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Cost effective pharma sales force through KOL mapping

Pharmaceuticals companies greatly rely on sales force for its marketing products as it is the most effective channels to engage customers

Pharmaceuticals companies greatly rely on sales force for its marketing products as it is the most effective channels to engage customers. Thus sales force effectiveness is the key for any pharma business model. Sales force in turn rely on KOLs, physicians to circulate innovation and publish scientific information regarding innovative treatments and new products.4

Sales Force Effectiveness (SFE)

Sales force targets its highly profitable customers and limits its less coverage physicians. A strategy to effectively bring about this is SFE.1

SFE is to counter the changing market dynamics by new sales models around KOLS through KOLs trust and confidence in all aspects of Pharma business.1

SFE strategy includes

• Sales team strategy

• Talent management

• Remuneration

• Support processes

During critical product launch phase different departments complement each other in order to achieve SFE.1

New approach for SFEs

1. Prescribing Decisions

A whole lot of stakeholders influence Prescribing decisions; hence pharma companies must coordinate and optimize messages for each and every group. The sales force must evolve around the decision makers’ accordingly.1

2. Analytically driven Interactions

Targeting high prescribing physicians through segmentation models is less impactful; hence targeting underserved physicians through statistically driven approach will bring more positive sales visits. 1

The concept of differentiated detailing that is differentiating physicians and other influencers, stake holders into behavioral and attitudinal segments will bring about more meaningful interactions. This can be brought about by specific tailored messages for each group through innovative technology. 1

3. Shift in Field Force

The field force must be well equipped with the valuable technical product knowledge and understanding. A major shift in field force can be brought about by treating physicians as partners and not mere marketing targets. 1

New boost to SFEs

Well managed KOLs for any Pharma Company can experience increased share of voice at global, regional and national levels. As physicians try and follow these KOLs is their prescribing patterns as KOLs opinions stems from years of industry experience and medical affiliations. 2

Hence getting the right KOLs to conduct research, write articles, speak on their products before and after product launch can increase the SFEs of pharma companies. 2

The KOL management is thus very essential for any pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and medical devices sector. 2

The KOL Management can be obtained by

• Robust KOL Profiles

• Relationship Management

• Adoption by entire company

• Identify appropriate KOLs

• Evaluate synchronized information

This is achieved by application of innovative technology like CRM Solution. 2

A pharma CRM can formulate companies’ growth strategies and SFE is the key factor of a Pharma CRM. 5

Robust KOL Profiles

The CRM software extracts entire KOL profiles to point out the required customers. The specific data of KOLs can be fed into the software to build widespread KOL profiles. The KOL profile will consist of complete data from contact to past history of brands of a KOL. The software helps users to have a centralized database if publications, clinical trials, URLs and other relevant documents through content library. Social CRM enables to get the real time posts of KOLs by accessing their social profiles.2

Relationship Management

The software records individual data and also correlates data which otherwise may be unseen. The CRM helps to individually manage single KOL and hence prevents mismanagement of relationship by making the process much more efficient. CRM solutions also facilitate appointments and record it.2

The long-term relationship may be brought about by communicating regularly with KOLs and be aware of their upcoming expectations. Each of these communications can be recorded in the software for future references.3

Adoption by entire company

Through CRM, the centralized database can be accessed by entire company at various stages of drug development from R & D to marketing to make crucial business decisions. CRM also generates alerts so as to prevent contacting same KOL multiple times. This ensures better relationship between KOL and the company in long run.2

Identify appropriate KOLs

Identification of specific KOL is very much crucial as sometimes a focused analysis of particular data may be required to make a precise decision. One example would be analyzing only publications of a KOL to consider him for white paper of their under trial drug.2

CRM solution helps to eliminate all unnecessary information while dealing with such specific scenarios and pinpoint and isolate the particular KOL required.2

Evaluate synchronized information

The CRM software provides current reports and real time documents of an individual to make appropriate decision in KOL management.

The detailed reports from centralized database helps managers to study all activities related to KOLs for a specific span of time there by ensuring optimized KOL Management. The opinion leaders may be ranked in databases in their specific therapeutic area.3

Hence adopting such software can optimize KOL management and ensure enhanced credibility for products and services.

Right KOL’s equals to effective sales force

• Medical Liaisons can better assess and pinpoint individual KOL and develop solutions around those needs

• Providing tailored messages to specific KOL to enhance impact on actual prescribing

• Optimize resources for brand portfolio across a region or multiple areas

• According to existing market needs the MRs can develop their competencies leading to KOL satisfaction resulting in repeat sales

• The centralized database enables management to have transparency of sales team and KOL interaction1

Thus adopting such a technology by companies will be Cost effective as Classifying and prioritizing a required KOL is much easier task. The Sales Force Effectiveness can be enhanced through adopting such software solutions as the sales force can be directly asked to contact exact required KOL.2

KOL Mapping - a breakthrough in KOL Management

A New Era in KOL Management

KOL Management is an integral part of Pharmaceutical marketing. With lot of data capture capabilities driven by technology huge data may be available but all the data is good only as per its relevance. Thus more the data gathered, the harder it is to segregate appropriate data to pinpoint particular KOL for specific areas.1

Today Specialist KOLs (thought leaders) in innovative treatment are actually searched than a very prominent KOL especially in emerging categories of treatment like Alzheimer’s where forward thinking physicians may not have a higher visibility. Hence to identify such a thought leader early in international, national or regional level has remained a challenge for pharmaceutical companies.1

Finding the right KOL for the job for particular product, KOL Mapping does an in depth analysis of information and gives a quantitative approach to identify KOLs at various geographic levels. 1

Mapping can locate the leadership of a KOL across the globe by category and also his influence among peers. Mapping is also about identification of local physicians who have influence on their own local communities. 1

Technologies in KOL Mapping

KOL mapping is done using various tools like CRM, VBA dashboards which use huge backend data collected by primary and secondary research.

The key activities by physicians are captured, like:

• Publications

• Clinical Trials

• Editorial Boards

• Guidelines Participation

• Company Affiliations

• Advisory Boards

• Scientific Societies/associations

• Regulatory affiliations

• Patient Advocacy Groups

• Social media activity

KOL Influence plays a very important role in KOL management. Three significant things to be considered for KOL influence are:

Differential influence of KOLs

KOLs influence in different market segment varies differentially. Understanding the level of influence in required segment of disease area is the key. The influence of top KOLs are diffuse in some segments like diabetes where only 8% is the influence by top 3 KOLs while in crohn’s disease top 3 accounts for 57%.2


Peer nomination is important as a KOL is valuable only if he is popular among his peers. Through normal data collections to identify such KOLs may be difficult in markets where less secondary data is available or legal restrictions are found which limit the data.2 Internationally peer nomination can be very effective method of identifying such KOLs by primary methods.2

Business Need

To identify valid KOLs brings a massive brunt on company’s business for years. In case of wrong KOLs the company will waste valuable time and money on physician who actually has less or no influence his peers.2

Hence traditional method of capturing more and more KOLs is no longer a business need. Here is when KOL influence mapping comes where it facilitates optimization of data in specified therapeutic areas by not only secondary data but also through peer nominations (primary data) that yields the actionable data faster.2

KOL Mapping - a breakthrough

• KOL Mapping helps companies to locate KOLs as speakers, conduct seminars on their products

• Mapping keeps a track of required KOL’s career and with updated information for a brand

• KOL with innovative treatment may be targeted against a prominent KOL

• Mapping also makes companies more familiar with the KOLs before approaching them with appointment

• The key strengths of KOL is already known to the company representative to develop a effective relationship, thus companies can effectively use their resources

• Mapping helps in relationship management by understanding the physician behavior while treating a patient

• Targeting for particular segment like advisory boards, speaker programs, clinical trials and for writing publications of a particular brand is easier by a thorough Mapping study

• Mapping Strategy can locate those opinion leaders who can talk about the product and make it familiar among his peers before commercialization of the product

• Study of KOL Mapping helps companies in brand positioning of their product in early phase of market launch by accessing specialists interested in innovative technologies

• Mapping can indicate innovative thinking opinion leaders to pinpoint the concerns of existing therapy and are able to discover new therapies in future for a particular therapeutic area

Though there are innumerous benefits of KOL Mapping, the major concern is, the data may not be accurate and analyzing only with clinical trials and publications data, its shelf life is too less.

Hence segmenting KOLs using both qualitative and quantitative methods with multi data points is very essential. First the quantitative data from secondary like advisory boards, publications, conferences attended, clinical trials, social media activity, guidelines etc are collected and then peer reviews are collected by primary to validate the secondary data. Some therapeutic areas are popular for mapping like Alzheimer’s disease, oncology while in orphan drug space and medical device area it is less used.

Road Ahead for influence mapping

In future there is possibility of use of mapping in Medical device space. The relationship between manufacturer of device and end user is direct; the sales reps are of engineering background so the physician is the decision maker to influence the use of devices.

In the era of social media digital KOL mapping (Sociometric analysis) cannot be ruled out. When a KOL is active in social media the employers can get a real time data which they can pass on to their sales team for faster, stronger decisions of a product.3 Social influence among peers also changes the physician adoption level for any new prescription drug especially if the drug has no information on long term efficacy. Thus considering social activeness as a data point for mapping would bring about enhanced results.3

Almost many midsize to large pharmaceutical companies consider KOL mapping as an important tool for their KOL management strategies. Many market research companies claim to do the mapping but getting the right process is the key.

Usage of multiple data points with qualitative analysis by peer review is the most important part of mapping. Mapping is just not by university or research institutes data but also through message mapping, organizational mapping and social media mapping (Sociometric analysis).

The pharmaceutical companies need to look at needs of the patients through KOLs for market oriented results and also decision makers through academia and research institutes for scientific contemplation. This is consultative selling. The KOL selected for Phase III compound as an investigator may be different from the one who is a market driver for the product at later stages of product lifecycle.1

Thus a robust KOL mapping with adequate survey of data both by primary and secondary data analysis (qualitative and quantitative) with proper technological methods (VBA, CRM tools) can bring about the desired result.

In today’s KOL management where not only the prominent KOLs in national and international level but also the emerging leaders in local communities are of prime importance, KOL mapping is indeed a breakthrough.

Authored By

Mr. Ravikant Marella

Managing Partner EU – Asia PAC

D2L Pharma, India

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