Commercial effectiveness in real life

by Ales Tichopad | Mar 22, 2016

I recently spoke with Vladislav Urda, commercial excellence director - Europe at Teva Pharmaceuticals, about the importance of commercial effectiveness activities in his business. 

People talk a lot about commercial effectiveness today, but what does this mean for Teva?

Over the last few years Teva has transformed from a generics company into an original pharma company. It has been very interesting to see how commercial effectiveness processes and standards have evolved over such a short time. For instance, in some countries we were missing even basic customer segmentation and targeting, and now we are using the newest techniques based on prospective profiling. This allows us to predict our future customers' behavior. Commercial effectiveness is key in unlocking additional commercial potential within our teams and focusing on customers' needs in line with our customer-centric strategy. This is all possible due to the highly cooperative, open and inspirational culture within Teva.

Which company functions and departments are "in scope" for your commercial effectiveness activities?

Typically, sales and marketing functions were "in scope" over the last few years. However, following implementations in different countries we have identified a need to focus on the core HQ functions as well. This will allow for even better alignment with business intelligence, market access and digital, to name a few. Through this we create a much wider perspective on particular issues and therefore speed up much of the decision-making process. This is a crucial factor for success. In our business, even being a mere month ahead of our competitors can lead to dramatic differences in results and lifecycle management. This means that having an immediate response to our customers needs can greatly influence future commercial success.

Is commercial effectiveness something you can drive at a regional/HQ level, or are individual markets so different that individual country approaches are needed?

Interesting question, indeed. It depends on the company structure and culture, as well as the company vision. If the company is typically driven "top-down," it is a good option to run commercial effectiveness centrally. We can see this model successfully implemented in some companies now. However, if you have a more differentiated approach from country to country, it is best to have central guiding principles that can be adapted to each country's specific needs. This drives the local buy-in and ownership process more smoothly.

Do you see different challenges in eastern Europe versus western Europe?

The main difference is in customer access. In some western European countries we’re often limited in our visits and we struggle to get frequent face-to-face time with customers. This does mean that we need a differentiated commercial excellence focus for each country situation.

What mega-trends do you anticipate for the pharma environment, and how will these affect the commercial functions?

Pharma company acquisitions will continue and could even speed up. The penetration of digital companies (Google, Samsung, Apple, etc.) into the healthcare business will challenge the pharma industry to adopt a more patient-orientated approach. This new injection of information and awareness in patients means that they move from a position where they simply follow their doctor’s instructions to one where they can discuss – often as informed equals – and understand a variety of treatment options. This will change how commercial teams have to work. Pharma companies will have to deliver clearer value propositions to the patient as well as the doctor. This is why direct and unbiased feedback at a customer level is going to be the key for successful pharma growth.

How do new technologies (including Google and Apple) and social media affect commercial effectiveness? Do they present new challenges or provide new opportunities?

Every new technology is an opportunity for the pharma industry. However, pharma is slower at adopting these technologies, and personal contact/visits will continue to be the key driver in enabling trust and cooperation with HCPs for the immediate future, even until perhaps the “Google generation” grows to middle age.

On the assumption that "you can't improve what you don't measure," how do you understand and measure the quality of your customer engagement today?

There was a time in pharma when simply a high share of voice was sufficient to drive better results than a competitor. However, the use of recall and resonance in promo monitoring became much more important some years ago. Now they are key differentiators for the successful implementation of any marketing strategy. This trend is irreversible and will continue further into the area of Big Data analytics combined with advanced statistical analytics. In turn, this will predict future customer behavior.  Pharma will need to utilize all available data to create tailored solutions and real value propositions – not just products – for our customers. 

How important are the CE activities that take place at individual brand manager level and why?

We strongly believe that the brand manager is the one who influences the dynamics within the business. They do this by not only creating appropriate campaigns but also by playing an important role in generating excitement within the sales force. It is the brand manager who, through their direct involvement with the sales reps, customers, first-line managers and the market environment as a whole, drive through the different product lifecycle stages. In large organizations brand managers play a key role in implementing and localizing a centrally managed strategy.

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