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Chuck Schaeffer How to Choose the Best CRM Software for your Life Sciences Company

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CRM Software for Life Science, Pharma, Biotech and Medical Device Manufacturing


  • Life sciences companies have unique business requirements that are only satisfied with CRM software built for the life sciences industry.

  • The best CRM software for life sciences companies is designed to accommodate industry specific requirements such as mobility, sales order processing with CPQ and real-time inventory visibility, KOL and influencer engagement, KAM and related account management, samples management, integration with a strategic sale methodology, automation for defined multistep sales processes, regulated content management, and regulatory compliance reporting to name a few. CRM software that cannot directly support life science requirements is far less effective than CRM software that can.

  • The top 4 life science CRM software systems, as measured by market share and market growth, are Salesforce with Veeva, Oracle NetSuite, SAP CRM and Microsoft Dynamics Customer Engagement.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software for life sciences companies has different goals and requirements than the generic CRM software shared across many industries. CRM software for life sciences companies is not about routine account and opportunity management. And that's because life sciences business success measures are based on things like sales effectiveness through indirect channels, KOL engagement, KAM and HCP complex relationships, efficient inventory fulfillment and uncompromising regulatory pressures unlike any other industry.

Yet most CRM systems do not accommodate these industry requirements, which leaves customer facing staff scurrying to third party products, other systems or manual processes to support what could be delivered in a single system, if that CRM software is designed for life sciences companies.

Selecting the Best CRM Software for your Life Sciences Company

When searching for the best life sciences CRM software many novices focus on technology features. That's a mistake as CRM software features and functions may or may not deliver business results. A better approach is to lead with the most strategic business objectives and then identify the CRM software capabilities that directly advance those goals.

The four most strategic life sciences CRM objectives are to acquire more customers, grow customer share, increase customer retention and lower cost to serve.

I cannot cover as much as I'd like in a single blog post, so I'll focus on the capabilities I've used to deliver significant and sustained revenue impact at several pharma, biotech and medical device companies.

CRM to Increase Customer Acquisitions

Start with Customer Intelligence
Life sciences is a customer centric, relationship-based, sales-driven business. Improving sales effectiveness starts with deep customer insights and really knowing your customer. The best CRM software for life science companies uses KYC (Know Your Customer) methods to build rich customer intelligence for each customer. These CRM tools include:

  • Voice of the Customer (VoC) surveys to engage, measure and prioritize what's most important to your customer (HCP) and your customers' customer (patients).

  • Customer insights to reveal when, why and how different types of customers make purchase decisions. The top life sciences salespeople reveal this information is the single greatest source to increase sales conversions and sale opportunity win rates. Many times, insights create or link to the Ideal Customer Profiles (ICP).

  • Customer segments to group customers by shared characteristics or data patterns. Basic CRM software segments customers by type, such as physicians, surgeons, pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners or clinical leads. The best CRM has more flexible tools to segment by behaviors, personas, and insights. Better segmentation creates more relevant, personalized, and contextual communication, engagement, offers and conversions.

  • Data enrichment tools and integrations to supplement customer information with third party data, such as HCP data from Definitive Healthcare, to improve sales strategies, Go-to-Market models and campaign conversions.

  • A 360 degree customer view to centralize all customer information in one place.

In the below diagram you can see how life sciences CRM software orchestrates the different types of customer intelligence into different CRM software records.

CRM Customer Intelligence

KOLs Amplify the Brand
KOLs deliver a force multiplier effect when it comes to lead generation and accelerate sales velocity. These influencers are recognized experts and thought leaders and their direct engagement with target audiences delivers powerful endorsements and word-of-mouth advertising.

CRM software in the life sciences industry uses social listening tools to engage KOLs, digital campaigns to collaborate with KOLs, nurture marketing campaigns to persist engagement over time and events campaigns for KOL participation and CME tracking – all while maintaining compliance with Sunshine laws and transparency requirements. These CRM software tools are also used for outreach and engagement with MA, MSL and other HCP influencers.

Effective Sales Calls are Critical
Time with HCPs is always precious and sometimes unpredictable. To make that limited time count, the best CRM software for life sciences uses mobile devices (usually iPads) and activity records to display prior meeting notes, previously identified next steps and call objectives. Other CRM software capabilities include:

  • Geo-based scheduling and routing optimization with integration to Google maps
  • The most salient questions to learn or reaffirm the HCPs goals, pain points and priorities
  • The most effective talk tracks based on the type of HCP, product pitch or sale opportunity
  • Personalized content, including video presentations and animated collaterals
  • Guided selling suggestions, such as when to review product mixes, suggest promotions or offer value-added services
  • Notes entry via the selection of categories, values and tags instead of free-flowing notes, which is particularly important to prevent compliance risks such as off-label messaging
  • Summaries for each call and the creation of scheduled next steps

When these agenda items and actions are orchestrated, the sales rep maximizes his or her productivity, HCP education and engagement, and contributes to the customer relationship building process.

Samples and Inventory Management
Life Sciences CRM software sales call management also oversees samples and inventory. Life sciences sales reps must track and maintain field and sample units, such as device tracking and demo unit management, record the disbursements of samples and promotional items to physicians and hospitals, and capture encrypted signatures for compliance.

The best CRM software for life sciences salespeople displays samples availability in a dashboard, predicts customer demand for sample units or devices based on prior purchase trends, allocates and distributes samples to sales reps, tracks items by lot or serial number, attributes revenue results related to samples, automates the audit and compliance reporting, and performs periodic or time-based inventory close outs and reconciliations. Automating the entire process delivers simplicity for the salesperson and compliance with aggregate spend and transparency disclosure reporting.

360 Degree Customer View
Every CRM vendor claims to deliver a 360 degree customer view. But most do not. At least not for life science customers. What most deliver is a customer view with company firmographics and contact demographics. That's a start but it's static data and woefully incomplete.

Life sciences sales reps need a 360 degree view that can easily decipher complex associations, such as the relationships between doctors and hospitals or payers and the relationships that physicians or HCPs hold as KOLs. A physician listed as a general surgeon at one hospital may also be a KOL at a different teaching hospital. A general practitioner who is as an infrequent prescriber may be responsible for recruiting many patients for a clinical trial at a different oncology division.

CRM 360 Customer View

Life sciences customer relationships are becoming more complex. The industry is transitioning from product-focused business strategies to a more customer-centric approach. It is also increasing its engagement channels, from just healthcare referral channels, to include direct consumer and patient relationships. More types of customers and increased engagement over more channels requires solving the perennial challenge of achieving a single, central, shared and complete 360 degree customer view.

The best CRM software for life sciences salespeople displays complete customer data, including customer insights, customer segments, market share, sale and purchase history, customer profitability (overall and by product), Customer Lifetime Value, affiliations, and relationships with other customers.

Many times, these relationships are displayed in a hierarchy that includes multiple types of customers and shows how they are related. It also provides seamless integration with ERP systems to deliver enterprise wide visibility to marketing, clinical, safety, and customer support.

Strategic Selling is the Top Producers Top Tool
Another area of significant differentiation among CRM applications is their ability to support strategic sale methodologies. The most successful life sciences salespeople have shifted from informal selling to strategic selling backed with a sale methodology. A sale methodology is a prescriptive but dynamic framework of sales strategies, tactics and responses that systemically and predictably advance the sales cycle and maximize the sellers win rate. A sale methodology shifts the selling strategy from what you sell to how you sell.

Sellers that apply sale methodologies always achieve higher sales win rates than those with informal sales methods. The best CRM software for life science companies is designed to integrate the sale methodology with CRM software activity and opportunity management. The most common sale methodologies in the life science industry are the Challenger Sale model and Strategic Selling.

Repeatable, Disciplined Sales Processes Work Best
A structured sales process defines the methods or techniques to advance sale opportunities through each step of the process. For example, it defines the investigative questions to qualify a lead, the path to align buyer pain with product benefits, the strategy to create a win plan, the negotiation methods to preserve revenue, the incentives to get the deal closed and many other tactics to win competitive deals. A simple example is shown below.

CRM Sales Process

The best CRM software for life sciences salespeople supports defined sales processes with guided selling tools. Many times, these are visual process flows with branching or conditional logic that display Stages and Steps and can streamline sales cycles, facilitate repeatable processes and suggest best practices. These capabilities collectively increase sales win rates.

The combination of a sale methodology and disciplined sales process integrated with CRM automation can grow pharma, biotech or medical device revenues by high single digits or low double digits, depending on the particular sale methodology and sales adoption discipline.

CRM to Increase Customer Share

As usual, I'm running long so I'll have to shorten these next sections.

KAM and Account Planning Grow Customer Relationships and Revenue
The most predictable and profitable revenue generation consist of repeat sales and selling more products to existing customers. To promote recurring and expanded product line sales within accounts, the best CRM software for life sciences offers KAM and other account management plans.

Account plans define how to grow the customer relationship and customer share over time. They are created from a combination of short-, medium-, and long-term planning templates and various types of accounts (i.e., Top accounts, Premier Accounts, Foundation Accounts, etc.) Once created, the seller enters the account's top goals, aligns the products that achieve those goals, schedules a time-phased action plan and identifies the potential sale opportunities over each time horizon. Account plans also identify stakeholders and their personal goals and build relationship maps to easily decipher complex relationships, such as the relationships between HCPs and payers or the relationships among patients and KOLs.

Account plans are not done in isolation. Every client meeting, sales activity and sale opportunity should reference the account plan. Sales managers can link account plans and objectives for multiple sellers and multiple products to promote a broader footprint at the customer or link multiple sale opportunities to increase sale size and conversions.

They also work in concert with territory planning and management. Account plans can roll up to view the total planned impact for a defined territory over future periods and measure progress over time.

CRM to Increase Customer Retention

Even with new customers coming in, company revenues, growth and valuation deteriorate when too many of those customers leave through the back door. Below are a few CRM tools and methods to lower customer churn.

Customer Self-service
More emphasis is being placed on the patient and how they manage their own care, giving way for new CRM tools to engage and serve both HCPs and patients.

CRM customer self-service portals can deliver information and answer questions on-demand, 24 by 7, and without incurring customer service labor cost. The best CRM software for life sciences offers self-service knowledgebases, chatbots, virtual agents and other tools that when properly implemented can handle up to 80 percent of routine customer service questions or problems.

Customer Churn Prediction
The ability to improve customer retention delivers significant and sustained revenue growth. So, to aid that goal some CRM software can automatically calculate customer health scores and use artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to identify customers most at risk of churn. Even better, knowing why customers churn is more powerful than knowing which customers will churn as it allows companies to fix the causes of churn and prevent customer attrition before it happens.

Complex Case Management
Life sciences case management can get complex. For example, a case may organize the funding for patients in need of high cost drugs. A patient may require a lifesaving drug that costs $3000 per vile and should be administered four times per week – a treatment that exceeds the patient's ability to pay. Case management must be able to setup the case to engage and track insurance services, Government sources, not for profit entities and other providers who may arrange or contribute funding for the needed drugs.

Analytics and Big Data
Life sciences companies (especially pharma) are acquires of big data.

Big data can gather what drugs have been prescribed in what areas, often by which physicians or HCPs, and then use that data to correlate with sales strategies and account plans or modify sales processes, local market plans, KOL plans and individual physician plans.

The best CRM software offers Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and predictive analytics to harvest customer and third party data to deliver intelligent Next Best Offer or Next Best Action recommendations, or realign markets by territory, product, salesperson or customer segment, or validate trade compliance management or other regulations. The use cases for intelligent software are almost limitless.

The pharma, biotech or medical device manufacturers that can use business intelligence tools to curate and convert raw data into actionable insights will outperform those than cannot.

The Top 4 CRM Software Systems for Whole Distribution

While understanding how to choose the best CRM software for pharma, biotech and medical device companies is important, the most common question I'm asked is, "What is best CRM software for life science companies?" The short answer, based on market share and my experience from having implemented CRM systems at pharma, biotech and medical device companies for more than two decades, is Salesforce with Veeva, Oracle NetSuite, SAP CRM and Microsoft Dynamics Customer Engagement. The longer answer and a deeper analysis is available at the top four life science CRM systems.

Top 4 CRM for Life Sciences

If you are evaluating CRM software, you may also want to consider our CRM software selection framework to identify the best CRM solution. End

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Most CRM software apps do not support mobile sales order processing with CPQ and real-time inventory visibility, KOL and influencer engagement, KAM and related account management, samples management, integration with a sale methodology, automation for multistep sales processes, regulated content management, and regulatory compliance reporting. That’s why most CRM software apps are not a good fit for life science companies.


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