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How To Launch Organize a Team of Remote Visit Representatives

“We’ve already called all the doctors, there’s no one left. We need a whole new contact database,” said Anna, senior representative for remote visits at a global pharma company.
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In this context, the term “remote visits” refers to a virtual conversation or briefing between a medical representative and a doctor, similar to a Skype or Zoom call. Remote visits are also called remote detailing, remote engagement, Teleweb or e-detailing. One of these sessions is typically 15-20 minutes long, with a medical representative having a dialogue with the doctor over the visual presentation run by the rep. Given the huge limitations on mobility caused by COVID-19, they are very much on the rise.

“It’s been a month since our new TeleWeb team was created,” Anna goes on to explain. “We got the right equipment, and our medical advisors and marketing experts put together a really good set of presentations on the disease and the different therapies we could offer. But it didn’t matter how good the plan was, the doctors just didn’t want to take up our offer of remote engagement. What are we meant to do to find doctors who are interested?”

In the past, remote visits using digital technology were mostly used by pharma companies to cover doctors from territories they couldn’t reach, geographically isolated locations, or institutions with strictly limited access. When launching a TeleWeb team back in 2010-2015, a company typically planned the amount of remote sessions to equal around 5-20% of the overall amount of sales meetings, expecting that a representative would make 7-10 successful contacts a day.

Question 1

How can a sales representative engage doctors in TeleWeb sessions?

Don’t simply invite doctors to try a new format, but rather SELL them the TeleWeb sessions, webinars, and even your next call!

An example of a wrong approach:

“We are trying to optimise our work in remote areas, so I will be visiting you less often. Do you mind if I give your contacts to our TeleWeb team? Can they call you once a month to check if you have any questions?”

And here’s a worse approach:

“Well, now that we are not allowed anywhere, let’s communicate by Veeva Engage. We have a new…”

This approach is better:

“We have created a new service for our best doctors, an online course on the new approaches to therapy. The course consists of a series of presentations with the latest data, hosted by your personal manager at times that suit you best. Are you interested in giving it a try?”

Question 2.

Do you enjoy unexpected calls from banks, sales people, or other disturbing offers?
There are two types of sales call, and they usually have very different results.

Cold Call

  1. The receiver isn’t expecting the call.
  2. The receiver asks “Where did you get my number?”
  3. The receiver hangs up.
  4. The call lasts 1 to 3 minutes (if the doctor is polite).

Hot Call

  1. The receiver is waiting for the call.
  2. They are expecting a briefing and can rely on cancellations to be very rare.
  3. They participate in a two-way dialogue throughout the detailing session.
  4. The call lasts 15 to 20 minutes.

As far as most people are concerned, cold calls are like being shouted at in public, while hot calls are like a friendly and helpful conversation.

In 2000, Europe’s major pharma companies began adopting remote visits, in 2010 emerging markets started to join, and now in 2020 it has become a global trend. COVID-19 has of course driven a lot of recent growth.

Unfortunately, as long as contacts are drawn from the contact sheets created by the field representatives, only around 1/5 doctors actually participate in a TeleWeb session.

As an example, if details of 100 doctors are provided by the sales department, only 16 will take part in briefings each month. The remaining 84 either decline to take part or can’t be reached due to outdated or incorrect contact details.  As a result, each member of the TeleWeb team will be left with 1-5 sessions a week – at best.

This raises an important question. Is it really efficient to pay a TeleWeb representative as much as you would pay a field representative if they can only conduct at most 1 session a day, instead of the 10 a field representative should achieve?

In the next article, I will look at alternative ways of making initial contacts with doctors, compare the efficiency of various marketing channels, and describe the most effective way of engaging targets in remote calls.

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