In today’s rapidly evolving healthcare environment, pharmaceutical and life sciences sales and market access professionals need an in-depth understanding of their core customers’ objectives, the pressures they face, and the role other key stakeholders play in important treatment decisions.   In short, they need a strong and sophisticated account management mindset and skillset.

Developing an effective account management mindset and skillset can be challenging and takes time. The principles below can help sales professionals, market access leaders, and their learning and development partners think through and develop effective account management practices.

  1. Stay current on Healthcare Marketplace Knowledge.  It is important for all customer-facing roles to understand the big picture.   Take the time to put into context how the managed care environment, and the ever-present pressures to improve patient outcomes and quality, while reducing costs, impacts important healthcare delivery and treatment decisions.
  2. Watch how business models are evolving and beware of emerging disruptors in the healthcare ecosystem.  Almost daily there are announcements about mergers, acquisitions, new business alliances, and new entrants into the market.  On a regular basis, take stock of these players in your geography and their influence on care delivery.  Remember, there are numerous healthcare disruptors (e.g., Amazon, Walmart, Apple, Google, CVS, Walgreens)  who are making changes that redefine the way care is delivered by streamlining processes, introducing new technologies, reducing costs, and contracting differently.
  3. Keep the patient journey in mind.  When customer-facing roles and entire teams better understand the patient journey and the key stakeholders involved along the way, the potential for uncovering value beyond brand solutions may emerge.
  4. Remember stakeholders are all different.  Who are the various stakeholders either making or impacting healthcare delivery and treatment decisions?  What are each stakeholders’ unique business, clinical, and operational needs and concerns?  It is important to avoid making assumptions based simply on role titles. Cast a wider net to get a fuller picture of each account’s needs, decision making processes, and priorities.
  5. Leverage data to analyze opportunities.  For any given account, are you growing, maintaining, or defending product/portfolio utilization?  Past performance may be an indicator, but not the only criteria for uncovering industry opportunities to help the account achieve broader cost savings or achieve population outcome goals.
  6. Plan to Plan.  Take the time to think through specific account plans, clearly defining goals and objectives based on the best opportunities.  Think through how all customer-facing roles can work collaboratively and compliantly to achieve these goals. Make sure everyone is clear on their specific role, responsibilities, and accountabilities.
  7. Engage with empathy. The ripple effects of the pandemic on healthcare providers may include burnout, trauma, and staffing pressures.  Customer-facing roles must remain sensitive to these pressures and shifting priorities.  Even when relegated to hybrid interactions, carefully probe with exploratory questioning and effective listening skills to uncover needs and co-create solutions.

Effective account management requires different skills for customer-facing roles (and perhaps internal roles, as well) when working with larger organized customers and various segment channels (e.g. IDNs, Payers, Academic Centers, large group practices).  The seven (7) tips provided here, when practiced over time and across account teams, will affect positive behavior change to deliver the desired results and succeed in the marketplace.

If you need support developing an account management mind-set and skill set, feel free to reach out.  WLH has a customizable Account Management academy that can be used for any customer facing role.

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.

LeadershipBusiness PlanningAccount Management