Healthcare and Data: How Pharma Distributors Can Leverage the Advantages of their Position in the Value Chain

Sales and marketing have changed. Were they not fictional, Don Draper from Mad Men, and Blake from Glengarry Glen Ross would be shocked by common practices in commerce today. We have moved away from combative, zero-sum activities towards a more complex, nuanced world of “synergies,” joint-ventures between competitors, and a desire for negotiations to be “win-win” rather than “win-loss.”

These changes in sales and marketing have resulted in new challenges when it comes to compiling and analyzing sales and order data. Buyers are now more sophisticated and educated in their decision making. Suppliers and retailers must be more responsive to changes in the marketplace. This new sales and buying environment requires more immediate and timely analysis of transactional data. How can these companies achieve this and where can they get the data they need?

This paradigm shift in sales and marketing is especially pronounced in the world of healthcare and life sciences, with its multiple layers of transactional data. As a result of our many conversations with our customers in pharmaceutical manufacturing and retailing, we have come to understand that pharmaceutical distributors occupy a unique place in the value chain. From this position, they can drive buying and selling behaviors for both manufacturers and retailers to the benefit of all in the value chain.

Additionally, retail partners in many kinds of verticals are more eager to share point-of-sale information with their suppliers in order to mutually benefit both organizations, building stronger ties between them – with the goal of building a more compelling offer for the end customer.

So who better than the distributor – the central partner in the route-to-market – to be the aggregator of complex data, with the ability to discern from the full picture that which is not visible to any individual player.

Imagine this: Retailer provides point-of-sale data to the distributor, appropriately anonymized for HIPAA compliance, which, when connected with a set of sales data, reveals that within a particular few zip codes, there’s a markedly low usage of a particular medication. This information is helpful to both the manufacturer and retailer. Perhaps the competitor manufacturer has been running a pilot promotion in those locations? Perhaps mail-order prescription usage is ramping up? Only the distributor has access to this information, which can be leveraged to derive insights and provide recommendations both upstream to manufacturers and downstream to retailers. Coordinated actions which take into account competition and market shifts across the value chain can provide “win-win-win” opportunities for the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer.

Now we’ve entered a world in which the distributor has moved from the traditional role of being the low-margin “middle man” to being a trusted partner that can leverage both customer insights and product information to help their suppliers and customers do more business — more effectively and more profitably.

About the Author

Ben Blaney

Ben Blaney is a Senior Strategic Consultant at PROS, helping organizations select and deploy its cloud-based software. He previously served as director of Commercial Excellence for ESAB, a $2B division of Colfax Corporation, where he was responsible for strategy, execution and measurement of all aspects of commercial excellence. Blaney also led pricing strategy for a $2B division of GE; has served as a business consultant at Vendavo; and led pricing for a $1.5B business unit of ITT Corporation, where he worked for eight years in roles of increasing responsibility and seniority. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Exeter. Blaney holds the PRINCE2, Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Pricing Professional (CPP), and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certifications.

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