The Reasons Key Account Management Is Essential to Unlocking Large Customers’ Doors

Bill Coyle

Bill Coyle, Principal

Doctors have less autonomy than they used to when it comes to deciding which drug to use for a patient. That autonomy is being taken away by decision-making bodies like pharmacy and therapeutics committees, or other stakeholders that are involved in the decision-making processes.

There’s much more focus on outcomes relative to cost. So what is the outcome we’re going to deliver for the patient, and what’s the cost going to be to the system to the patient, et cetera?

Pharmaceutical manufacturers need to be thinking about “How do I engage these large organized customers in a much more business-to-business like way?” rather than focusing on individual interactions with physicians.

Drug spend tends to be about 15% of total health care spend, so it’s not immediately obvious to an integrated network or a very large provider group that pharma is a natural strategic partner for them.

One of the other key aspects of being successful in key account management is the discussion in value. In pharma, it’s traditionally been a one-size-fits-all [offering]. An offering is designed around a large segment of customers or a blanket offering that’s taken to all customers.

In key account management, the approach needs to be quite a bit different, focused on the value to that particular customer based on their needs and objectives.

What should pharmaceutical companies keep in mind with Key Account Management?

As pharmaceutical manufacturers embark on implementing a key account management program, it’s very important first that they shift their perspective. Key account management is not simply a role that we put out in the marketplace, but rather it’s an initiative or a program of how we work differently with our large organized customers.

So that change in mindset to us is a very important one: to think of KAM as a program, not just as a field role.

Then a pharmaceutical manufacturer needs to make the strategic choice of what their KAM program is going to be about. Is it really about serving our customers more efficiently and effectively with the portfolio and offerings that we have today? Or are we trying to transform [how] we work with our customers in a way such that we’re co-developing solutions with them; we’re developing tailored offerings for specific large customers.

For example, pharma has skill in helping influence patients in changing their behaviors as it relates to drug utilization—is that something that would be valuable for us to partner with an integrated delivery network as they’re trying to shape patient behaviors related to wellness and compliance with therapy?

And that can be a very strong underpinning for what our key account management program should deliver or should be trying to deliver both for our customers, but also for the pharmaceutical manufacturer itself.