Going Digital: Four Considerations for a Remote Launch

Much to the excitement of migraine sufferers, Nurtec™ ODT was approved by the FDA in February 2020. As Biohaven prepared for its first commercial launch, COVID-19 changed everything. Chris Deluzio, senior vice president of sales and commercial operations for Biohaven and an industry veteran with over 23 years’ experience, acknowledges the challenge the neuroscience sales representatives faced with their first launch. “COVID-19 is something the world has never experienced in our lifetime. We asked ourselves how to adapt our approach to get patients the help they needed and physicians the product they wanted.”

Biohaven’s Deluzio offered four key areas to consider when developing a digital engagement strategy:

  1. Meet the customer where they are
  2. Biohaven changed its deployment approach to align with new market conditions, changing physician behavior, and shift to virtual meetings. “As it relates to our activity in HCP engagement, we focused on meeting the customer where they are and reframed the expectations related to call plan, reach frequency, and activity. Our expectation for the sales force to deliver an excellent customer experience, specifically in clinical data, didn’t change, the way they told the Nurtec™ ODT story for a virtual engagement did.”

  3. Rely on data to make decisions
  4. With COVID-19, Biohaven adopted an agile, data-driven approach to their sales strategy. The company leveraged Veeva CRM to better understand regional engagement trends and capture physicians’ preferred communication methods to create personalized communication plans. Deluzio explained, “Probably the most important data we attained in this process was from our reps. One thing we consistently say at Biohaven is, we need to meet the customers where they are. We took an opportunity to leverage our neuroscience sales specialists, and the data they were gathering to learn which physicians were willing to engage in a virtual meeting.”

  5. Implement sales training and regular sales team communication
  6. Because digital communication methods may be new to your sales teams (and HCPs), offering more sales training opportunities is essential to increase confidence and success. Biohaven’s sales training included best practices for video communication effectiveness, including effectively communicating by focusing on the camera and creating passion and excitement through a virtual platform.

    Biohaven also created an internal communication strategy to ensure sales reps understood the new sales vision and were aligned. “Putting together a communication package around the vision, and sharing the roadmap consistently over time has been where we’ve been able to get the sales buy-in. With this virtual environment, we flipped what a traditional rep would have done. If we didn’t have their buy-in along the way, we would not have been successful and had the impact that we did,” Deluzio explained.

  7. Aim for agility, not perfection
  8. Agile sales planning and execution focus on rapid iteration rather than perfection. Not every strategy will succeed, but the important thing is to create a culture of innovation where new ideas are welcome and tested. Biohaven found that an agile approach allowed them to test and refine sales processes quickly. “We continue to assess and make changes where we need to. I found that we do not need to be 100% with our plan…80% was good enough. We didn’t compromise anything significant enough to be a detriment or force us to take multiple steps back. Speed is important, and perfection is great, but in this environment and how quickly it’s changing, 80% was good enough for us.”

Prepare for the Future
Like many companies, Biohaven believes it is unlikely sales teams will return to a 100% in-person sales strategy after COVID-19 is resolved. “Customers are telling us, ‘I don’t know that I’ll go back to how I practiced medicine before COVID-19. I like this engagement. I feel I can still get that connection with my patients. And more importantly, I still feel I can get that connection with my pharmaceutical reps while always meeting our customers where they are in their preference and readiness,’” Deluzio stated.

While no one can predict precisely how the future will look, it’s clear the shift to digital isn’t a temporary tactic but a long-term strategy. The good news is you don’t have to do it alone. Veeva Systems can help you continue to adapt with solutions, services, and best practices for optimizing digital engagement.

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