Over the past year, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become more prevalent than ever in mainstream media. New AI tools with the ability to take a simple prompt and generate visual art or writing samples have given rise to speculation about what AI is capable of and what it means for the future of many industries. Unsurprisingly, many people express concern about whether or not AI-driven automation could replace human workers. However, in most cases, AI’s best use is making people more efficient at their jobs, not replacing them altogether. This can especially be true in the realm of pharmaceutical sales and marketing.
What is AI?
Artificial Intelligence is an incredibly powerful and flexible technology that has the potential to revolutionize many industries, including pharma sales and marketing. The term can sound intimidating, but it is relatively simple at the core: AI-driven analytics comb through large datasets to identify patterns and create forecasts about what will happen next, such as predicting which HCPs would be most receptive to a new medication. When predictive analytics are used effectively, this can help businesses to make data-driven decisions faster than ever before.
AI is already in use across the pharmaceutical industry, assisting in applications ranging from drug discovery, to individualized medicine, to streamlining healthcare systems. AI is also becoming increasingly common in pharma sales and marketing, thanks to its ability to effectively target communications and sales and marketing efforts for the greatest impact for pharma companies and patients in need of therapeutics. With AI-based predictive analytics, companies can more easily identify potential customers, strategize across territories, and connect relevant HCPs with timely, personalized messaging enabling patients to receive treatments sooner.
However, not all predictive analytics softwares are built the same. Many tools use rules-based algorithms to offer predictions about customer behavior. While these can offer benefits over no analysis at all, they often fail to keep up when the market changes, such as during an unprecedented global event, like the COVID-19 pandemic. True AI-based tools are capable of learning as conditions change and incorporating results from previous analyses to offer more precise predictions, even in unusual circumstances.
How can AI benefit pharma sales reps?
AI-driven predictive analytics can look at HCP data, such as past prescriptions and geographic trends, and make predictions about when they might be most receptive to a sales call or most likely prescribe a given treatment. This then enables sales reps to provide more personalized services to customers, resulting in improved sales team efficiency. It can also unearth hidden trends and insights from existing data that would otherwise remain unnoticed, generating new sales opportunities. It can be an invaluable asset for industry professionals looking to get ahead of the competition.
AI tools can help sales reps make better-targeted calls and save time on pre-call planning. For example, in a six-month case study using ODAIA’s MAPTUAL Field product, sales reps were able to reduce pre-call planning time by 70 minutes per day, while still increasing new patient starts by 6%.1
“MAPTUAL takes in real-time data feeds and is based on data insights so you spend less time manually analyzing data reports and less time pre-call planning” - Pharma Sales Rep, Top 10 Pharma Company
Are AI tools ethical?
Data and its many uses and ethical conundrums have slowly become an integral part of everyday life. As such, it is reasonable to have concerns about technologies, like AI, that rely on large quantities of data and have the potential to make accurate predictions about personal matters. Many have concerns about their data being misused or leaked, while others feel intruded upon by the sometimes too personal marketing campaigns made possible by AI-driven targeting.
These concerns are valid and often boil down to how these powerful tools are being used. AI-driven predictive analytics are here and already in the market, so it is up to the companies using them to develop ethical practices and maintain high standards to keep confidential data safe. Pharma companies can accomplish this by working with a trusted software partner to help ensure that the critical datasets remain confidential and secure.
On the upside, when it comes to pharmaceutical sales and marketing, AI targeting can help get life-changing treatments to patients faster. These platforms help identify which HCPs are most in need of a particular solution and enable sales reps to focus their efforts where they will have the greatest impact.
Can AI replace human reps?
One common misconception about AI is that a software platform can completely take over a task or job, but human-to-human conversation is very difficult to replace. AI technologies can be used to automate certain tasks or to provide insights and recommendations, but they are not a substitute for the complex decision-making and interpersonal skills of a human sales rep.
“Many of my colleagues are afraid of AI tools. Reps are afraid that such digital tools will replace them.” Pharma Sales Rep, Top 10 Pharma Company
The true value of AI in pharma sales and marketing is to make each rep’s job easier and more effective. AI technology saves sales reps time by gathering and evaluating large amounts of customer data alongside past call history, then offering a simple summary, in real time. In some cases, it can even help them identify HCPs they didn’t know about that are likely to be interested in their products. By streamlining call planning, offering valuable customer insights, and freeing up time to focus on high-impact tasks, AI tools help sales reps spend more time doing what they do best - having valuable interactions with their customers.
“I love that I can view different data points quickly within MAPTUAL. The previous way of doing analytics on a spreadsheet takes a long time” - Pharma Sales Rep, Top 10 Pharma Company
AI is here to stay
Artificial intelligence is currently being used throughout the pharmaceutical industry in a myriad of ways, all with the same goal - to match patients with the treatments they need faster. In the realm of pharma sales and marketing, AI-based predictive analytics can help sales reps have better conversations with less planning and more easily identify high-value targets. While every new technology carries concerns about privacy and ethical use, when used appropriately AI can make life as a sales rep better.
ODAIA’s MAPTUAL platform offers AI-driven predictive analytics designed to streamline planning for pharma sales reps. Download the ODAIA Field Case Study to learn how MAPTUAL Field transformed pre-call planning with the power of data.