Our top 6 tips for using digital meetings to support HCPs during COVID-19 – and strengthen relationships

When the Coronavirus pandemic struck, economies around the world immediately suffered the impact. Businesses were hit with losses, workers left without jobs and we all faced the challenge of a complete upheaval in our lifestyles.

For the Pharma and Life Sciences sector, the pandemic has brought mixed fortunes. On the one hand, an increase in share value and innovation as the race for a COVID-19 vaccine continues. But on the other hand, a decrease in regular prescriptions and the door firmly closed on all-important meetings with Health Care Professionals (HCPs) that could have a long-term impact on sales.

As global management consultants Mckinsey explain, “While Pharma leaders recognise and are responding to the immediate needs, many remain unclear about where things go from here. How will patient and customer needs and expectations change in the long term? When and how should their teams begin visiting HCPs again? How must their commercial organisations adapt to accommodate the new environment?”

One door closes, another opens

Whatever the future holds we can be sure that for Pharma companies the post-COVID recovery will be a time of real change and potentially, risk. Your organisation will need to find ways to interact with HCPs in new, meaningful ways. It’s worth remembering that across the health sector doctors and physicians are dealing with intense pressure and also adapting to unprecedented times. On top of their heroic efforts to deal with Coronavirus, they are also, in some cases, worrying about their financial security as practices and entire health systems face unprecedented financial strain.

Using readily-available, digital technology to reach out to HCPs now, with support that addresses these issues and delivers successful patient outcomes, could be (excuse the pun) just what the doctor ordered.

Travel into virtual space

According to the leading data and analytics provider, GlobalData, Coronavirus has pushed Pharma sales “deeper into virtual space.” And virtual platforms, that were already showing signs of transforming the healthcare landscape even before the outbreak, are already becoming more important to the Pharma and Life Sciences industries than ever. We’ve already seen events and conferences replaced by webinars. And, as sales reps have been forced to abandon face to face calls, video call platforms, like Veeva Engage, are becoming the only truly viable alternative. Users are becoming increasingly aware of the potential of remote engagement for not just delivering sales, but customer value and satisfaction.

Veeva Engage is already being used in over 40 countries worldwide and by 13 of the world’s top 15 Pharma companies. Its users are already taking advantage of the potential of remote engagement for delivering customer value and satisfaction as well as sales. As early as March, in response to the pandemic, 9 out of 10 Pharma companies were using Veeva Engage and the number of Engage meetings taking place had already increased by 800%.

Not just another way, but a better way?

Both Pharma reps and HCPs are quickly realising the benefits of digital meetings. HCPs who were previously averse to digital platforms are now embracing them. There’s been a worldwide rise in the ‘digital doctor’ and a significant spike in telemedicine. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, the NHS directed all of the UK’s 7,000 GP surgeries to reduce face-to-face appointments and go digital. And just as HCPS are adapting to seeing patients online, anecdotal evidence is that they’re becoming increasingly receptive to meeting sales reps online too.

There are immediate benefits. Previously your sales call could be a few minutes squeezed in between patients, sometimes in an HCP’s office, but equally likely, in a corridor. Now appointments can be scheduled for a time that’s more convenient for the practitioner (a time set aside for admin for example) to give you more quality time to promote your product. Which is why industry insight is that Veeva Engage meetings have at least as much impact as a face to face meetings and sometimes greater.

There’s another bonus; if your Pharma business is in Oxfordshire and your HCP in Scotland, you wouldn’t ordinarily drive an 800 mile round trip for a 10 minute catch up. So Veeva Engage also opens up opportunities with clients you don’t usually get to speak to. Again, according to Across Health data, this can increase your customer coverage by 5%+.

Fully compliant, totally simple

Veeva Engage is simple to use and built to meet the strict regulatory requirements of the Pharma and Life Sciences industries. It’s integrated into your CRM and follows precisely the same workflow as a face to face meeting. Meetings can be scheduled and invites sent with just a few clicks and you can reuse compliant Veeva CLM content with automated content tracking and recording. In addition, all remote activity can be tracked and recorded for further reporting and insights.

So if you’re a sales rep, how do you make the most of your Veeva Engage meetings? And if you’re a manager, how do you coach your team?

We have materials we can share around both the technological and soft skills required to drive change and deliver results. And because our content is always innovative, intuitive and engaging content, it helps skills stick.

And in the meantime, here’s a rundown of our top six tips for making your Veeva Engage meetings a success…

Get the technology sorted

Make sure you understand the requirements of getting your Engage meeting working correctly and preparing for any issues. Check the sound, video and make sure you have everything you need at your fingertips. Use the time you’re not visiting customers to get really familiar with the technology, so it becomes second nature to you.

Get the environment right

Make sure your personal space is right for a remote meeting and projects a professional appearance. If you’re working from home, avoid creating a distraction with cluttered bookcases and backgrounds. (The last thing you want is your customer being more interested in your personal life than what you’re promoting.) And if you’re in the office, find a place that’s quiet and where your customer won’t be put off by the movement or sound of your colleagues.

Be prepared

Gather all the content required before your call so you’re not rummaging around for information or stuck for things to say. In our experience Engage calls can last between 2x and 8x times longer than face to face calls so make sure you use all the time productively, to show all the ways you can support HCPs to deliver better patient outcomes.

Make sure you engage

Face to face meetings have their own advantages, such as people being able to express themselves by using body language and facial expressions that can create a deeper customer bond. Some fear this lack of physical interaction may lead to reps having a weaker connection with HCPs and therefore reduced sales outcomes. In addition, not everyone likes video calls. So whilst they may be happy to talk to your in-field teams, they may not have their webcam on. You need to find ways to engage with HCPs so they don’t get on with other work (or even go online!) during your call. The answer is to ask questions that stimulate a response, so they know you understand their challenges – and you know they’re still there. And if you’re presenting charts and other material remotely, you need to be explicit about what you’re showing.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Rehearse – individually and as a team. Know your content inside-out. And ‘Build your muscle memory’ so that if the tech fails, and you temporarily lose sight of your materials, you can deal with it.

And one last thing… Get the invitation right

According to Pharmaintelligence, the world’s leading provider of market intelligence in the competitive Pharma and medtech markets, just under half of HCPs were previously willing to receive in-person visits from reps. However, only about 10% were likely to open an email. So you may need to think of creative and engaging ways to get your invite noticed, such as messaging based around improved customer support.

Whether we revert to our old ways post-COVID, or remain in digital space, remains to be seen. But with an increasing number of businesses announcing a longer-term migration to remote working, it seems unlikely we will ever return to a day when every sales’ call is face to face. Yes, the challenges of this new way of working are significant. But the solution is already out there.