Mobile Technology: Your Direct Route to Deeper Customer Engagement

Your reps will love you and so will your customers.

Mobile – all businesses are talking about it and it’s certainly something that companies can no longer afford to ignore. But what does it mean in terms of a field force? And what are the benefits of having a mobile-powered sales team in 2014?

Mobile technology for sales teams has been around for a while, but it’s been about improving the life and productivity of the rep by reducing administrative tasks, automating processes and streamlining workflow. There was very little value offered to engage with the customer. The promise was there, but the rep has been limited by the technology.

Now, with powerful smartphones and tablets operating with robust software, we can not only make field forces even more efficient, we can actually use these devices for another purpose: to create richer, deeper engagement with customers, delivering benefits to all parties – and ultimately your business.

By using mobile devices, sales teams can involve customers and create a more compelling conversation. They can showcase the latest marketing campaigns and materials with confidence – television commercials, poster artwork and photos of high performing in-store promotions can now be viewed with ease – and as we know, a picture speaks a thousand words!

Presentations and analytics can also become a more dynamic element of the store-call, with mobile technology providing real-time data and interactive tools. Customers can see how their store performs against another in the same area or get information on how much more in sales they could make by swapping out a competitor’s product.

This creates more meaningful interaction for both sales rep and the customer, and provides a mechanism for greater collaboration and understanding. And with relationships so vital to sales, it’s clear that mobile technology is a powerful tool to improve engagement and win with customers.

For more insight into why field force mobility is a must for 2014, check out our White Paper here.

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The $125 Million Lesson

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Avon pulled the plug on a multi-year $125 million SMT (service model transformation) implementation with SAP. According to Avon’s 8-K filing with the SEC, the project was in the works since 2009 and was scheduled to be launched worldwide by 2014. It was stopped because the pilot in Canada caused “significant business disruption in that market, and did not show a clear return on investment.”

It appears the system was so hard to use that it caused a large number of Avon’s independent sales reps to leave the company.

So the $125 million lesson –  a sales force automation system, not designed around helping sales people sell more, will ultimately fail.


Because sales people have only one goal – to sell.  A system that is cumbersome, difficult to navigate or gets in the way of making a sale will be rejected. We’ve all grown accustomed to simple, intuitive consumer applications and expect the same experience from our business applications. A poorly-designed interface that hinders a salesperson’s ability to do their job and sell more will result in unhappy end users and waste millions of dollars.

The following are some critical questions companies should ask before deploying a mobile sales force automation system:

Relevancy – Can the interface be configured so users see only what is necessary to do their jobs?

Structure –Is the workflow carefully planned and streamlined with alerts or dialog boxes to provide additional guidance? Are related tasks grouped together?

Consistency – Does the interface reuse components to maintain consistency throughout the process?

Simplicity – Are there shortcuts for routine tasks? Can fields be pre-populated? Can users enter data using buttons and lists instead of typing?

Communication – Does the interface use concise, clear instructions? Does the system use icons and intuitive colors, such as red for stop or alerts?

Pricing & Ordering – Can the user accurately quote and place orders from their mobile device?  Is the software able to capture signatures?

Sales people will embrace a system that makes their job easier and helps them sell more.  Companies that pay equal attention to workflow, experience and functionality will no doubt get better adoption rates and a see faster return on their investment.

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Choosing the Right Tablet for Your Retail Field Force

Apple vs. Android vs. Windows 8

When the iPad hit the market in 2010, it had a major impact on field activities across all industries. Three years later, we now see the consumer goods industry adopting not only the iPad, but also the new breed of mobile devices and solutions now available to conduct retail execution as well as present new selling opportunities. Without a doubt, the growing tablet market is triggering more technologies like new apps and software.

When speaking with StayinFront clients, it’s clear that tablets are here to stay, but the market is definitely shifting. Although iPad discussions are still prevalent, more clients are looking at Android tablets, particularly in price sensitive markets, and asking to see how our solution looks on Android and Windows 8 tablets.

Once the favorite with over 90% of tablet market share, Apple now finds itself in a fierce competitive battle. Shipments fell dramatically by 2.4 million in June 2013, while, according to TrendForce, Samsung shipments increased by an estimated 8.8 million. An IDC report supports the rumors that Android tablets are outpacing iPads. By the end of 2013, iPad should have 46% of market share vs. 48.8% for Android, due in part to Android’s strategy of releasing a constant flow of new devices catering to the low and mid range markets.

Forecasts predict that:

-       By 2016, overall tablet sales are expected to increase 11%

-       By 2017 iPads will account for 43.5% of tablet sales compared to Android’s 46%.

For consumer goods organizations, tablet choice comes down to Flexibility, Functionality and Costs.

As technology evolves, companies need their software to keep up.  That means a mobile retail execution solution that gives companies the flexibility to take advantage of even greater hardware functionality and advancements as they become available, as well as competitive device pricing.  Software that locks a company into a specific platform could be a competitive disadvantage or, at the very least, require a time-consuming and disruptive platform switch.

The big question for the tablet and mobility market relates to Microsoft and its Hardware vendors: Can they develop an offering for the enterprise market that it powerful, flexible, portable and tactile at the right price point? If so, the predictions for 2016 and 2017 could look very different.

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After 100 Days of Sunshine – Storm Clouds Are Brewing

It’s been 100 days and counting since the Sunshine Act took effect with the stated intention of reducing federal healthcare spending. By requiring transactions of value between manufacturers and physicians to be tracked and published, the CMS sought to reduce possible conflicts of interest, which they believed were raising healthcare costs.

However, public disclosure of personal information has raised a number of concerns among healthcare professionals, specifically reputation damage from inaccurate or misleading information. This is a valid concern considering a May 2013 report from the Office of the Inspector General citing ongoing problems with the CMS’s oversight of provider information. In the study, 48% of NPPES records were found to be inaccurate or incomplete – mostly misspellings or wrongly reported/dated information due to a name change or new location.

With these recent statistics, it’s no wonder physicians are concerned that this information could be inaccurate or viewed in a negative light. In addition to the possibility of inaccurate information, all reported payments are lumped together and lack context so a person viewing this information could easily misinterpret the disclosed transactions.

This is leading to two unintended consequences of the Sunshine Act:

Stifling of Education and Innovation – Doctors are becoming more hesitant to attend educational events or collaborate on projects sponsored by pharmaceutical companies for fear that their participation could damage their reputation.

Reduction of Rep Visits – Increased administrative burden and fear of reputation damage has led to doctors reducing or banning visits from rep all together.

In response, the AMA has provided a Toolkit for Physician Financial Transparency Reports to address physicians’ questions and help them prepare for their 2013 financial data before it is published online next year. The toolkit is designed to help physicians spot inconsistencies and rectify the transaction before it goes public.

While it’s still too early to tell if the Sunshine Act can reduce healthcare costs, the stakes are high for pharmaceutical companies. It’s crucial they build trust and foster the physician-rep relationship by demonstrating that they have measures in place to ensure that their reporting is accurate and compliant including:

  • Engaging a specialized Life Sciences CRM partner that understands the complexities of the laws and provides the technical infrastructure to navigate potential regulatory landmines
  • Updating poorly designed or inflexible software that is difficult to use and a challenge to access and update data
  • Eliminating multiple data entry points with a central repository for all customer activities and expenses
  • Providing ongoing field training on data management and reporting best practices

The true litmus test of a company’s ability to accurately manage and report data will come in January 2014 when the CMS is expected to allow physicians to review their consolidated report and contact the manufacturers to dispute the accuracy of their report.

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Count Down to Sunshine. Two Days to Go.

The Sunshine Act is just two days away and, by now, everyone in the pharmaceutical industry knows it. There have been flurries of last minute activity getting systems in place to capture the data, and tussles with counsel about what beans fall into what buckets and education campaigns for everyone.

The CMS estimate of $268MM for the total cost to the industry of getting ready for the Act now looks laughably small. Despite this, most companies we’ve talked to are in reasonably good shape and have already started collecting data, aligning their expense management and CRM applications and are now putting it all the systems through their paces. A small number of companies are still unprepared, but working hard to get there.

While it seems that everyone has their heads in the weeds implementing the rules and combing through their data, now might be a good time to review the reasoning behind the Act and think about the intended and unintended consequences. This post will address the intended consequences of the rules – the next post will consider some of the possible unintended ones.

The key intended effect is to reduce Medicare/Medicaid spending. CMS was very clear in their discussion of the rules that they believe the evidence shows payments from pharmaceutical companies to doctors increase Medicare and Medicaid costs because doctors that receive payments write more prescriptions. Therefore, reducing/eliminating the payments will reduce the overall cost of medicine.

That is a two step dance –

1) You have to believe that the rules will slow down payments to doctors, and

2) You have to believe that this, in and of itself, will reduce the number of expensive prescriptions doctors write.

So let’s dance the first step – Will the rules reduce payments to doctors?

Well, the anecdotal evidence (which is all we have at this point), is that doctors are absolutely starting to refuse gifts and payments from pharmaceutical companies. Our customers’ field representatives are reporting that doctors are asking questions before accepting anything of value – questions like ‘Will this be reported?’ and ‘What is it worth?’  A strong minority are just refusing gifts as a rule. Doctors, in particular, appear to be sensitive to the possible personal and professional impact of being listed in the database as taking money from Pharmaceutical companies. This may be a very short term effect with doctors taking a ‘wait and see’  position – or it may actually be a real and lasting behavioral change. So the first step – at least in the early stages – based only on anecdotal reports from the field, is that payments are going down.

The second step is less obvious. Will this really impact the prescribing habits of doctors and will that reduce medicine costs? CMS cites as their main sources the 2009 Institute of Medicine report “Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education and Practice.” and the recommendations of the Medicare Advisory Payment Commission (MedPAC).

The IOC report is 436 pages of assistance for insomniacs – but there are some key points about the report that should be noted – and we don’t think that it supports the view that reducing payments to doctors will necessarily reduce prescription costs.

For instance, the IOM report placed a heavy emphasis on the impact of drug samples on prescribing habits, but the Act excludes samples from expense calculations on the basis that samples are for the benefit of patients, not doctors. In general, the IOM report was not considering the impacts on costs, but whether the financial ties compromised the quality of care in any way – so it is probably not good to use its conclusions to justify a measure that is about cost reduction. Quality of care, perhaps, but costs were not the direct goal of the report. The report did support the idea that the Pharmaceutical companies are spending a lot of money on promotion – and therefore, there must be some benefit to it – but that kind of extrapolation is a weak foundation to support laws as far reaching and expensive to comply with as the Sunshine Act.

The argument that the Sunshine Act will reduce federal healthcare spending requires a number of arguments to line up successfully like dominoes – if one of them fails, the logical argument in favor of the Act fails too.

Next update will focus on possible species of unintended consequences, and how to spot them in the wild.

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Pitch Perfect

The perfect pitch is different for every batter – no pitch is the perfect pitch to throw at all the batters all the time. The pitcher needs the scouting intelligence and the tools, and then he can customize his delivery so he can deliver the perfect pitch to that one specific batter standing on the mound.

The same goes for sales presentations. There is no one perfect pitch for every situation. The sales person needs the scouting intelligence and the tools, and then he or she can customize the presentation to the specific store manager standing in front of them.

Let’s break down the components:

First, the rep needs the scouting report. They need sales data, order history, competitive intelligence and in-store shelf condition data – as well as promotion information, pricing data, and product comparison information.

Second, the rep needs the tools. The tool is going to help them bring all the data above together to create a meaningful pitch. The tool is going to allow the user to customize the pitch for the person they’re selling to, choosing which pieces of the information to bring together into that perfect pitch.

Right now, in any store you can observe field reps struggling with binders of data, trying to find the right scouting data, trying to match the generic sales materials they have in a way to create a customized pitch. But it’s almost impossible to pull together all that data manually in the few minutes or seconds available – let alone craft it into a meaningful pitch. So the pitch is usually less than optimal – in baseball terms you throw the fallback pitch – the one you throw when you don’t know what else to do.

However, today’s mobile technologies such as iPad and Android tablets enable organizations to bring highly interactive, personalized, fact-based and meaningful presentations front-and-center in every sales situation.

Technology-enabled mobile sales tools can bring together point of sale data, order history and shelf conditions such as out of stock history. They can show multi-media content, such as upcoming TV spots, pictures of successful displays and product features. They can allow the user to choose which data and materials are right to create the perfect pitch for the store manager. Finally, they can do something nothing else can – show a dynamic “What If” scenario for the store manager projecting sales and profits based on the proposed order.

Are your in-store sales efforts “pitch perfect?” Powerfully simple yet sophisticated, arming the sales force with a pitch book will ensure consistently perfect pitches every time.

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Edge Sales and Marketing Selects StayinFront TouchCG to Drive Productivity and Sales

California-based Edge Sales and Marketing has selected StayinFront TouchCG® as its mobile platform for retail execution.  The company will deploy StayinFront TouchCG on iPads, delivering a more effective sales tool to the company’s field reps and driving in-store productivity.

Specializing in value-added and commodity produce for retailers and distributors in Northern California and Nevada, Edge Sales and Marketing sought out StayinFront CRM solutions for a number of reasons. Edge Sales and Marketing recognized the unique capabilities of the TouchCG platform for iPad and the experience of delivering a tightly integrated solution that addresses the priority requirements of retail merchandising, deal and trade promotions, and key account management. Plus, the platform is integrated with StayinFront Analytics and its KPI functionality provides management with easy access to critical information such as daily activities as well as insights to drive business.  

Shawn Dagen, Vice President of Sales at Edge Sales and Marketing, welcomed the change, saying, “The StayinFront software is an upgrade from our current vendor and allows us to deliver a powerful system that will help our field force maximize every store visit.”

StayinFront’s EVP and Managing Director N.A., Sam Barclay, said, ““We are excited about our new relationship with Edge Sales and Marketing. We are confident that TouchCG’s unique capabilities will make them more effective in store and help them drive new business.”

StayinFront TouchCG revolutionizes the way field forces do business by enabling teams to enhance workflow and increase efficiencies in the field, as well as perform sales and account management tasks using a range of popular mobile devices. More information about StayinFront’s work in the consumer goods market can be accessed here.

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Best Practices: The Benefits of Integrating Expense Management and Customer Relationship Management

Although various states across the U.S. have administered a form of what is known as “Sunshine Laws” for over two decades, the first national provision goes into effect for the 2012 calendar year. For physicians, this means a new level of transparency in their relationships with vendors. For pharmaceutical companies, medical device, biological and medical supply manufacturers, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act introduces a new set of expense reporting and regulations standards.

Some research indicates that many within the industry are still unaware of how the Physicians Payments Sunshine Act impacts their work, while others dread the additional work it will create. By most accounts, the new act requires pharma and medical companies to keep detailed records of any and all expenses for meetings with individual healthcare professionals as well as organizations.

The key to successful expense compliance is to make the process ‘invisible’ for the user, and to do this we here at StayinFront apply the following principles:

  1. Software should make the user more efficient at what they do – and each person should use the tool best designed for the job at hand.  This means that an expense management system like Concur should be used for expense entry and management while a CRM like StayinFront EdgeRx and TouchRx should be used for healthcare professional (HCP) information management.
  2. All data about HCP’s should be collected in the CRM to ensure that the user has a complete view of the customer.
  3. The data the user sees should be identical across all systems being used – so the doctor’s name, address and other details must be the same in their CRM and expense management systems.
  4. Expenses should be entered only once, and into only one system.

The best way to achieve successful expense compliance is to integrate our CRM solution tightly with an expense management system, and the one most of our clients use, and the leader in the market, is Concur.

We worked closely with the Concur Connects team to design 4 interface points between the StayinFront EdgeRx and Concur systems, using the Concur Connects web services, and the StayinFront Integration Manager.  These interface points can be used individually or in combination to meet specific client business requirements.

The first interface is a direct nightly load of HCP information from StayinFront to Concur.  This load passes all new, updated and deleted information to Concur, and ensures that Concur has a complete and current list of HCPs.

Benefit: Users entering expenses for a specific HCP see the exact same data that they see in their CRM system.

The second interface is a direct lookup from Concur to EdgeRx to find a specific HCP record.  This real time lookup connects the EdgeRx system to the Web to locate an HCP record.

Benefit: Users can get the most up to date data – so an HCP entered into CRM is instantly available to the user to enter expenses against.

Event creation: When an event (such as a lunch and learn) is created in EdgeRx or TouchRx, that event is passed directly through to Concur with the attendee information attached.

Benefit: a user entering expenses for an event already has the event details, and since the attendees entered in their expense records, the company just needs to confirm which HCP’s attended and track the expense amounts.  It can’t be any easier than that!

Finally, StayinFront uses the Concur Connects web service to pull back expense data related to HCP’s and attaches those expenses to the HCP in EdgeRx. 

Benefit: EdgeRx and TouchRx have a complete picture of the HCP, and users can  analyze the full impact of activity and results for each interaction.

These interfaces are designed to help customers save time, increase precision, and improve compliance.  

Together, the StayinFront LifeSciences CRM and Concur’s Travel and Expense System adapt to the needs of the individual company through multi-faceted data integration. This means keeping up-to-date records on interactions with healthcare professionals and related expense reporting. Together, StayinFront and Concur offer a best practices approach to staying compliant for everything under the Sunshine Act.

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Beating the Clock: Relationship Management, Sales Planning, & Physicians

“The doctor will see you now.”

For sales reps, there is nothing sweeter than these six words, but in the healthcare world today, physicians are busier than ever and reps may only get a few minutes of the doctor’s time. This hectic pace combined with legislation impacting pharmaceutical pricing and the use of incentives means strategic physician relationship management is the driving force behind successful sales.

Creating a strategic sales plan with an emphasis on physician relationship management starts with examining existing data, analytics, and performance.  Savvy companies can use this info, along with an industry-specific CRM solution and the key points below, to create a powerful pitch fit for busy physicians that can lead to higher sales and lasting relationships.

  1. Understanding the Physicians – Employing a customer-centric approach helps reps learn about must-have services, specialties, patient demographics, personal communication style, preferred contact method, wants, and needs for each physician. Spending time collecting this information highlights the individual’s value and cuts down the length of future interactions.
  2. Commitment Required – To nurture and manage the initial formation of these relationships necessitates centralized information, insight, and commitment. This means maintaining your information, anticipating your customers’ current and future needs, and creating commitment on both sides.
  3. Effective Encounters – Now comes time to craft the message. As Becker Hospital Review pointed out, “…Success – the ‘purchase’ decision – occurs one person at a time, even when you are selling a concept.” Be sure to leverage mobile and social channels in addition to face-to-face contact. Keep messages focused on quality and value and remember, above all, to be concise.
  4. Measurement, Reporting, Analysis & Adjustment – Much like a patient’s symptoms, sales plans also require evaluation. A smart industry-specific CRM with analytics will measure and report findings about your physician relationship management. Comparing this data with your sales plan allows for further analysis and the ability to adjust (PDF) on a regular basis.

To increase sales in an industry that is in constant motion, strategic sales planning combined with a CRM like StayinFront EdgeRx gives reps the ability to stay flexible (and ahead of the competition). Concentrate on selling to the physicians while building loyalty, staying attune to time constraints, and reviewing your performance can track the variables and help spot trends.

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Seeing the Sun Shine: Health Care Goes High Tech

Many health care providers have mixed feelings about the 2010 Physician Payment Sunshine Act. Passed as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, the Sunshine Act is the first piece of federal legislation requiring pharmaceutical companies to report online all physicians who accepted “payment of other transfer of value” over $10.

Publishing this information on the Internet and entering it into the public domain gives patients and watchdog groups the ability to explore connections between doctors and drug companies and determine whether or not these relationships serve patients’ best interest. With the reports set to begin in 2013, physicians and hospitals are struggling to accept this new level of transparency.

Still, some wonder what all the fuss is about. Sunshine Laws aren’t an entirely new concept. In fact, Minnesota has had one since 1993 with online reports available for the last five years. Not to mention, under the 2009 HITECH Act, the entire healthcare industry will adopt electronic health records by 2020.

It appears that healthcare professionals are concerned that the Sunshine Act lacks effective disclosure and security guidelines and could impact the delivery of healthcare by opening up this information to the public. Others argue that disclosure will not impact how physicians interact with pharmaceutical companies and that the online health information exchange may stifle drug innovation.

By using the guidelines for electronic health records as one possible model, the benefits of the Sunshine Act may outweigh the aforementioned concerns. As one report explains, “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) believe that certified EHR technology used in a meaningful way is an important piece of the broader health information technology infrastructure needed to reform the health care system and improve health care quality, efficiency, and patient safety.”

Using and maintaining CRM systems will assuage worries about data accuracy while continuing to encourage transparency and access to the information. Whether patients choose to access the information is yet to be seen, however, being able to review the data may help patients become better informed about treatment options.  Providing a watchdog for the watchdogs should keep the information secure and safe from misrepresentation, protecting physicians and patients, just as Hippocrates intended.

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