Pharma companies – prove you’re different and you’ll beat the competition

In a previous blog, I mentioned a Coco Chanel quote from Tom Poland’s book, Leadsology: The Science of Being in Demand. The quote is: “In order to be indispensable, one must be different.”

I used it to talk about general practice and how thinking differently is really the only way round the workload and recruitment problems they face.

But how does it apply to Pharma, MedTech and Devices companies? How can you turn up to a meeting with your drugs and instruments and quickly show the people you are pitching to that what you are offering is truly different and innovative – rather than the same old thing they’ve seen before?

The NHS can’t tell you and your rivals apart

Tom’s book goes on to say that if your ideal clients perceive that the service you offer is traditional as opposed to transformational, you’re going to have a hard time generating enquiries.

And I think that’s often the issue with the pharmaceutical, med tech and device industries. People pitch with their projects and their technology and their budget impact models and it becomes impossible for the client to differentiate one from the other.

The solution starts with fundamentally understanding the problem you are going to solve and being able to articulate it to differentiate yourself from all the other noise in that market space.

My regular readers will know that I advocate strongly against leading with the product you’re trying to sell. Go in there and start talking to them about the product and you’re dead in the water. Why? Because – particularly in fields such as medicines management and medicines optimisation – they should already know what your product is, what it does and how it works.

It won’t always come down to being cheaper

You need to go in, lay out the background to your project and be able to pitch to them why it exists. Explain what the problem is that you are going to fix for the NHS. And that ties into knowing the agenda you’re going to engage with.

You need to differentiate yourself from your competitors. These people are pitching to the same customers – if you’re working in the drugs field, there’ll be five other people who are doing something very similar to you.

You are going to have to be able to show that your product is better than theirs – why should the NHS work with you rather than them? It absolutely will not always come down to price.

So you can have a very clinical pitch or you can actually start to talk to them about working with you and what the result of that work might be. Will it improve patient outcomes, which in turn then leads to a reduction in unnecessary appointments and referrals? Will it bring down non-elective hospital admissions? That’s absolutely key given that we’re heading into a time of year where we would normally be thinking about winter pressure but in fact we’re already there. We’ve been in the winter pressure zone right the way through this year because the volume of patients hitting the NHS is well above what it would have been pre-pandemic.

Flu and Covid are piling extra pressure on

Just this week I was asked what is on hospital agendas at the moment and I explained that, in its simplest terms, they’re being asked to deliver activity that will clear the backlogs that are there as a result of Covid. And to do that, they’re being asked to deliver 20 per cent more volume than they were delivering pre pandemic.

But they’re already up against a backdrop of massive pressure in terms of workload. So anything the industry can do that will improve patient outcomes, cut down on appointments and referrals and keep people out of hospital is likely to be greeted with open arms.

There’s two variables in all this. Firstly, we don’t know what’s going to happen with Covid. I regularly check hospital figures and just a couple of weeks ago hospital admissions linked to Covid were at pandemic levels. That might not be making the news headlines but that’s the reality.

Secondly, a bad winter flu season is being forecast. Those two things are going to have a really negative impact on general practice, on community services and on hospital trusts. Therefore anything we can do has to have relieving that pressure as its primary focus.

Go in with the right solution and you’ll succeed

When it comes to measuring success, the big thing that usually drives people into the secondary care environment is that they’re not achieving optimal outcomes. Sometimes that can be due to them not being concordant and compliant with medicine, or the medicine not actually delivering the outcome that was envisaged. If the medicine is not being changed at that stage, I would class that as sub-optimal treatment.

I’ve got a project going on at a hospital in the south east where we asked the outpatient team to keep a count of why the patients were ending up in outpatients. Eighty per cent of them were linked to sub-optimal treatment. They’d been diagnosed but were not on treatment, they’d been diagnosed and were on treatment but not on the right treatment or they’d been diagnosed and were on the right treatment but not on the right dose. As a result, they were feeling unwell and were back in hospital.

They worked out that if they could work with general practice and correct the sub-optimal treatment, that would take the workload down for both general practice and the hospital. They then went to the pharmaceutical industry and said: “This is the project, can you help us?” That project is now being implemented.

So it all comes back to that Coco Chanel quote – differentiate yourself from the crowd and you become indispensable. How can you do that? That’s what I spend my time doing with those in the industry that retain my services – helping them differentiate, helping them package the product pitch and the sales pitch and helping them secure the right customers and the right projects.

Scott McKenzie helps pharmaceutical, medical technology and device firms increase revenue by getting their products and services in front of the right NHS decision makers. If you want to get your products fully embedded into treatment pathways we can help you. We’ve doubled revenue for our clients and can share these processes with you too.