Technology For Medical Representatives

This article was written for “medical representatives” as target audience. If you are not a sales representative or have sales representatives in your organization, you can skip this post.

Medical Representative : A medical representative is a title given to one who is hired by a pharma company to take care of its business in a given geographical area. Though the designations vary with various companies, the basic job remains the same, that of a medical representative. Hence let us use this as a basic term to describe the job function.

Background/Context of the job:
The job of a medical representative is tough to define. It is not limited to but includes the following basic realities:
      The job is to primarily maximize the prescriptions from doctors in that geographical area for the chosen brands of the company.
      Though companies have policies, guidelines, training and recommendations to the reps, generally they are inadequate in reality. Reps learn a lot from peers and also from their own experience in the field. The managers who work with them try to pass on and impart as much as possible both in the best interests of the company and the individual. This is a sound ecosystem that functions.
      Pharma reps who can think and translate their thoughts into new ways of approaching the business are free to do and hence they do well in creating business and also either go up the ladder or get better opportunities from other companies.
      Purely by experience, reps know their territory well and where business comes from. In line with the company’s policies and using their own innovativeness they arrive at a work plan for each day and execute it for productivity and maximizing the business.
      The work pattern involves both appointment calls and walk-in calls of doctor as customers and then once inside the chamber of a doctor the job involves prescription oriented detailing, sharing samples, documents, campaign gifts and so on.
      The reps learn to factor all the territory knowledge that they have into their plan for time management.
      They also do mass detailing in hospitals, medical colleges or with resident doctors(interns and PGs in medical college hospitals).
      Experienced reps learn to visit chemists to get more information on doctor’s prescribing habits, availability of stocks, competitor’s information etc. These also involve timings as chemists prefer to see and are willing to have a chat only when they don’t have customers to be attended to. Such information gathered help in fine-tuning objectives while visiting doctors either to request for more prescriptions or to thank them adequately to continue those prescriptions to maintain business.
      Reps also fulfill other requirements of the company like weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual sales reports, campaign reports of sales and samples, feedback reports, expense reporting, other special budget expenses etc.
      Maintaining a primary sales(company to distributor) and secondary sales(distributor to retailers) along with monitoring of take-backs(like expiry) and so on comes as a part of the job.

      Any knowledge, training skills, promotions and your career depends solely on how good you do this fundamental job in your early years and how well you have imbibed them into yourself to demonstrate when required.
The above is not a complete list but an indicative one. May be one can add much more that goes into making a successful medical representative. In a nutshell, a medical representative is trained to be his own business guy within his territory and the skills he develops stand him in good stead for life.
Current Status
Before writing this article, I interviewed a few national level sales managers of some pharma companies who are supposed to have moved the digital way and some have gone even mobile on it. But to my disappointment, I found most of these companies have bought bloated software at a big cost and are stuck either with the implementation or with obsoleteness after they had implemented with no way of forward integration without incurring huge costs again. Also buying costly software is not a solution for smaller companies.
Cloud Computing Technology that can be useful for medical reps
Read the following tools and imagine their places within the job functions of a medical representative. When you imagine, note that all these tools are available today independent of device and location. In other words, one can access these anytime, anywhere and through any device that is connected to Internet. You do not need powerful hardware(laptops etc) and also you need not buy any software. You can scale up or scale down your requirements. This would mean you can use it if you are a 5-reps company(SME) or a 2000-reps company(Enterprise). Size does not matter. You pay for what you use. You can use computing like electricity or water from a tap. You take a subscription and use everything. You can customize to your format. And much more.
I have categorized all the functions of a medical representative into these six major categories.

Data Storage and Management: Examples of this could be MSL(must see list) that every territory has which is a customer database, Chemists lists, rankings, all kinds of reports, detailing tools, detailing stories to go with it, photos/videos of CMEs/medical camps, expense and stock accounting, HR related documentation and all kinds of backups needed. All these can be available a click away.

Communication Tools: These include all your communication tools to be used within your team, with the rest of your company colleagues, partners and also customers.
Publication Tools: These can be used productively and innovatively in many situations in a representative’s life and business like training, updating trends, opinions, networking etc.

Information Management & Search Tools:Representatives are required to stay ahead with knowledge of current affairs, knowledge with respect to therapy areas and product category. Reps can use such tools to stay ahead of market. They can search for information and also they can let information come to them through such tools. While handling important business contacts, such information on customers and other relevant market news can provide the much needed competitive advantage.

Personal Information Manager: A rep needs to be a savvy person to plan his work and work his plan. Juggling personal and professional life can be a big task. The job demands a lot of personal time and accountability in handling the given area. So some of the easy tools can help them do things productively to stay ahead and achieve the much needed work-life balance.

Business Tools: Remember we talked of innovative ways. These tools will make the rep innovative in how he handles his customers, territory and the business. They can arrange web conferencing for some key clients with HO, collaborate well with distributor friends and manage invoices and payments in a much better way.

Each one of these tools can be mapped to existing ways of work of the representative. Organizations can integrate these in a swift and productive manner to have real time data and gain immensely from introducing such tools from the ground level of a representative.
Understand Cloud which is a boon today from the business perspective and optimize business processes for maximum efficiency. Once you map productivity and efficiency of your organization with traditional IT systems vs cloud, you will see the value in Cloud services.
What do you think? Feel free to comment. You can reach
me at www.varadh.com or @varadhkrish

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Social Business Company

I had worked with good companies that had great culture and encouraged networking as a way of work. To give you a context, this was much before email was used for business.

The companies encouraged as many “meets” as possible (read the term “meets” in the sense of “assemble” or “convene”). Team meets, Brand meets, Company meets, Distributor meets and Customer meets. It would look like the companies were inventing a reason to make everyone meet. While some companies considered these meetings a waste of time and money, the companies which got sold on this way of work encouraged these meetings by all means and spent quite a budget to make it happen.

The beauty of such meetings is people who are participants of these meets made the meetings happen and shared a lot of work and strived to create more value from their side. Everyone tried to excel with their contribution and tried to show-off by adding value.

Let me tell you a simple example of a team meeting. It involved a hotel conference room, good food, timely snacks and coffee during intervals, drinking water during the meeting, projectors and mikes, stationery, paper work, logistics of personnel and a great deal of communication.  Each activity was done by a participant by volunteering or by assignment.  Since if something went wrong it would be seen as inefficiency of that person for the assigned(mostly volunteered) task, everybody did it well to prove and also get praised. Each individual contributions used to look manageable and small but viewed in the context of the meeting, it would have simply made the meeting wonderful. The meetings involved each individual presenting on his markets and the rest of team questioning/commenting on it to exchange ideas and adding value.

Take another example of customer meets. Company will sketch out the objectives and framework to operate. Employees will add the variations for the meets depending on the area. The distributors will localize it and also involve top customers. The whole team of company executives, employees, distributors and customers will make the meet a grand success and look like a festival for the brand. Visibility, more customers and growth are the results achieved.

When people got transferred from one team to another, they carried those practices and learnt new ones and over time, people followed the best practices everywhere in the organization. We had many instances of small teams bringing in major changes within the company.

Not only team meetings with company employees, all above said “meets” happened the same way including business partners(distributors) and even customers. We had witnessed many occasions where customers used to participate as if they owned the brand and were involved as if its their own function at home. As a result, both their value and the value of the company they represented grew.

Such a way of work was possible because the company believed everyone could contribute. Such a open networking way of work taught people good lessons and improved average productivity, efficiency and learning. It also promoted competitiveness and leaders emerged from such situations. These companies were market leaders and had strong brands, ever increasing market shares, low attrition rates, ever expanding markets and never had to look out for leaders of future outside of their companies. They promoted from within.

While some companies were struggling to understand such ways of work and had highly restrictive practices, practising companies used to wonder “how-else can you function?”. This looks amazingly easy or extremely tough. It depends on the understanding and practicing of the basic fundamentals of how business happens and creating a culture to nurture the same. The companies I worked did everything to nurture such a healthy system.

The beauty of this is the fact it works amazingly and produces the best results possible from employees, partners and customers. These companies made Business a way of life for everyone involved.

Cut to Present….

Today the available tools and technologies can make such an ecosystem not only work better but also the scale at which this can be done are enormous.

If you are open, encourage participation for value creation with employees, business partners and customers to achieve your business objectives with today’s tools and technologies in a massive scale, you have a new name: Social Business Company.

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Will Social Media Transform Your Business?

courtesy: fb share
To understand this question, you should not start with social media tools or the technologies behind them. You should start with primary functions of your business and see what business metrics you need to achieve as results. 
Repeatedly I get the question if social media will help achieve the next month’s target. Sadly it is a “no”.
To understand Social Media and use it well for your business, think about the following:
How your business gets done–has it changed? I mean the nature of your business and how your industry/sector has changed. List out the changes.
How you do business-has it changed? With respect to your own customers, what are the changes in your activities that have been implemented or to be implemented? List out the changes. 
How you run your organization-has it changed? What are the organizational changes that you have brought in or needs to be brought in? List out the changes. Is it in sync with the above two changes?
Most importantly, what has been driving these changes? 
This will be a good starting point to understand what changes have happened and what you should change. This is the hardest part. Understanding this change. Once you realize this change, you will easily understand it has three parts: cultural, technological and operational. The first and hardest part would be the cultural change. Rest two can be done relatively easier. The first change i.e. cultural change will help you implement operational changes. You will also realize that any one individual in one of the functions cannot bring about such changes in an isolated way. It has to be across the board. The organization as a whole has to change to get the results. 
Forget the tools initially. Appreciate the basic ideas behind them and how it can be useful with respect to your business functions. This will help you understand the tools that you need. 
Now look at what kind of social media tools will fit.  You will start understanding how social media tools can fit your business. There is no one single answer. Last few years the answers have been changing. The impacts of tools are dynamically changing. Keeping track of things and catching up has been hard.
Depending on your engagement, social media tools will help you in all-round development of your business. This will include sales, better customer satisfaction, market intelligence and productivity of your employers. The list is only indicative. You can decide how Social Media will transform your business. 
Try this method. Let me know what you arrive at. Want to talk specific about your business? Just buzz me. I will be happy to talk to you.

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

What Next After Email?

iStock foto
Email has transformed the way you do business. Email has transformed the way we live our lives. Email on mobile has made it instantaneous.
Have you gone beyond this? If not, what is next?
In Email, access to past information becomes a big pain. How do you access information in email or instant messaging? They tend to be like private conversations and lost. How does the organization access this information? How can this necessary information be made available to those who need them, when they need them and where they need them?
If you have moved to CRM or ERP like applications, do you have access to those information in real-time?
Personally are you using Facebook and/or twitter? Have you thought of Facebook-like or twitter-like applications customized to your business process and work-flow? 
Easy micro-blogging tools are available for enterprises today. You can share information, build teamwork and can have real-time notifications. You can still get notified by email and reply by email. When you want to find information you can find them well organized in one place. Such tools can help locate answers and/or relevant people within the group.
Attractive real-time collaboration platforms are available. You can integrate all your applications. 
Some of the information you may need in real-time. Not all information are needed in real-time. People mistake real-time collaboration with relay of information. Relay of information in real-time leads to information overload. Hence you need to carefully select and build your business processes and work-flow into these real-time activities.
Interact. Collaborate. Improve your business performance. 
Feel free to comment or share. 

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

How Are You Served By Cloud Computing?

foto courtesy: fb share

Cloud computing has already moved a lot of stuff from desktop to cloud. For example, most of your applications and documents have moved to the cloud. Now the desktop is not very important to you. Web has taken that place. How does Cloud Computing serve your business? You dont need to know much about the architecture or the infrastructure part of the cloud. As a user, how are you served by Cloud Computing? 
Advantages
Computers that are high-priced and high-powered are not needed. Not much traditional software is used and not much backup is done on the computer. Nothing to save and nothing to load. In your office, even CD and DVD slots in your computers become unnecessary or  optional. You can use low-cost computers.
Improved performance of the computer as the computer is not clogged with unnecessary programs. 
No loss of data if your computer crashes. Cloud keeps data safe. 
Lower costs due to less investments, maintenance work load(both hardware and software) for your IT department. No peak load worries. Hence no idle resources. No software costs. Either they are free or rental is far lower than software costs. No software updates. Happens automatically with Cloud. No obsolete software.
Increased computing power. 
Unlimited storage capacity.
Operating systems do not matter when you share. 
No format incompatibilities for your documents.
The Biggest For Businesses
You can access your applications and documents from anywhere through the web. This relieves you from your physical constraints and not necessarily you are tied to your office as you can access these via web. Since anyone in your office can do the same (i.e. all of you can access the same document,when shared), this also allows group members to collaborate and work from being in different places. No need to wait for sequential work through email. Updates are instantaneous and can work simultaneously to co-create. Latest version is available to all. 
You can change devices. You can go mobile. Your documents and applications follow you. Work seamlessly without worrying about specific formats with specific devices. 
Many businesses need people working together to reach a common goal. Right information at the right time to the right people serves to make a right decision. Collaboration is more than communication. It is how people function together. Cloud helps you do that better. 
Go Cloud. 
Be well informed. Take speedy decisions. Get work done. 
What impacts have cloud computing played on your business? How has it transformed your business? Feel free to share.
Got Questions? Feel free to ask.  

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Extracting The Business Impact From Technologies

a simplified example of integration
Image via Wikipedia

I quoted a case-study here of how a company achieved their objectives and goals with the data that they could access,collect, analyze and strategize with it.

Let use see another example of a company who did not have the same kind of competencies.

Case-Study


A company wanted to know what are the future products that they should concentrate on. They wanted to come up with a list of pipeline products. They wanted to validate the list and confirm it as part of their future strategy. They thought that they did not have the capabilities in terms of access to data, capability of personnel to collect such data and the tools/ processes to achieve this. So they hired a consulting firm which charged a hefty fee. The consulting firm did an independent research and involved only the senior management for interactions to come up with their report. Hence only people involved in strategy-making were aware of this exercise within the company.

At the same time, the company wanted to take this as an opportunity to test the capabilities of their team within and hence undertook a parallel exercise of asking their marketing people to come up with a list of products that the company should concentrate on for the future from their respective markets. Each of the company managers came up with a list pertaining to his territorial area and the list was consolidated and ranked with a few parameters. Though the internal list did not have the depth of the consulting firm’s research report, the company was surprised that 60-70% of the products matched. This helped the company hugely. This gave them the necessary confidence.

If what a research report says is news to your marketing team or what your marketing guy says is not in the report, one of them is terribly wrong. Not the depth, but at least the whiff of the matter should match.

The company learned a few lessons on the process of integrating the data that is already available to them and putting it to use for decision-making.

Available but not used

Not all companies can hire consulting firms to do the research. Also, hiring consulting firms for everything is not feasible. But what you can learn to do is to capture and use your own data.

For most companies today data are abundant and readily available, but not well used. Survey results confirm this.

In this digital era, the tools are available for creating mountains of information from across the world.

What needs to be done is integration. Integration will help you get the best out of your touch and feel of the business and big data will validate it to make informed decisions. That is what I am talking about in My Next Level. The big picture will help you spot new opportunities, increase the lead from your competitors and more productivity with what you do already.

The race to the top or better market share or being a better organization involves knowing the future or predicting it. Its a race well-fought with big data and integrating it within your organization.



Feel free to buzz me for further discussions on the same.
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Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

My Next Level

Designing a Social Business
Image by ByronNewMedia via Flickr
Last Few Years
I have been on a learning curve. Learning two futuristic things: Cloud Computing and Social Media. In the last few years, I have met many business owners and have discussed these two topics. I have learnt how this impacts a business in all its entirety. These two are increasingly becoming significant to business owners. I have understood Cloud Computing better from a user/business point of view. I have developed a good network of specialists of Cloud Computing to supplement. I have focused my learning on Social Media integration with business objectives. My consulting assignments have been on Building Trust on your Brands using the tools of Social Media and on Productivity of Cloud Computing(APPU). I am taking a closer look on Big Data and What They Can Do.
My Next Level
My next level is talking about the Big Picture: How to grow your business using the Social and Collaboration technologies coming into your organization. My next big task would be to map newer models which capture this big picture to propel growth. I would like that this new integration models of mine convinces and gets all the 3 votes needed within an organisation viz., the CEO(operations), the CFO(finance) and the CTO/CIO(technologist). Business that is connected and involves all stakeholders and the models that cater to such integration is the key to the future. More importantly to make an organization see the opportunities of business that this integration brings.
The single theme, canvas or purpose for all technologies/models is being connected for business growth. This will be my next level.
If you have questions on this big picture for your organization, feel free to buzz me. I will be happy to discuss.

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Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Big Data And What They Can Do

strategy
Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr
Big Data


There is so much talk about Big Data. The procedures, processes and tools that are used for making sense of large sets of data an organization piles up is called Big Data. There is so much of talk about it. Understandably so.


Case-Study


Consider this situation of a case-study in early 90s to which I was a part of.

A company whose 80% revenues and also huge share of profits depended on a single product of theirs. There came a situation which was forcing the price of this product to be cut to 50%. This was going to impact their revenues and profits hugely. The company had to react fast and double or triple their sales to maintain revenues and profits. The company thought there may be scope and set out to find all the ways to do this.

The company chalked out a plan. Sent out the whole field-force with questionnaires and sought answers from customers to map the product usage, positioning, perception, results etc… It took the company a lot of spending to touch base with all involved and got a lot of feedback. The logistics involved in getting the feedback, sorting them out, consolidating, analyzing  and chalking out a strategy based on the feedback took 6-8 months. Based on the feedback, they chalked out the strategy and ran 3-4 campaign cycles for a year. The result was there for everyone to see: The company did not double its sale but increased it by 6-8 times the original revenues on that product. The company survived and moved forward in leaps and bounds.

Where do you think the answer was? Obviously all the answers came from their customers, distributors, retailers and employees. How did the company win? The strength of the company was in the fact that they could reach all stake-holders, collect feedback (data), sort out the feedback data, analyze it and chalk out a strategy. The key to their future was in their ability to collect, analyze and make sense of the critical data. Not all organizations could have done such a tremendous job.

What Big Data Can Do

Imagine the same situation today with all the digital revolution.

Today it is called Big Data. The ability to handle and analyze huge data sets. Everything from winning competition to innovation happens because of this ability of analyzing relevant facts and chalking out future strategy. It looks like almost every problem that haunts a business can be solved by this ability to handle data and put it to productive use. Managements world over are trying their best to capture this data and help them to make informed decisions.
Organizations need integrated systems to optimize the big-data capture and usage. Real-time information along with institutional memories of employees can go a long way in making decisions about strategies for the future.

While Big Data has become a big catch phrase and everyone is rushing with business models around it, I will be more interested in talking about how Businesses can integrate their Social Media Information into this and ways to capture them and use big data to achieve business goals and bottom-line.


What do you think? Feel free to share your views.

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Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com