The best CRM software for life sciences companies is designed for the five industry imperatives of higher sales conversions, increased customer share, improved customer retention, lower cost to serve and regulatory compliance.
In the prior post I shared how to select the best life sciences CRM solution for your company. This post will deliver comparison information among the top 4 CRM systems for pharmaceutical, biotech, cosmetic and medical device manufacturers.
Life Sciences CRM is Different
Most CRM systems focus on generic CRM processes such as simple account, contact and opportunity management. That's woefully incomplete for an industry selling regulated products through direct and indirect channels to time starved customers based in largest part on customer relationships. It also incurs challenges when working with CROs, CMOs and other partners.
I've been comparing and implementing CRM for life sciences companies for over two decades and a frequent question I get is, "What is the best CRM for life science companies?"
It's not an easy question and there is not an easy answer. But there are overarching factors to consider, such as market share, customer reviews and the industry specific requirements that make CRM for life sciences different than generic CRM software.
CRM Market Share in the Life Sciences Industry
I'll start with market share. The top 4 CRM software systems across all industries are Salesforce, SAP CRM, Oracle CX and Microsoft Dynamics 365.
These top 4 solutions are also the leaders in the life sciences industry. Not because pharma, biotech, cosmetic and medical device companies have the same requirements; they don't. But because these software publishers deliver the technology capabilities and automation most 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 for your company 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 as a starting point.
1. Salesforce Health Cloud
Salesforce is the CRM 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 powerful capabilities, digital commerce, Einstein AI, Tableau CRM, an AppExchange ecosystem and an industry specific Salesforce Health Cloud.
Salesforce for life sciences 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 really important to field sales staff and has achieved a profound effect in user adoption
- A salesforce evaluation found that the app is especially strong with advanced capabilities such as Configure Price Quote and document management
- The combination of its Lightning platform (Force.com), Apex, other Platform as a Service (PaaS) tools and AppExchange ecosystem provide significant software extensibility
Beyond the Salesforce Health Cloud there is another related market leading solution.
Veeva is a CRM application built on the Salesforce platform specifically for the pharma and biotech industries. The company delivers an industry specific solution for product development, compliance, and commercialization of new drugs.
In addition to sales force automation, Veeva CRM manages R&D processes (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 current agreement runs to 2025.
I've implemented Salesforce for many life sciences companies, and to be fair, Salesforce does not accommodate some of the industry operational or regulatory requirements as standard capabilities. However, it offers 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, cosmetic, 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 likely pay dividends. But if your goals are less ambitious, your growth path more incremental or you do not leverage Salesforce or Veeva's sophisticated capabilities, you will increase investment without increasing payback.
2. Oracle and Oracle NetSuite
Oracle offers a life science system designed for large, complex and global companies. It is an impressive cloud application that has risen from the acquisition of Siebel Systems and continued organic growth. However, where we see the biggest CRM growth in the life sciences industry is from Oracle NetSuite.
NetSuite is the younger brother acquired by Oracle in 2016. Strengths for this solution include the following:
- Unique feature sets around scheduling and sales call management. Salespeople 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 particularly 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 ERP system. That streamlines the quoting, sale order and fulfillment processes.
- This CRM app is part of an enterprise-wide business software suite. This application can support enterprise-wide execution with a single vendor, fully integrated business application. The suite includes ERP, Supply Chain Management (SCM), Human Capital Management (HCM) and business intelligence (BI). A vendor-managed integration that automates cross-functional transaction processes is a big deal to many companies that want to avoid complex and costly system integration.
One caution though, the NetSuite CRM app does not carry the same credibility or strength as the company's ERP software.
Oracle NetSuite is well suited for small and midsized companies or decentralized operations that roll up to an Oracle ERP solution. Consider Oracle NetSuite if you are looking for a holistic business suite to automate company wide processes, and CRM software is a relatively small component in the decision-making process.
3. SAP CRM
SAP is the ERP market share leader. 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 an 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 offers flexible online commerce and omnichannel engagement for both B2B and B2C markets. 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 analytics with SAP Crystal Reports and business intelligence powered by SAP HANA are quite flexible and include KPIs for pharmaceutical, biotech, cosmetic 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 CE value proposition is similar to SAP, in that the CRM software is an integrated component in a broader, enterprise-wide solution. The Microsoft Dynamics 365 stack includes CRM, SCM, ERP, HCM, Digital Commerce 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. Second, Microsoft CRM software, called Dynamics Customer Engagement (CE), is a very strong application even without the rest of the business application suite. Microsoft CE software is sold far more often as a standalone solution and without the company's ERP application.
Focusing on just the CRM software, benefits of this solution include the following:
- Native integration with Outlook. This integration is more than just contacts and email. Microsoft replicates the CRM activities within Outlook so that sellers and executives can perform their sales and other activities without leaving Outlook. I've implemented Dynamics CE many times, and this is often the most cited benefit by users
- Microsoft CE is a cloud native, browser-based app that permits very flexible configuration. Other CRM apps also permit configurations, but once made you are unlikely or unable to change. Dynamics 365 tools are more flexible and show that becoming standardized does not mean becoming inflexible
- Dynamics CE offers a powerful guided selling tool to facilitate multistep sales processes. It's a visual process guide that shows repeatable processes and best practices at each sales stage or step in the sales cycle, and it is effective at increasing sales win rates and decreasing sales cycles
- Microsoft is ahead of most competitors in workflow 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
- The Microsoft Power Platform tools are low code visual tools that allow CRM customization by business analysts or non-programmers and without over-customizing the application. That means a higher fit system with less maintenance and much easier upgrades. The Power Platform includes Power BI, which has become the top user generated, agile data analytics tool
- Dynamics CE is a global application that delivers localized functionality in 40 regions with 42 languages
- Microsoft CRM software is the least expensive application among the top 4 vendors
- CRM market share growth shows Microsoft gaining on Oracle and SAP. Although Salesforce continues to extend its lead, Microsoft has challenged the others for the runner up spot. Salesforce is the leader, and Microsoft is the challenger.
- Microsoft Dynamics CE is well suited for midsize companies or divisions within large companies. Consider Dynamics CE 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.