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Chuck Schaeffer The Top 4 CRM Software for Life Sciences Companies

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The Best CRM Software for Life Science Companies

Summary

  • Salesforce, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft Dynamics are the CRM software market share leaders in the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device manufacturing industries, or collectively, the life sciences industry.

  • These four systems go beyond generic CRM processes to deliver industry specific capabilities such as mobility, sales order processing with CPQ and real-time inventory visibility, KOL and influencer engagement, KAM and related account management, samples management with encrypted signature capture, integration with a strategic sale methodology, automation for defined multistep sales processes, regulated content management, and regulatory compliance reporting to name a few.

  • Each of the top CRM software systems for life sciences companies has different strengths, weaknesses and value propositions, discussed below.


The best Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software for life sciences aids industry imperatives such as higher sales conversions, increased customer share, improved client retention and lower costs to serve.

In the prior post I shared the top industry specific capabilities offered by the best life sciences CRM software providers. This post will deliver comparison information among the top four CRM systems for pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device manufacturers.

The Best Life Science CRM Software Solutions

Cross-industry CRM systems focus on generic CRM processes such as simple account and opportunity management. That's woefully incomplete for an industry selling regulated products through indirect channels to time starved customers based in large part on customer relationships. It also incurs challenges when working with CROs, CMOs and other partners.

I've been comparing and implementing CRM software at life science companies for over two decades and the number one question I get is, "What is the best CRM software for life science companies?"

The easy answer is to say, well, that depends. So, I'm not going to say the easy answer. Instead, I will suggest to answer the question you start by considering market share, market growth and the industry specific requirements that make CRM software for life sciences different than generic CRM software.

CRM Software Market Share in the Life Sciences Industry

So, I'll start with market share. The Big 4 CRM software solutions across all industries are Salesforce, SAP CRM, Oracle CX and Microsoft Dynamics Customer Engagement.

CRM Software Market Share

The Big 4 CRM software solutions are also the leaders in the life sciences industry. Not because pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and other life science companies have the same requirements; they don't. But because these vendors deliver CRM software capabilities needed by life sciences companies, things like selling through indirect channels, KOL engagement, KAM and HCP complex customer relationship management, mobility for field staff, samples management with electronic signature capture, efficient inventory fulfillment through CMOs and regulatory reporting unlike any other industry.

The Top 4 CRM Software for Life Sciences

Selecting the best life sciences CRM software is a long-term decision that should be based on the many criteria that support your staff, customers and company priorities. Consider the following comparison points only as a starting point.

Top Life Sciences CRM

1. Salesforce Health Cloud
Salesforce is the market share leader – overall and in the life sciences industry. The company pioneered cloud CRM, social CRM and is a top innovator. That innovation has delivered advanced capabilities, digital commerce, Einstein AI, a broad platform, an AppExchange ecosystem and an industry specific Salesforce Health Cloud.

Salesforce strengths include:

  • Salesforce is an innovator and disrupter. Companies that seek to innovate and disrupt their markets can learn from Salesforce and benefit from its applications
  • The user interface was one of the first to be built on consumer technologies and deliver a simple and rewarding user experience. That's especially important to field sales staff and has achieved a profound effect in user adoption
  • The combination of its Lightning platform (Force.com), Apex, other Platform as a Service (PaaS) tools and AppExchange ecosystem provide significant application extensibility

Beyond the Salesforce Health Cloud there is another related market leading solution.

Founded in 2007, Veeva is a CRM application built on the Salesforce platform specifically for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. The company's aim is to deliver an industry specific solution for product development, compliance, and commercialization of new drugs.

In addition to sales force automation, Veeva CRM manages R&D functions (drug development), aids areas such as medical, clinical, regulatory, quality, and safety tasks, and delivers rich HCP and HCO data, including things like clinical trials and physician prescription history.

You might think that the Salesforce Health Cloud and Veeva CRM are competitors but that's not the case. Veeva has an agreement with Salesforce whereby it pays a royalty fee and essentially gets a free lane. That agreement runs to 2025.

I've implemented Salesforce for many life science companies, and to be fair, Salesforce does not accommodate many industry operational or regulatory requirements as standard capabilities, or what we use to call out of the box before the cloud. However, it does offer a broad platform, flexible tools, packaged integration with some ERP systems, and a deep AppExchange ecosystem that brings together the components needed to satisfy pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and other life science industry requirements.

Consider Salesforce if you intend to transform your life science company. That may include shifting your value proposition with new value-added products or services, expanding channels or market boundaries, or elevating the customer experience.

However, acquiring the market share leader comes with the Salesforce price premium. Veeva comes with an even bigger price tag. If you leverage either of these applications for digital or business transformation your investment will pay dividends. But if your goals are less ambitious, your growth path is more incremental or you do not leverage Salesforce or Veeva's advanced capabilities, you will increase investment and total cost of ownership significantly without much payback.

2. Oracle and Oracle NetSuite
Oracle offers an enterprise life sciences system designed for large, complex and global deployments. It's an impressive cloud application that has risen from the acquisition of Siebel Systems and continued organic growth. However, where we see the biggest CRM software growth in the life sciences industry is from Oracle NetSuite.

NetSuite is the younger brother acquired by Oracle in 2016. Strengths for this application include:

  • Unique functionality around scheduling and sales call management. Sales reps can plan their HCP calls or visits through a menu option called Mass Planned Calls which streamlines activities based on user defined criteria and integrates to the calendar. Sales visits also accommodate samples distribution and tracking.
  • Sales order processing is uniquely strong and can be performed on a mobile device in the field. It has real-time inventory integration and can automatically push orders through to the back-office system. That streamlines the quoting, sale order and fulfillment processes.
  • This CRM application is part of an enterprise-wide business software suite. This application can support cross functional execution with a single vendor, fully integrated business application. The suite includes Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management (SCM), Human Capital Management (HCM) and business intelligence (BI). A vendor-managed integration that automates enterprise-wide transaction processes is a big deal to many life science companies who want to avoid complex and costly system integration.

One caution though, the NetSuite CRM software does not carry the same credibility or strength as the company's ERP software.

Oracle NetSuite is well suited for midmarket companies or decentralized operations that roll up to an Oracle ERP solution. Consider Oracle NetSuite if you are looking for a holistic business application suite to automate cross functional processes, and CRM software is a relatively small component in the decision-making process.

3. SAP CRM
SAP is the ERP software market share leader for the enterprise market. However, like NetSuite, SAP CRM does not possess the same credibility as the company's flagship S/4HANA ERP system. Nonetheless, SAP CRM does contribute to the biggest SAP strength, which is a single, enterprise-wide solution that includes CRM, ERP, SCM and HCM to support cross functional business processes.

Because of the company's strength in ERP, and integration with CRM, life science companies can acquire a complete solution that responds to some big challenges, such as forecast and demand planning, timely inventory fulfillment and close coordination with CMOs.

At a more tactical level, SAP CRM strengths include:

  • Sales order processing, with flexible quoting, shipping integration, EDI and complete order to cash visibility. Sellers can monitor sales order fulfillment and be alerted to predicted late deliveries
  • Visibility within CRM of inbound and outbound shipments, inventory quantities and item location (down to the bin). Visibility can be enhanced with advanced technologies such as GPS, Internet mapping and IoT
  • SAP Commerce Cloud delivers flexible ecommerce and omnichannel capabilities for both B2B and B2C environments. This is particularly important as customers want to complete more purchases online; a trend that will only continue to rise
  • SAP is a global solution with multi-currency management, 28 languages and 44 country specific localizations
  • The information reporting with SAP Crystal Reports and business intelligence powered by SAP HANA are quite flexible and include KPIs for pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device manufacturers

SAP CRM is best suited for large, global companies with complex selling and distribution requirements. Consider SAP CRM if you are evaluating SAP ERP software, you are an existing SAP customer, or you want an enterprise-wide fully integrated business application suite.

4. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement
The Microsoft CRM value proposition is similar to SAP, in that the CRM software is part of a holistic, enterprise-wide solution. The Microsoft Dynamics stack includes CRM, ERP, SCM, HCM, eCommerce and analytics.

However, there are two big differences when compared to SAP. First, where SAP dominates the largest companies, Microsoft is the ERP market share leader among midmarket companies. And second, Microsoft's CRM software, called Dynamics Customer Engagement, is a very strong application even without the rest of the application suite. Microsoft CRM software is sold far more often as a standalone solution and without the company's ERP software.

Focusing on just the CRM software, benefits of this application include the following:

  • Native integration with Outlook. And this integration is more than just contacts and email. Microsoft replicates the CRM system within Outlook so that sellers and executives can perform their CRM activities without leaving Outlook. I've implemented Dynamics CRM for a long time, and this is often the most cited benefit by users
  • The Microsoft Customer Engagement software is a cloud native, browser-based application that permits very flexible configuration. Other CRM systems also permit configurations, but once made you are unlikely or unable to change. Microsoft Dynamics tools are more flexible and show that becoming standardized does not mean becoming inflexible
  • Dynamics has a powerful guided selling tool to facilitate multistep sales processes. It's a visual process guide that suggests repeatable processes and best practices at each sales stage or step in the sales cycle, and it is effective at increasing sales win rates
  • Microsoft is ahead of most competitors in business process automation capabilities. The application offers multiple workflow types (i.e., synchronous or asynchronous workflows, Dialogues, Actions and Business Process Flows) and the Windows Workflow Foundation or the Power Automate platform can make workflow automation even more extensible
  • Microsoft's Power Platform tools are low code/no code visual tools that permit CRM software customization by non-programmers and without over-customizing the application. That means a higher fit system with less CRM maintenance and much easier upgrades. The Power Platform includes Power BI, which has become the top user generated, agile data analytics tool
  • Dynamics Customer Engagement is a global application that delivers localized functionality in 40 regions with 42 languages
  • Microsoft CRM software is the least expensive application among the Big 4
  • CRM market share growth shows Microsoft gunning for the number 2 position. Although Salesforce continues to extend its lead, Microsoft has challenged Oracle and SAP for the runner up spot. Salesforce is the leader, and Microsoft is the challenger.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM software is well suited for midsize companies or divisions within large companies. Consider Dynamics CRM if you are a Microsoft technology shop, a small or midsize company looking for least cost CRM software or seeking a cross-functional and enterprise-wide information system. End

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Most CRM systems do not support mobile sales order processing with CPQ and real-time inventory visibility, KOL and influencer engagement, KAM and related account management, samples tracking, 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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