Happy New Year! As we move into 2024, we will see continued evolution in the healthcare marketplace. Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences companies must demonstrate sophisticated and collaborative strategic account management practices to earn value partner status.

Healthcare organizations are looking to industry to co-create patient-first solutions, deal with healthcare disparities, and unlock data analytics with insights that improve healthcare outcomes. This requires purposeful strategic account management and planning, where cross-functional colleagues work together to be part of the solution.

Typically, pharmaceutical organizations conduct year beginning meetings to provide their sales teams marketplace and company strategic context, with the ask to take their strategic priorities and translate them into meaningful plans of action at the customer level. Sales and access leaders should proactively coach their teams to resist the inclination to jump into the deep end without first engaging in focused account planning. We suggest leaders use year beginning meetings and initial one-on-one visits to ensure each direct report can develop a plan that leads to better results.

All field leaders (sales and market access) and field professionals should keep the following four tips in mind when developing account business plans:

Tip 1: Revisit your marketplace analysis

Critical to any plan development is the need to thoroughly evaluate the marketplace. No matter your therapeutic area or the stakeholders you call on, it is important to take stock of what conditions are changing (and will continue to change), and how those influence healthcare delivery decisions. Challenge the team to evaluate what is unique about their specific geography relative to dominant providers and payers and the subsequent impact on treatment decisions. Team members should continue to explore and thoroughly understand how the Inflation Reduction Act and other healthcare policy changes impact their geography and accounts.  When performing a marketplace analysis, it is important to evaluate the larger context and regularly “check-in” with customers to better appreciate and understand their daily challenges.

  • Remember that maintaining a “relevant” depth of knowledge requires constant attention and focus
  • Limit and focus the scope of what you analyze to remain relevant and efficient
  • Conduct regular “gut checks” to validate conclusions with evidence  

Tip 2: Align the plan with business strategies

Planning does not happen in a vacuum. Consider account priorities and therapeutic area and/or brand goals when evaluating options and making decisions.

  • Maintain a full appreciation of company and customer business objectives, emphasize and support brand strategies, and seek clarification as needed
  • Understand and appreciate the “why” behind tactical choices and day-to-day activities
  • Incorporate leadership guidance into the planning process to better understand and consider the implications of higher-level company or strategic goals that must be met and then translate these into territory and account level goals

Tip 3: Assess performance and focus on the best opportunities

After analyzing the broader healthcare ecosystem, it is important to identify and prioritize high value accounts and specific health care providers. Evaluating priority customers requires both a review of past performance and making assumptions about future potential. It is important for leaders to provide support for evaluating customer performance by having each customer-facing professional:

  • Reflect upon and analyze overall territory/geography performance (e.g., where is most of the business concentrated? Where is the business trending up (growing), down (declining), and staying the same (flat)?)
  • Develop objectives and plans that include opportunities based on future potential, considering factors such as access, positive formulary positions, local Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), and a willingness to partner on value-added solutions, such as patient adherence programs or educational efforts
  • Develop goals for penetrating accounts to expand opportunities

Tip 4: Be accountable for business success

Creating comprehensive business plans is one of the key differentiators between “good” and “great” customer-facing professionals. The other differentiator is effective plan execution. Customer-facing professionals who best execute their plans stay focused on key activities and actions in pursuit of broader goals. Even with an effective plan in place, changes in marketplace conditions or shifts in internal direction may dictate a need for adaptation.

  • Be prepared to share the rationale for your focus, goals, and actions with key stakeholders
  • Regularly review goals and action plans to determine if you are on target or need to make changes
  • Leverage business analytics and available reports to assess your progress
  • Revisit and prioritize key activities to ensure achievement of quick wins
  • Evaluate available resources in this year’s budget and allocate to the highest potential opportunities
  • Coordinate with other customer-facing and support roles on planned activities for shared customers, or when specific expertise is needed to achieve goals (e.g., nurse educators, MSLs)

Envision your results one year from now. Keeping these four tips top of mind can help you maximize performance. Purposeful attention to creating a culture of disciplined planning and execution builds individual, team, and organizational capabilities to consistently deliver results.

If you are looking to create a culture that emphasizes effective planning, collaboration, and execution, WLH Consulting and Learning Solutions can introduce and help you adopt best practices consistent with your organizational structure, portfolio, roles, and priorities. Please contact us for more information.

Wendy L. Heckelman, Ph.D.

Dr. Wendy Heckelman, president and founder of WLH Consulting, Inc. has over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 100 industry clients. These include pharmaceutical, biotech, health care, animal health medicines, and consumer products, as well as international non-profit organizations and growing entrepreneurial companies.

Business AcumenStrategic Account Management