Most pharmaceutical companies, at one time or another, have had an inside sales force. That is, either an internal team of professionals trained to contact HCPs and their offices via the phone and engage them in clinical, product-based discussions, or possibly a contracted external team focused on distribution of samples or patient education materials. Over the years, many of these programs have been scaled back or eliminated as pharmaceutical companies look for ways to reduce overhead in the absence of metrics that validate tactical or channel impact.
Given the fact that the field sales force is losing much of the access they once had, the question begs to be asked: "Is a return to the semi-personal approach (tele-detailing or tele) the next best tactic to maintain relationships in light of reduced access?"
The biggest argument against using tele is that access to physicians can be minimal. That said, there are a number of tele approaches that are highly effective. Let’s look at some examples:
1. High potential writers who are not on the call plan
A cursory analysis of your targeting and segmentation will identify physicians who are high categorical writers but currently reside in your white space. These individuals may reside in areas that don’t economically support field force visits (e.g., rural areas), but can easily be picked up by a trained inside sales team.
2. Low-see and no-see physicians
A sales gap analysis will identify under-detailed physicians. Typically, this is defined by a gap between recommended call plan and actual call activity, where the actual is less than 75% of plan. A tele approach can help fill in those gaps to maximize Rx lift. The target of this approach is often an NP/PA champion in the office who will communicate messages with the physician(s).
3. Managed care pull through
The call point here is typically the reimbursement specialist or the business manager for the office/clinic. An appropriate message to this individual can lead to an effective spread of formulary (even co-pay) messaging to other office and clinical staff, and possibly even down the river to pharmacists.
4. Brands with high awareness levels
When calling an office about a mature brand (or one that is near the end of its patent), awareness may be high, and the customer might be very receptive to your message. If they have written the product in the past, these tele-details are seen as relevant, and the office may welcome any patient education/support materials you have that could help their patients comply with the treatment regimen.
For insight into the impact of tele-detailing, take a look at a recent Merkle case study involving a mature brand with declining sales force coverage that used tele to fill the gaps. There are many insights in this piece that will provide you with a better perspective of tele-detailing best practices.