How AI is Improving the Work of Pharma Sales Reps

By Customertimes

Sales representatives in the pharmaceutical industry are facing many challenges when they work with healthcare providers, but experts say this can be improved through the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

These challenges include sales reps who are struggling to get face-to-face meetings with busy doctors, overwhelmed by increasing workloads and the pressure of meeting sales targets.

The Senior Vice President of Customertimes, Taras Kravets, says artificial intelligence as a tool can help automate routine tasks like scheduling meetings, as well as help with predicting physician needs where AI can suggest the most relevant topics to discuss with healthcare providers. Both of which can boost the performance of sales reps amid an increasingly competitive industry.

“It’s not about replacing humans with artificial intelligence. It’s about using AI to increase the efficiency of humans,” said Kravets.

According to ABI Research, there has been a 27 per cent annual growth in pharmaceutical companies’ spendings on data analytics, with the adoption of AI taking place across various facets of the industry, including marketing, scientific processes, sales, and business development.

When it comes to sales, however, how can AI enhance the performance of sales representatives and drive profit?

Utilizing AI to better communicate with healthcare providers

Kravets says what AI can do that a human cannot is analyze a big set of data in a very short period of time and provide the outcomes.

He explains that this is why many pharmaceutical companies have adopted Next Best Action (NBA), which is a method that relies on data analytics and machine learning to guide reps on the best steps to take in different situations.

For sales reps, NBA is like a helpful assistant. It looks at a customer’s history, what they like, and how they behave, and then suggests the most effective things to do when talking to doctors or other potential customers. This could be recommending the right product to talk about or suggesting the best way to get the message across. Essentially, it’s about making the sales process smoother and more personalized.

“The likelihood of selling something is much higher because AI is analyzing that data and is telling you if you’re very likely or not going to sell a drug, for example, to a particular doctor or pharmacy,” said Kravets.

Using AI to anticipate needs in the Life Sciences Sector

Dr Andrée Bates, an artificial intelligence thought leader and the founder and CEO of Eularis, points out in her ‘AI For Pharma Growth’ newsletter, that advanced artificial intelligence can now study how doctors behave online, including their search behavior during trials and interactions on social media. This helps predict which brands doctors are more likely to stick with.

“Physicians considering a shift from a competitor’s product necessitate prompt engagement,” said Bates.

This quick engagement involves, according to Bates, making it easy for physicians to find research and trial data, focusing on service during sales talks, and using AI in various ways to interact.

“These strategies are pivotal in captivating and retaining physicians on the brink of switching, thereby enhancing brand allegiance,” she states in the newsletter.

She also says that with predictive analytics, AI helps sales reps “anticipate” what healthcare providers need before those needs are even expressed in a discussion or meeting.

“This foresight enables proactive engagement, positioning the sales representative as a proactive partner in the healthcare provider’s decision-making process,” Bates added.

Overcoming challenges with AI in Pharma

There are two challenges that pharmaceutical companies can face if they’re thinking or working on integrating AI into their pharma sales teams, says Kravets, that if they’re overcomed companies will succeed in driving profit and engagement.

The first challenge is that every time there is a new emerging technology on the market that can increase the efficiency of the employees like AI there’s going to be resistance from some employees.

“Quite often, the people are just reluctant to change or the people see that this technology is a threat for them,” said Kravets.

“But when they do use it in the right way, and realize that it’s just going to help them be more proficient in what they do and will lead them to be more important for the employer and more valued,” he added.

The other big challenge Kravets points out is that employers need to be prepared that once an emerging technology like AI gets implemented in the workplace they may go through a lot of failures.

“People are still learning how to use it in the most efficient way and sometimes companies fail once, twice or fail five times, and they just drop it. In my opinion, that’s a very big mistake…Those companies who will be the first to implement AI effectively will get the most success,” he said.

Final Thoughts

Pharmaceutical sales reps are dealing with tough challenges when connecting with healthcare providers, and artificial intelligence (AI) can be a smart solution. The growing work pressure, high expectations, and the struggle to meet doctors in person make it clear that new and innovative solutions are needed.

As pharmaceutical companies navigate challenges, like resistance to change and initial setbacks, by embracing AI, they stand to increase revenue, boost engagement, and gain a competitive edge in the industry.


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