Enrique Remezal
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Expert Contributor

Conquering the Recovery: New Pharmaceutical Commercial Models

By Enrique Remezal | Mon, 11/02/2020 - 22:21

The pandemic dramatically impacted the way that healthcare companies were driving their business in 2020. Along with the rest of the economy, one day to another, pharmaceutical companies had their commercial staff stuck at home with no access to hospitals, clinics, healthcare professionals and/or patients.

But every crisis is full of opportunities. I really think that companies with a fast, agile and client-oriented response can be the winners of the new normality.


All of us agree that the situation that we are suffering in 2020 is unexpected and unprecedented both in the volume and in the duration of the crisis.

Some figures can help us to understand the size of the outbreak in Mexico: The number of face-to-face visits done by the pharmaceutical industry in May 2020 decreased by 98 percent versus the same month of 2019 while remote interactions grew by 600 percent, according to IQVIA data.

At the same time, the number of patients has fallen in non-COVID-related pathologies, causing a big decrease both in new prescriptions and treatments and in treatment changes or add-ons. Research from ZS found that 65 percent of cancer patients said they delayed their visit to their oncologist in the US and Canada.

Most physicians have reacted to this situation by starting (or increasing) the use of telemedicine platforms to continue offering timely care to their patients. And their expectations are that the use of these tools (including e -prescriptions, remote learning or digital tools for clinical support) will increase in the near future.


Most of the top executives of pharma companies focused their time and efforts during the first weeks of the pandemic on urgent topics like employee safety, supply management and the support for healthcare professionals (HCPs) and health authorities.

Over the next few months, commercial teams were blocked at home with no direct access to HCPs or any other stakeholders. But, as soon as sales and marketing executives understood that the COVID-19 disruption would be longer than expected, most companies started to rush into any kind of digital and remote interactions with HCPs without any clear strategy or goal behind it.

The physicians, most of them absolutely overflowed with the pandemic clinical effort, faced a flood of messages, emails and requests for videoconferencing, webinars and online clinical meetings, vastly without any added value to them.

Additionally, a majority of reps were forced to do a job that they didn’t understand, were not prepared and were managing new tools and technologies without the necessary support.


We must really understand that the future society won’t be the same. A big set of new trends (or accelerating trends) is here to stay.

Teleworking, increasing use of e-commerce, social distance and massive technology developments to reduce the level of exposure are just some of the obvious changes.

In the pharmaceutical industry, I think that we must look at the new behavior of clients and customers as a basic customer-centric exercise. 

First, on the patient side. As previously stated, all health providers are reporting a big drop in the number of patients attending hospitals and clinics. Telemedicine is emerging as a key element to close the gap where possible. Empowering patients with tools to help them to improve self-management, such as wearable devices or AI-based apps. will improve the patient experience as well.

Second, physicians are more familiar than ever with telemedicine applications, social collaboration and videoconferencing platforms. According to internal research with more than 8,000 doctors in eight Latin American countries, 43 percent preferred a mix of F2F and remote interactions with pharma representatives, 5 percent only wanted remote interactions and 53 percent chose classic F2F calls.

Therefore, we must understand what these stakeholders are demanding of the pharmaceutical industry. We cannot close our eyes to the new realty of a more connected and omnichannel world.


Every pharmaceutical company must use the opportunity of this outbreak to redesign the commercial model to be applied for 2021 and beyond. Of course, there are no magic solutions and the strategy will be different according to each organizational situation, markets and priorities.

But some key points must be considered:

  1. The future is hybrid: F2F visits and meetings are not going to disappear because everybody wants some personal interaction. But clients are demanding more virtual and digital interactions at their convenience.

  2. The future is omnichannel: I am not seeing a situation where a client is physical or digital supported. Companies must be prepared to attend to physicians 24/7 in a personal and customized way at their practice, at home using the phone with webs or apps when attending patients or using online training platforms to receive news and updates from KOLs.

  3. Listen to your clients and do not assume what they want: ask your internal teams to ask HCPs, patients, payers and other stakeholders about their expectations and how your company can add value to meet their needs.

  4. Define your future commercial strategy based on your key competitive advantages to reach the positioning that you want (or need) for the future.

  5. Invest time and effort to mass communicate the need for change, the vision and the strategy across the organization. As with any organizational change, leaders must reduce the change resistance with open and clear communication and being close to the teams.

We are facing tough and uncertain times. But in every crisis, there are companies that can come out stronger than ever. It’s time to rethink the overall strategy, including the go-to-market model because the new normal won’t be the same environment we know now. Companies that better understand new client needs and faster adapt themselves, will build a sustainable competitive advantage for the future.

Photo by:   Enrique Remezal