Life Sciences CRM Selection

CRM for life sciences companies has different goals and requirements than the generic CRM software shared across many industries. It's not about routine account and opportunity management. That's because life science 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 and compliance pressures unlike any other industry.

Yet most CRM software does not accommodate these industry requirements, which leaves pharma, cosmetic, biotech and medical device companies scurrying to third party products, other systems or manual processes to support what should be delivered in a single application, if that CRM application is designed for life science companies.

Select the Best CRM for your Life Sciences Company

When searching for the best life science CRM software many novices focus on technology features. That's a mistake as CRM software features and functions may or may not deliver the business results your company seeks. A better approach is to lead with the most important business goals and then identify the CRM software capabilities needed to achieve those goals.

For most companies, the five most strategic life sciences CRM objectives are to acquire more customers, grow customer share, increase customer retention, lower cost to serve and automate regulatory compliance.

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

CRM to Increase Customer Acquisitions

Start with Customer Intelligence

Life science companies are customer centric, relationship-based, sales-driven companies. Improving sales effectiveness starts with customer insights and really knowing your customer. The best life sciences CRM software uses automation to build rich customer intelligence for each customer and customer segment. These tools include:

  • Voice of the Customer (VoC) surveys to engage, measure and prioritize what's most important to each customer (such as HCP) and your customers' customer (patients).
  • Buyer 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 sale opportunity win rates and sales conversions. Many times, insights create or link to the Ideal Customer Profile (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. CRM for life sciences has more flexible tools to segment by behaviors, personas, and insights. Better segmentation creates more relevant, personalized, and contextual communication, engagement, offers and conversions.
  • Customer data platforms, 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.

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

Financial Services Customer Intelligence

KOLs Amplify the Brand
KOLs deliver a force multiplier impact for lead generation and accelerate sales cycle 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 in the life sciences industry uses social listening tools to engage KOLs, digital campaigns to collaborate with them, nurture marketing campaigns to persist engagement over time and event campaigns with KOL participation and CME tracking – all while maintaining compliance with Sunshine laws and transparency requirements. These CRM tools are also used for outreach and engagement with MA, MSL and other HCP influencers.

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

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

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

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

The best CRM 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 transfers samples to sales reps, tracks items by serial number or lot, attributes revenue results related to samples, automates audit and compliance reporting, and performs periodic or time-based inventory close-outs and reconciliations. Automating the entire process delivers simplicity for the sales rep and compliance with aggregate spend and transparency disclosure reporting.

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

Life sciences salespeople need a 360-degree customer view that easily deciphers complex relationships, such as the associations between hospital or payers and doctors and relationships that HCPs or physicians 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 patients for a clinical trial at a different oncology division.

360 Customer View

Life science customer relationships are becoming more complex. The industry is transitioning from product-focused business strategies to more customer-centric business models. It is also increasing 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 CRM displays complete customer data, including customer segments, customer insights, market share, purchase and sales history, customer profitability (overall and by product), Customer Lifetime Value, affiliations, and relationships with other customers.

These relationships are often displayed in a hierarchy that shows multiple types of customers and how they are related. It also delivers seamless integration with ERP systems to achieve enterprise wide visibility to marketing, clinical, safety, and customer support.

Strategic Selling is the Top Producers Top Tool
Another area of differentiation among CRM systems is their ability to support strategic sales methodologies. The most successful life sciences sales reps have shifted from informal selling to strategic selling backed with a sales methodology.

A sales methodology is a prescriptive but dynamic framework of sales strategies, tactics and responses that systemically and predictably advances the sales cycle and maximizes the sellers win rate. A sales methodology shifts the selling strategy from what you sell to how you sell.

Sellers that apply sales 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 sales methodology with CRM software activity and opportunity management. The most common sales methodologies in the life science industry are the Challenger Sale model and Strategic Selling.

Repeatable Sales Processes Work Best
A structured sales process defines the methods or techniques to advance sale opportunities through each step of the process in the shortest time. 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.

Sales Process

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

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

CRM to Increase Customer Share

As usual, I am running a bit long so I'll need to shorten these next sections.

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

Account plans define how to grow the client relationship and customer share over  defined periods of time. They are created from a combination of short-, medium-, and long-term planning templates and different types of accounts (i.e., Top accounts, Premier Accounts, Key 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 understand complex relationships, such as the relationships between HCPs and payers or the relationships among KOLs and patients.

Account plans are not done in isolation. Every customer 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.

Account plans 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 Tenure

Even with new customers coming in, company revenues and business valuation decline when too many of those customers leave through the back door. Below are a few CRM tools and methods to increase customer retention.

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. CRM software offers self-service knowledgebases, chatbots, virtual agents and other apps that when properly deployed can handle up to 80 percent of routine customer service questions or issues.

Customer Churn Prediction
Improving customer retention delivers significant and sustained revenue growth. So, to aid that objective some CRM systems can automatically calculate customer health scores and use AI algorithms to identify customers at risk of churn. Going a step further, 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 a patient in need of high cost drugs. A patient may require a lifesaving drug that costs $4000 per vile and should be administered 3 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 that may arrange or contribute funding for the needed drugs.

Business Intelligence 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 append sales processes, local market plans, KOL plans and individual physician plans.

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

The pharma, biotech, cosmetic 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 for Life Sciences

While knowing how to choose CRM for pharma, biotech, cosmetic and medical device companies is important, a frequent question I'm asked is, "What is best CRM for life science companies?"

The short answer, based on market share and my experience from having implemented CRM systems in life science companies for more than two decades, is Salesforce with Veeva, Oracle NetSuite, SAP CRM and Microsoft Dynamics CE. 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 want to consider our CRM software selection process to quickly identify the best solution.