Innovations in Pharma Sales Operations

Sales Ops Importance in Pharma

Pharmaceutical organizations are going through fundamental restructuring. They are facing changing regulations, intense cost pressure, demanding customers, and fierce competition. Their need for flexibility and agility has never been higher. This white paper provides data on Sales Operations as a Service, an approach that emerged in the pharma industry and has been embraced by industries all over the world. This services-based offering is a combination of enabling technology and sales process expertise, giving organizations the agility necessary to adapt very rapidly to changes in the marketplace.

Increased access restrictions, industry consolidation, multi-channel development, and compliance oversight are challenging companies across all life sciences and healthcare sectors. In this volatile environment, it’s crucial for pharma organizations to remain agile and provide the field with the right resources, insights, and incentives to drive sales performance.

This dynamic marketplace adds enormous pressure on sales operations teams. They are expected to ‘cure’ the company of broken processes, poor territory alignment, and inadequate technologies. They should also be the driving force for productivity improvements, setting the vision for the future.

Sales Operations in the Pharma Industry

Sales Operations can have a very specific and high value role in any company. But the wide variety of definitions for this function can lead it in different directions. In the pharma industry, there is no set structure for a Sales Operations team. However, most of them cover several key elements such as sales strategy and planning, compensation, forecasting, enablement, analytics, and sales automation infrastructure.

Whether it’s a dedicated team or a function within Sales, HR, or Finance, pharma sales operations face many challenges. Besides sales processes, data analytics, and reporting, they are also expected to have strong understanding of the marketplace. Be it pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, vaccines, animal health, or eye care – each niche needs a different sales skill-set and a tailored sales operations approach.

Dynamic market conditions and increasing sales pressure also require pharma sales operations to make swift and timely deployment decisions.

Usually, these decisions are complex, time consuming, and require a quick delivery to the field. When they arrive in the middle of a sales cycle, implementation can be disruptive. Many daily tasks such as report generation, answering questions from the field, and calculating incentives can distract sales operations from strategic thinking.


Evolving, complex governmental regulations

Fierce competition

Decreased access to prescribers

Constant sales plan changes triggered by a dynamic market

Challenges in setting quotas and aligning territories

Increased specialization of products and markets

What is Sales Operations as a Service?

Companies achieve better business outcomes when software as a service is combined with business process management. Recent research shows that sales forces – including those in pharma organizations – improve their sales performance on a deeper and more sustained level with Sales Operations as a Service, rather than with software alone. This includes 15% better process reliability and 13% more cost savings. Through this collaborative operating model, organizations are able to rapidly adapt to changes in strategy, markets, and priorities.

With roots in the life sciences industry, Sales Operations as a Service (SOaaS) is a set of strategic consulting and business process management services that improve business benefits for sales teams and organizations. To achieve sales operations objectives, this approach combines leading sales technology with deep process expertise and tailors it for each industry and business segment.

This strategic approach puts software at the foundation of every process, but also leverages experts with industry and sales operations know-how, who are able to implement better business processes. Sales Operations as Service helps both internal operations, sales management, and the sales force through:

  • Sales planning and strategy execution
  • Sales compensation and motivation
  • Sales productivity
  • Sales activities
  • Sales insights and analysis

Sales Operations as a Service Model

Above and Beyond Software

To boost sales performance, pharma companies have historically used various software solutions such as territory alignment tools, sales force automation, CRM, and other applications. However, traditional software implementations follow the rules mapped out in specific requirements and don’t take into account the need to constantly adapt to change. A large number of applications is also difficult to keep in sync and create a high dependence on the IT organization.

In addition, most software solutions are hard-coded to various degrees especially in the areas of data transformation, process automation, reporting, and analytics. Their inability to adapt to change make them a bad fit for sales operations – especially in such a dynamic industry.

Software alone can’t fix poorly designed processes and bad policies. Most pharma technologies are working in isolated siloes, preventing sales operations from looking beyond process automation.

While some technologies help sales team members serve the customer better, others can actually bog down processes or stifle the creativity needed to truly customize the buyer experience.

Many pharma companies struggle to improve sales performance, not because they lack software automation, but because they fail to get the strategic picture of the sales force. They are also unable to see how sales operations could impact other departments.

This has led pharma organizations to search for a different approach that helps them get better business outcomes and increase their sales force and sales operations performance.

More than Outsourcing

Sales Operations as a Service is similar to outsourcing. However, it goes beyond the simple “lift and shift” arrangement that pharma companies find familiar. This innovative approach includes a bundle of cloud services and professional services—all for a single subscription fee that provides cost certainty and predictability. Many traditional outsourcing providers don’t leverage pharmaceutical industry standards and best-in-class software solutions such as those recognized by leading analyst firms like Gartner.

SOaaS is more than outsourcing because experts also augment and assume responsibility for managing various sales operations functions. In addition, the focus moves to an agile client engagement model, where business outcomes are continually delivered even as they change over time.

Pharma organizations need a mature and robust sales operations function but don’t always have time to hire and onboard staff with the required level of experience. For companies engaging in a Sales Operations as a Service relationship, experts become an extension of their sales operations team. With this approach, they are able to gain access to more staff during busy, critical periods, such as during a new product/drug launch.

In other cases, companies simply lack the internal skills to take their operations to the next level. SOaaS fills those gaps with a mix of specialized expertise, best-of-breed processes, and an adaptable platform.

Tailored to the Pharma Industry

With many pharma companies dealing with hard-coded software, the SOaaS approach is tailored to solve the industry’s technological problems and add value through better business processes. As needs expand, Sales Operations as a Service can adapt to new areas such as integrating specialty pharmacy data, portal optimization, agile prescriber targeting, etc. Experts also design and implement specific industry apps such as:

  • Prescriber Segmentation
  • Prescriber Targeting
  • Alignment Management
  • Specialty and Affiliation Management
  • Pre-call Prescriber Profile
  • Sample Optimization
  • Multi-channel ROI Analytics
  • Missed Opportunity Reporting, etc.

When they deliver automated processes and applications, experts share best practices from their experience with hundreds of other companies. With this industry-focused approach, pharma organizations are able to improve sales force morale, align behaviors with strategy, increase flexibility to change, and seize opportunities in the pharmaceutical value chain.

7 Key Benefits to Boost Pharma Sales Operations

Compensation plans and sales performance management should be unique to products and services, to individual reps’ experience, and to sales and overall business goals. When changes occur, organizations usually focus on small parts of their compensation plans. Software may be utilized to integrate changes but will not provide feedback on the accuracy of the new plans. Sales Operations as a Service allows pharma, medical devices, biotech and other life sciences companies to:

1. Adapt faster to market demands

and remain competitive by using agile methodologies that accelerate implementation of change

2. Automate business processes

to improve operational efficiency and control costs

3. Integrate, validate, and manage

all data sources within a single, auditable, and secure repository

4. Design and manage territories

more efficiently through interactive mapping and access to essential territory data

5. Improve sales effectiveness

through reports, dashboards, and trigger-based alerts that provide actionable information to all levels of the organization

6. Identify consumer trends

and understand sales performance across markets

7. Forecast expenses

to maximize profitability and ensure adherence to industry and regulatory requirements

The expertise in leading edge technology combined with industry proficiency mitigates the risks resulting from changes such as mergers, new systems or growth. With responsibilities sitting fully at the provider, SOaaS enables even more capabilities.

Innovative Approach Delivers Better Outcomes

The complexity of the pharmaceutical sales model and the highly regulated environment create unique challenges for sales operations. With increased competition and shifts in buying behaviors, pharma companies around the world struggle to optimize their sales performance. A new approach goes above and beyond software and outsourcing, adding subject matter expertise, best practices in process design, and cutting edge technology.

Sales Operations as a Service focuses on achieving the business outcomes needed without the distractions of managing the ever-changing processes of the sales organization. By removing the barriers of technology management and adding business process expertise and expert staff on demand, this approach improves both agility and productivity. In a time when much of the industry tries to cope with transformational change, pharma organizations that reinvent their business will separate themselves from the crowd and better connect their products with the patients they serve.

Sales Operations As A Service Outcomes

Figure 1 – Research shows Sales Operations as a Service brings more benefits than software alone.