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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19503

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: news

Wright D
Highlights from SFE Europe 2011 2011 Apr 8


David Wright of Imonic, a leading UK-based KAM consultancy and training organization, details the key themes and trends emerging from the recent SFE Europe 2011 event

Full text:

Having heard first hand from top-level industry speakers and delegates during the sessions, it is clear that there is now, across the industry, a far greater depth of experience with implementing KAM and knowledge of what works and what doesn’t.

A hunger to learn more about KAM and a willingness to share experiences was also evident throughout the event.

Although there was a huge difference amongst delegates of their exact position on the KAM continuum, and with individual companies and countries showing various levels of KAM need and KAM readiness, the large audience at SFE Europe undoubtedly benefited from some key messages which were relevant to all.

KAM lessons learned

On Day 1, Ken Jones, COO of Astellas Europe, made an excellent job of setting the scene by demonstrating the need for a predominantly ‘evidence-based’ approach to pharma’s sales activity.

Leandro Herrero made a key point in his inimitable style that resonated with me: For all our concern about organizational structures and internal issues within pharma companies, the customer only experiences behaviors! That’s a key point worth reminding ourselves of from time to time.

Overall the message from Day 1 was that cost containment by customers is becoming increasingly aggressive in Europe, and this is unlikely to change.

In the KAM stream on Day 2, the presentations started with a view of Medtronic’s KAM journey.

A notable point made by Annette Kihl Chauhan was to consider the useful resources available outside pharma, which can provide valuable lessons, as pharma is a ‘late adopter’ of KAM compared to other sectors.

In particular, she referred to the Strategic Account Management Association and the use of shared customer data via the Net-Promoter customer feedback program. (For more on KAM from outside pharma, see ‘What pharma can learn from the use of KAM in other industries’.)

An academic presentation followed, from Graham Leask of Aston University, who reminded us that three-dimensional things (sales performance) cannot be examined on one-dimensional planes.

The point being, sales is a complex activity that cannot be simplistically analyzed using only one criterion.

The influence network

Following coffee, Kilian Weiss showed us that assessing influence across healthcare networks can be more useful and enlightening than seeking out accounts based on potential, the potential being created by the influence network that may sit outside the account.

Kilian emphasized that influence is often more important than numbers of patients and that social or social/professional networks may prevent the conversion of a powerful individual, with the whole ‘cluster’ of contacts needing to be worked on.

This was a useful case study demonstrating that, at times, investment may be best utilized developing advocacy within a whole new influence cluster.

We then had two pharma presenters share experiences around their development of people and account teams.

The inference here was that there is much work to do on changing mindsets and pulling ‘silos’ together to work effectively as teams. (For more on KAM and sales, see ‘How to make KAM work for the pharma sales force’ and ‘Pharma sales: Clearing up KAM confusion’.)

The presenters from Angelina and Grunenthal believe pharma must trust account managers to ‘own’ their own business and that business simulations were a useful tool to develop teams.

There were some excellent questions posed from the audience around incentive schemes and their use to progress teamwork. (For more on incentive schemes, see ‘Do incentive schemes work?’.)

In the afternoon, Jo Allen from Shire gave a detailed research presentation demonstrating her findings of KAM implementation in pharma.

Most notable was her work describing the influence of area prescribing committees and the lack of pharma engagement with 32% of the APC decision-making unit, notably in finance and strategy.

Lee Gittings, customer alliance director with Pfizer USA, shared an excellent review of Pfizer’s work on KAM.

When Pfizer took a population who were in an existing ‘account management’-titled role and put them into a new well-defined account management role, he said, approximately one-third were not able to meet the expectations of this role, even after going through a core development program aligned to a world-class account manager vision.

Lee also said that Pfizer’s definition of the role of an account manager required a different skill set from a traditional representative and the grade of the account manager role was significantly higher to reflect the skill set requirements, so think cautiously if you think you can train up reps wholesale and expect them to become great account managers.

Lee also believed that KAM should be interpreted consistently; communication must be very clear and diagrammatic.

At Imonic, we often work with clients facing similar challenges and have always encouraged them to have a strong, clear, and consistent message on KAM, which can be diagrammatically represented.

So it was good to hear Lee endorse this approach!

Improving the sales experience

On Day 2, the speciality sales track, we began with an excellent review of speciality selling in the large global devices organization, Johnson & Johnson.

Carlos Martinez, director sales excellence, shared J&J’s challenges and called for devices manufacturers and pharma to work more closely together to mutual benefit.

Carlos went on to say that the increasing complexity in both the devices themselves and the buying processes led to one of the critical organizational issues—finding the best talent. (For more on medical devices, join the sector’s other key players at Medical Device & Diagnostics Sales & Marketing USA on June 1-2 in Boston.)

Account managers and would-be account managers, listen up!

Amlesh Ranjan, associate director for Sanofi Aventis in India, emphasized the need to improve the ‘sales experience’ as a means to increase customer loyalty.

This may often be achieved by simple things, such as navigating them through their own internal systems or yours.

Ramlesh went on to describe the need for greater effort in constructing ‘value propositions’ that are multi-functional and customer-inclusive.

Angela Bakker Lee presented a value-based selling methodology and reviewed the differences to consultative selling.

Angela also highlighted the value of pharmacists in joint working initiatives. (For more on pharmacists, see ‘How pharmacists can help improve patient compliance’.)

She then joined an excellent panel session with three directors, from J&J, Pfizer, and Sanofi Aventis, who shared further experiences of recruiting and retaining the best sales talent and gave detailed insights and examples of value creation, with ideas on how to enhance the customer’s interest in engaging with Pharma.

SFE Europe was, once again, THE place to learn and develop understanding of KAM, to share experiences of best practice, and to find out what the critical success factors are for sales force excellence.

For more on KAM, join the sector’s other thought leaders at Key Account Management (KAM) USA on September 13-14 in Philadelphia.


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