Oracle adds pharmaceutical focus to CRM on Demand

A new Life Sciences edition takes on the unique challenges pharmaceutical salespeople face

Oracle announced the 17th version of its on-demand CRM (customer relationship management) application Wednesday and made a fresh push into pharmaceutical sales with a Life Sciences edition of the software.

New features in CRM on Demand Release 17 include tools for managing sales pipelines and performing forecasts of future business, a redesigned user interface, and added language support.

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But one CRM industry observer flagged the Life Sciences product as a particular point of interest.

"Pharma sales is a different kettle of fish than almost anything else in CRM," Beagle Research analyst Denis Pombriant wrote in a blog post. "Sales reps never actually sell their wares to actual customers. They sell to the major recommender, the doctor, and even the MD doesn't buy anything. He or she simply writes a prescription. So you have this odd situation where the sales person is there simply to influence the recommender."

In addition, pharmaceutical sales representatives deal with rafts of paperwork and product samples, and therefore historically tend to leave their laptops in the car when pitching products to physicians and then perform data entry at the end of the day, said Anthony Lye, senior vice president of Oracle CRM. Depending totally on mental recall can be a "painful" process and also leads to inaccuracies, he added.

The new application is supposed to make this work easier for sales representatives so data is captured and entered into the system on an ongoing basis.

Oracle could potentially do big business with the new application. There are about 100,000 drug salespeople in the U.S. alone, according to Pombriant.

But down the road, pharmaceutical CRM application strategies may change, as pharmaceutical companies look to cut the significant costs associated with keeping salespeople on the road, Pombriant predicted.

"That means taking the call to the Web and with it, losing a significant number of jobs," he wrote. "A future pharmaceutical CRM product might be expected to offer a portal for each doctor the company targets.... A drug maker would be able to provide all of the information usually associated with a [sales] call and more, such as custom-designed video and audio that the doctor or pharmacist could access when convenient, rather than in the middle of a busy day."

Oracle's own products haven't gone that far yet, but the notion is "a logical extension" of its current strategy, Lye said.

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