The role of the sales team within the Launch and Commercialisation space can often be misleading. While the function of sales is no different to many other industries, the approach to market, and working with physicians and payers requires a real understanding of customer needs and product insight.

Many years ago, I spent a day with a sales representative visiting physicians. At the time I was working in the German affiliate of a large pharma company, in a role that focused on the wider European market. It was early in my career and I didn’t fully understand why I was tasked with spending a day on the road alongside a member of the sales team. 

Regardless, instead of complaining about the lost time, I decided to make the best out of it and see it as a learning experience. With some doubts, I traveled to Munich to meet our sales rep. I questioned visiting physicians and trying to convince them about our products – would it be a slimy and uncomfortable selling experience?

Thankfully, my eyes were opened. First, our sales rep was incredibly friendly. I realised that he truly wanted me to have an exceptional experience. We spent a lot of time in the car driving from one physician’s office to the next, discussing everything from how he measured success to his weekly sales reports. I found he had a deep understanding of the different customers and their specific needs. However, I knew this should be expected in a sales team.

My real surprise came when I saw the material he shared with the physicians – I was shocked, yet proud.

I was shocked because much of the data I had been working on hadn’t made it onto his list. I started to question whether my insight was relevant. Was it too complex to be communicated or not targeted towards use in sales? This was before we had HTA processes so I couldn’t think of another use for my work. I decided to learn more about the processes of how evidence gets generated, looking at why and how evidence flows back for different customers like physicians or patients.

However, my proud moment came when I saw the promotional material itself. There was one figure that I had created personally – a Kaplan-Meier plot. The sales rep used it to highlight the superior risk-benefit of the drug, which he could showcase and communicate clearly. That day, I began to understand the needs of the end customer and why the communication chain from me up to the customer is incredibly important. 

Evidence flows through pharma and biotech companies in terms of reports, dossiers, slides, presentations, and training. However, the communication of said evidence often changes to suit the communication setting. Tables get converted into figures for slides; publications get customised for marketing material; marketing material gets changed to suit various communication channels, and so on. 

After my experience with the sales rep, I committed myself to understanding the What, Who, How and Where of information that flows in my company. Who touches it? For which reason? What are their constraints about the communication of the evidence and what are their goals?

I wanted to ensure that evidence flowed in a quality and consistency that made it easy to be used. Otherwise, I feared people outside of statistics may misunderstand it, omit critical parts of it or even distort it just because of a lack of statistical understanding.

Do you know how information flows from your tables to the end customers beyond regulatory agencies: payers, physicians, and patients?