Influencing Sales- the role of CRM tools (Part One).

I was reading recently an article that argued that “Salespeople have always hated CRM tools”. Having been involved in Sales prior to joining the wonderful world of CRM Consulting, I pondered this point of view and thought it would make an interesting topic for debate because IF it is true, then what can help influence the sale? Is it all about the interaction, the product/service being sold and/or other factors that a Salesperson cannot influence? If so, what role can a CRM tool play?

This is the first in a series of three blogs on this subject. The first will focus on the factors of influence in the Digital World. The Second will investigate whether CRM tools can help drive Sales and the final blog will look at why, if CRM tools help drive Sales, are Salespeople traditionally wary of them.

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I was reading recently an article that argued that “Salespeople have always hated CRM tools”. Having been involved in Sales prior to joining the wonderful world of CRM Consulting, I pondered this point of view and thought it would make an interesting topic for debate because IF it is true, then what can help influence the sale? Is it all about the interaction, the product/service being sold and/or other factors that a Salesperson cannot influence? If so, what role can a CRM tool play?

This is the first in a series of three blogs on this subject. The first will focus on the factors of influence in the Digital World. The Second will investigate whether CRM tools can help drive Sales and the final blog will look at why, if CRM tools help drive Sales, are Salespeople traditionally wary of them?

Years ago, I worked in the Pharmaceutical Industry in England. I hasten to add that this was before Viagra but after Prozac! I worked for three different Pharmaceutical companies in that period but I will relate my experience directly to one particular major international organisation who are still a global leader today.

My division sold prescription medicines. We sold to Doctors (G.P’s) because Doctors prescribed medicine. We had a different team selling the same products to Hospital Doctors. Doctors were not the “buyers” though. Buyers were Pharmacists who dispensed the drugs that the Doctors prescribed. The pharmacists dispensed drugs to patients who were regarded by Pharmacists as their customers. It was illegal to advertise ethical prescription medicines to these “end users”. Pharmacists could only buy from Wholesalers who bought directly from my company. So, who influenced the sale in this complex purchasing matrix? At the time, all the focus was on G.P’s as they wrote the prescriptions which created demand.

Most Pharma companies spent an awful lot of $$$ targetting Doctors. Whilst the industry is heavily regulated, Pharma companies became well known for interpreting these regulations in creative ways. For example, I was able to organise a “medical conference” on “Sport Injury” that took place in the Corporate Hospitality box before and during a major local sporting event. The G.P’s attending had to attend the 30 minutes of discussion on Sports Injuries before enjoying 4 more hours of sport and corporate hospitality!!

However, despite the money thrown at them, Doctors regarded the Pharma Industry with a high degree of wariness (in most cases) and were (in most cases) difficult to influence. So where did their influence come from?

Of course it is different for every individual G.P but a lot of the time it came from:
1. Local policy dictated to them by an authority (or even within their own practice), who offered cash incentives to help cut prescribing costs
2. Independant research carried out by the National Institute for Clininal Effectiveness (NICE)
3. “Thought Leaders”. National subject authorities in their therapeutic field or Local Specialist Hospital Consultants who gave advice in written and verbal contact to G.P’s.
4. Financial incentives offered by some companies where Doctors could sell Drugs directly (Dispensing Doctors).
In terms of the power of influence, certain new and traditional channels made little impact: TV- irrelevant. Radio- irrelevant. Newspapers- irrelevant. Journals- some were very influential (e.g The Lancet), but WHICH journal was very critical in terms of influencing power.

Today, we have a powerful new tool: The Internet. CRM tools have existed for some time preceding the Internet boom but the Internet has enabled development in CRM tools, for example, “in the cloud”. The impact of Social Media and the increase in information being available more widely from a greater variety of sources helps decision makers research and validate decisions. Has the Internet changed the power balance in terms of influencing decision makers?

In the Pharma Industry, I don’t believe things have changed greatly, despite the Internet. The power of the written word still holds true in this industry and whilst I believe Social Media may enable greater potential for information (and disinformation), Doctors are still likely to keep on being influenced by the same channels as before. Practice or Authority based decisions, Government initiatives or discounted “deals” to Dispensing practices demonstrate that money talks!!! The difference in 2010 is just that Doctors are able to access that influential knowledge more easily. If anything, the poor old G.P is overwhelmed by information. Old traits still hold true though. People buy, primarily, from People. Relationship selling still has a role to play in the Pharma Industry but it is up to Pharma companies to use CRM tools and processes to better target the right decision makers, with the right message at the right time. In the next blog I will investigate how CRM tools can help drive Sales beyond the rhetoric of CRM Vendors. This perspective is from a Sales and CRM practicioner.

Author: Nick Davey

Evangelist, Strategist, Leader, Implementor, Author, Speaker and all round nice guy, Nick has built his entire career on improving the management of customers both from a customers perspective "looking in" and from within an organisation "looking out". You might call it CRM. Customer Relationship Management or, as Nick often says, Constantly Realigning Misconceptions. Nick reiterates that his comments are his own personal comments and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, strategy or views of any previous employer or customer.. He is delighted to be impartial and able to share ideas with open minded and collaborative professionals around the world. Outside of his passion for CRM, Nick pursues other less demanding passions such as Scuba Diving, Native Wildlife (e.g Wallaby) Rescue and Rehabilitation, Amateur Flying and watching as much Sport as his long suffering wife will permit.

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