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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 20492

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: Electronic Source

Wood M
Sales Excellence in the Pharma Industry: An Interview with Hoffmann-La Roche’s Michael van Olm
eyeforpharma 2013 Mar 4

Full text:

Greater emphasis on a customer-centric approach in pharma fosters trust, value and integrity. Michael van Olm, Director of Sales – Corporate Accounts, Roche Diagnostics in Canada takes us behind the scenes of how to focus on the customer perspective.

His experience with consumer packaged goods and pharmaceutical medical devices sales spans some 15 years both in the sales and marketing role, servicing a retail customer base largely compromised of brands such as Walmart and Loblaws, as well as various diabetes treatment centres and hospitals, to name but a few from a wholesale distribution perspective.

Products currently selling are the Accu-Chek Aviva, Accu-chek Aviva Nano, Accu-chek Compact Plus and Accu-chek Mobile blood glucose meters, diabetic testing strips and lancing devices.


Michael and his team have had award winning experience over the years, and attribute this to having a rigorous understanding of customer and business needs, “It’s all about really understanding the customer and asking how are they driven, how do they go to market, what strategies are they deploying in order for them to build new business, how do they view the competition and really understanding how our strategies and corporate initiatives are better aligned with what they would like to do in competing with the marketplace. The improvement of that is key for us to deliver our business and set up a win-win situation for the customer and the manufacturer.”

“It’s all about really understanding the customer and asking how are they driven”

Another prong to the customer centric approach is to consistently build value in a business relationship, “Value is built in multiple ways; one way to look at it would be in terms of the relationship, so it’s very important at a very basic level to have a certain element of trust and integrity with respect to how you conduct business or how you relate to individuals. Value can be brought into the relationship by the way you relate to those individuals, how you view the business or a category objectively, how you can gauge your competitors and also your customers’ competitors in a way that allows you to serve up the business objectively. Ultimately value can be developed through the services and the innovation that you provide to the customers so that they can continue to differentiate themselves in the market.”


During the Sales Excellence Canada 2013 conference later this year, van Olm will be addressing the topic entitled building a service oriented model: the customer-centric approach for Sales Excellence Canada 2013.

“A lot of my business experience comes from consumer packaged goods which is a very mature category, over the years in its maturity it has developed a lot of very sophisticated systems, from a supply chain, customer management and marketing perspective. The pharmaceutical industry still has a huge opportunity to develop those systems. So one of the eye-opening opportunities is trying to develop services and systems to allow you to not only to be more efficient in your dialogue and interaction with your customers but also include how you view the category, how data is purchased and how it is served up to the customer. That way you can begin to indicate a higher level of proficiency with your customers and provide the services –using IT or software tools- to allow you to elevate the discussion, and make sure that they’re more effective in driving sales and share growth.”

Of course what would-be well-oiled business machine could thrive without the pillars of teamwork? “There’s a couple of ways of looking at team work, you can look at both internal and external teamwork. If I was looking at it from a customer-centric approach, my school of thought is: you have an ambassador for the company, usually known as the National Account Manager -a general manager orchestrating all the different components of the business – financial, sales, marketing, distribution, operational – and they really look at all those different divisions when they look at managing customers.

“Canadians depend on the supply of health care products to assist them in leading healthy and full lives”

So from a teamwork perspective – the marketing people within the manufacturer, the finance people within the manufacturer, the sales people within the manufacturer – they have the opportunity to reach out and join that National Account Manager in calling on their counterpart within the customers, and so when you look at the total team approach you’re calling on the customer to be much more effective.”


Roche Diagnostics’ inclination towards managing customer relationships through team-driven trust, integrity and value has evidently put the company in a favorable light, having collected a number of awards over the years in recognition of financial efficiency, reaching sales objectives and targets, as well overcoming challenges with creative ideas, “Being rewarded with that kind of recognition is all about leveraging the team and ensuring that you’re touching on all facets of the operation with your distributor and that you’re setting up not only a relationship but also services that really help improve and make them more efficient in delivering the business.”

Michael van Olm did not conclude our interview without citing challenges in the business, “A significant obstacle in the pharmaceutical industry is distribution and supply chain management. Canadians depend on the supply of health care products to assist them in leading healthy and full lives. With increasing demand of our products it is essential that we focus on working with the customer to achieve full distribution and supply of our products. Negative impact to the supply of our products directly impacts manufacturer sales, customers retail competitiveness and ultimately the equity of our brand with the end –user.”

“Capturing accurate and timely data on the distribution of our product from global production facilities through the supply chain to the end-user is a core function for manufacturers and retail customers. We can continue to improve upon the supply of our products through increased level of monitoring and assessments on the flow of product through to the end-user. As demand for health care products increases with an aging demographic, distribution and supply chain will continue to have an increase in importance.”

With numerous awards under his team’s belt, most of you would agree that van Olm’s brief peek into his world of business expertise is one we should all incline ourselves towards. If you want the up close and personal version, then be sure not to miss out on Sales Excellence Canada 2013 during 3-4 June at the Westin Prince, Toronto where van Olm will be present.


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Cases of wilful misrepresentation are a rarity in medical advertising. For every advertisement in which nonexistent doctors are called on to testify or deliberately irrelevant references are bunched up in [fine print], you will find a hundred or more whose greatest offenses are unquestioning enthusiasm and the skill to communicate it.

The best defence the physician can muster against this kind of advertising is a healthy skepticism and a willingness, not always apparent in the past, to do his homework. He must cultivate a flair for spotting the logical loophole, the invalid clinical trial, the unreliable or meaningless testimonial, the unneeded improvement and the unlikely claim. Above all, he must develop greater resistance to the lure of the fashionable and the new.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963