you what they think. You can learn to what extent they agree with your key messages, and how best to engage them in the future. This in turn enables you to create a positive feedback loop in which your communication continually improves – a process often called closed loop marketing.

Why pharma sales enablement is important

So why does digital sales enablement matter so much to pharma and medtech companies? And why are companies investing heavily in sales enablement software?

Even more than in other industries, direct customer contact is vital to not only explain a product’s benefits but also ensure that it is correctly used. Pharma sales enablement is as much about service as it is about sales.

  • Provide high levels of service: Delivering rich experiences that engage HCPs
  • Improve rep performance: Raise the overall effectiveness of customer teams
  • Meet customer expectations: Providing 24/7 service and engaging communications
  • Respond to declining HCP access: Combining F2F with other channels to improve ‘reach’
  • Provide high levels of service: Delivering rich experiences that engage HCPs

Sales enablement software

Digital sales enablement involves a number of technologies: content repositories; account management systems; face-to-face, virtual and on-demand channels; data analysis tools and dashboards; content editing tools; CRM systems etc.

When you first start to look at the options it can seem confusing and complex, but it doesn’t have to be. For many companies the best digital sales enablement software combines these functions into a single system yet allows you to start small and expand later.

Essential digital sales enablement functions are:

  
Content management
Upload compliant digital content for reps to access
  
Content delivery
Enable reps to deliver content to HCPs

For the life science industry, the ability to fully control content is critical given compliance requirements. Only fully approved content, in the latest version, should be accessible. This is, in fact, a major benefit of a true digital sales enablement solution – ensuring reps always have up-to-date content and providing you with complete transparency over what is being shown to customers.

This is why software designed for the specific needs of the life sciences is invaluable. The basic requirements for content control should be a design principle that runs throughout the system, no matter how it is later expanded. Other industries do not operate in the same regulatory environment as the life sciences and therefore generic digital sales enablement software can cause long term problems – slow approvals, lack of controls, unclear content compliance status.

The ability to share and fully control content for complete compliance is the bare minimum that a digital sales enablement system should provide. From there, it should be possible to scale the system to meet your future requirements. This expansion will likely chiefly focus on the ‘upscaling’ of the system through additional channels and enabling you and your customer teams to work with data.

Channel options include:

  
E-detailing
Interactive presentations on mobile devices for more effective face-to-face meetings
  
Remote engagement
Enabling reps to make full presentations online (not just screensharing which lacks the potential to capture data and has compliance issues)
  
Microsites
Small topic-specific websites that customer teams can use to address issues or form part of a customer journey
  
Approved email
Empowering reps to directly contact their customers with fully compliant content

Data options include:

Data dashboards
Providing customer teams with the ability to understand how HCPs are engaging with your content and which messages are resonating
CRM integration
The ability to access customer profiles from the CRM and also ‘feed’ it with e-detailing data
Standalone CRM capabilities
The ability for the system to provide basic CRM functionality for markets that lack a CRM system or projects that need to happen quickly
Data reports
Macro reports to advance the overall sales strategy or specific reports that enable customer teams to respond to their customer needs

What to look for in digital sales enablement software

When making the decision on which digital sales enablement platform to choose, there are a number of factors to consider. While not all of these might be a pressing concern initially, being aware of them can prevent problems down the road.

Designed for the life sciences
Ensuring full regulatory compliance no matter how you decide to expand the system later
Full creative freedom
No limits to the kind of content that can be delivered through the platform
Complete content control
The ease and speed with which the right content can be assigned to the right rep
Data handling
The ability to collect all the data that you want, CRM integration simplicity, and analytics capabilities e.g. dashboards
Channel expansion
Numerous channel options to meet different market requirements and orchestrate into customer journeys

Good sales enablement tools from the rep’s point of view

As we highlighted at the top of this article, digital sales enablement means empowering your customer-facing staff with technology to be more effective. The point is to enable them to communicate in better ways and increase the quality of service for HCPs.

It’s well worth asking, therefore, what does it look like from their point of view? What kind of sales enablement solutionare reps looking for? And what helps them most in building relationships with their customers?

Drawing on Agnitio’s decades-long experience in working with pharma and medtech companies around the world, we’ve identified the key factors:

  • Easy access to content: a system with clear content organization and very fast display times that enables reps to react quickly to HCP needs in the moment
  • Trust and reliability: the knowledge that the system will deliver what it promises with little or no down time
  • All content options: the ability to engage HCPs through multiple content forms – interactive presentations, PDFs to go deeper into clinical data, video that demonstrates the mode of action with clarity etc
  • Channel flexibility: the possibility to engage HCPs in the way that each individual customer prefers e.g. using a remote solution for customers who prefer out of office hours contact
  • Modular content: a system that enables reps to access pre-approved content and respond to the specific needs of customers
  • Full customer insights: the ability to access precise customer data on their contacts in an easy-to-understand way
  • One system: the possibility to keep things simple by having all the necessary functionality – contact management, channels, content management – in one system

Agnitio digital sales enablement technology

What’s your next move in digital sales enablement? Explore your options with our solutions designed specifically for the life sciences.

Compliant content repository & distribution
Content pieces 3 7 10
Unlimited use of content
Analytics data on content use
Life science reports for marketing *
Accounts and contacts
Calendar tool & meeting schedule
Life science report for sales reps *
Life science report for management *
* Reports are provided monthly Get started now Get started now Get started now
Compliant content repository & distribution
3 Content pieces
Unlimited use of content
Analytics data on content use
Life science reports for marketing (monthly)
Accounts and contacts
Calendar tool & meeting schedule
Life science report for sales reps (monthly)
Life science report for management (monthly)
Get started now
Compliant content repository & distribution
7 Content pieces
Unlimited use of content
Analytics data on content use
Life science reports for marketing (monthly)
Accounts and contacts
Calendar tool & meeting schedule
Life science report for sales reps (monthly)
Life science report for management (monthly)
Get started now
Compliant content repository & distribution
10 Content pieces
Unlimited use of content
Analytics data on content use
Life science reports for marketing (monthly)
Accounts and contacts
Calendar tool & meeting schedule
Life science report for sales reps (monthly)
Life science report for management (monthly)
Get started now