September 1, 2022

Back in the field: The return of face-to-face conversations

Damian Colehan

Focusing on digital engagement over the past three years was something pharma had to do as an industry to remain available. Healthcare providers (HCP) were directly affected by the burdens of the pandemic, and pharma had to reinvent existing models to accommodate the evolving demands of the times. But now as we move away from the pandemic fatigue and step back into normalcy, we need to look at a comprehensive approach toward HCP engagement.

Face-to-face detailing by field teams has been the tried and tested method of promotion in the pharmaceutical industry for decades. Even face-to-face virtual calls have been successful with increasing time spent with HCPs as per their preferences. Virtual engagements allow for a longer meeting, typically 30-40 minutes, at a time that is more convenient for an HCP. While we went and reinvented the commercial models in the last three years with a hybrid, digital and virtual engagement mix, face-to-face field educational meetings remain a crucial part of the omnichannel customer journey.

By now we know the limitations of digital-only engagements. Some HCPs have embraced digital engagement with open arms, but some still prefer the traditional approach, especially when it comes to product launches, where timely access to the product information is critical to comprehend.

Virtual engagements are of course convenient and to the point, but they do not always offer the same emotional connection as traditional face-to-face meetings. In fact, 75% of HCPs said in a PwC study that they still want to interact with a real person. Virtual interactions also are not as effective when it comes to building lasting relationships and creating brand advocacy.  

The way forward is hybrid, a way to mix up both digital and physical interactions and achieve the optimum engagement mix.  This means that the way commercial teams need to think about engagement also needs to change. It is no longer about how many channels or how many times you engage an HCP, but how you create value for them through every single interaction.

In the newer mix, the field teams need to be less like traditional sales and more like trusted advisors and experts who deliver marketing content with a personalized touch and a human-friendly approach. The commercial field teams need to focus on maintaining and deepening personal connections, which is the key to creating a personalized engagement plan for each customer that they engage with. That personal understanding and effective use of technology make a crucial difference when it comes to creating meaningful relationships.

Despite all the benefits of face-to-face interactions, we cannot deny that this is a high effort, high risk, and high reward situation. If the field teams cannot utilize this limited time to add value, you are not going to get another chance anytime soon.

And in 2022, there are also newer problems that the field teams need to tackle. On top of balancing multiple tasks that include travel, virtual meetings, sending emails, administrative work, and prospecting; they also need to give their 100% when it comes to a field visit.  

What would really help field teams is a friendly guide that provides insights before each interaction with an HCP. They need to be able to access calendars, tasks, reminders, and address books that are integrated and provide them with a role-specific, region-specific unified experience across all devices. That is the best way to ensure that they have access to the right information and insights across devices and platforms and they are making the most of it by gaining a deeper understanding of the HCP's preference.

To be honest, if the commercial teams are not on top of their technology game to help the field teams navigate across multiple platforms and shuffle between different channels to reach the HCPs compliantly, the field teams are simply not equipped to succeed.

That brings me to my latest adventure at At Tact, we are striving to help life science organizations nurture meaningful customer engagement through our human-friendly software. Tact’s approach to serving the life sciences industry goes beyond mere efficiency – it is about making a difference in the lives of the field team and the HCP, by creating value through data and insights. The platform is optimized for field teams to reach more customers, personalize each interaction, and capture more insights.  

What we are trying to achieve is to support the new age of commercial models and field execution to build better customer engagement.

about the author
Damian Colehan
Vice President of Sales - EMEA
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