Kate Eversole is well known for her central role in healthcare conferences and SFE thinking. We caught up with Kate in London recently to interview her about a subject close to our hearts, innovation in sales.
Kate, you are well known in the healthcare / pharma sector for your central role at EyeforPharma. What did you learn about the sector during that time?
Ha ha a lot. I’ve learnt that they are an industry with a bad reputation and most are people working hard long hours to change lives and improve living standards which often gets lost in the press.
In terms of meetings I’ve seen a big push towards collaboration. This is why at my meetings we are focusing on getting all stakeholders involved including the new players like Telefonica, Vodaphone etc. It’s not just about pharma seeing case studies from other pharma brand teams anymore it’s about creating a new model with insurers, payers, patient groups and the patient.
You are a huge advocate for crowd sourcing as a model for healthcare. Why so?
The industry as a whole needs input from wider circles. We all know silos exist, pipelines are slow and innovation can cost millions. Healthcare has struggled with agile and lean development. As such, the old ways of working need to change. Everyone is cutting back and working more efficiently. Turning to the crowd is a perfect solution for our industry. It’s changed just about every other industry; travel, finance, retail, design.. by bringing the end user directly to the company and removing middle men.
Social media is a royal pain in the backside for pharma. It was 5 years ago, it is today. One of many reasons is the argument for ROI and control of conversation. Crowd sourcing (our approach at PatientsCreate) allows the industry to leverage social media to achieve commercial gains. It’s a win win 🙂
When I talk with our pharma clients, I often hear there is a lack of innovators and bold strategic thinking and some fear this will be a real challenge in the future. What is your perspective on this and what should the industry do?
You need to define innovation in order to give it some context. Innovation (in terms of services) in healthcare isn’t about building an iPad. It’s much smaller, and should remain focused on small little wins. Which over time, become big changes. Oil tankers turn slowly with the collective effort of many parts, healthcare is exactly the same.
This is a topic we’re passionate about at PatientsCreate, I’ll do my best to keep it short. The real innovators in big pharma are the people who know how to sing the corporate song, and still get their projects through. They’re the people who spend 90% of their life lobbying and building business cases as they truly believe in the outcome. Are there a lack of them? Yes. Is the culture and system ready to support them? No. Is that changing? Yes.
I‘ve met more “innovative” people wanting to do something new and different in the last 12 months compared to the previous 4 years. Everyone knows the writing is on the wall for our industry and we need to change. We enjoy working with these people, as they push to find out HOW things can work, not IF they should.
To your second point; “bold strategic” thinkers. Everyone is under pressure to deliver sales. Rightly or wrongly, you’ll never get someone to not do what they’re employed to do. Budget holders are in that position because they’re a safe pair of hands. If you use terms like ‘bold’ it rings alarm bells. My instant reaction is, bold = it hasn’t been done before. This means high risk in an environment which only rewards success.
For innovation departments that have freedom to explore, bold is in everything they do. For the rest of the industry that have sales to meet. Bold isn’t needed, small focused wins is the way forward. And this falls back nicely to crowd sourcing. It’s not bold to test assumptions before you invest in something. It’s not bold to develop services alongside patients. It’s not bold to leverage social channels – it’s smart.
The industry needs to do something very simple, listen to patients and build WITH them, not FOR. That one small (achievable) change will be the biggest game changer we’ll see, everything else will follow. It’s what we’ve built our entire business on!
How do you think the role of SFE will evolve to cope with the large structural changes in healthcare?
People like doing business with people. You would rightly argue that digital can deliver more for less. But at the core of any business are people. So my first point is that we still need a form of sales force.
We’ll see smarter, focused digital tools supporting HCPs at the point of care. From this activity, data will be extracted that will allow KAMs to truly understand and support their customers.
We’re already seeing terminologies and responsibilities changing within SFE. Key Accounts Management will become a norm. Without a doubt, digital is playing a more pivotal role in engagement. And the future SFE will be a multi-touch point offering, with a focus being on the people delivering the right service at the right time, vs. the right message.
Many of our readers will not know that you are a fitness legend and that you have entered the immense Marathon DE Sables next year. How do you manage to fit starting up a company and the large volume of training?
Well I’m tired all the time and my social life has taken a battering. But you only live once so the achievement of finishing and raising so much for MENCAP gives me the motivation to get out of bed early even though it’s cold and wet!
If anyone is training for a marathon or an ultra – they can track my training (and copy my program) here: http://kateeversole.tumblr.com/
For more information about Kate Eversole and Pharma Creates click here