December 21, 2021

The Sales Rep of the Future

The world is continuously in motion. How to prepare your Sales Team for 2022? While of course, this question is very broad, we want to share our vision on how we think digital transformation might drive your detailing activity in the years to come.

The human touch will never disappear

Digital transformation is there to stay. That doesn't mean, however, that we must digitalize all touchpoints in the customer journey. To the contrary: the right interplay of "face-to-face" and "digital" has never been more important than today. We all like human interaction more than ever before, especially when our involvement is high and there's a lot at stake if the message does not resonate.

Still, digital transformation plays an important role, even in processes that are really complex and require a lot of physical human interaction. Think about the last time you bought real-estate, for example.

When negotiating a mortgage loan for real estate, we all like to have in-person conversations with different bankers so that they can explain conditions that are not easily comparable. Once we know that bank X offers us the best conditions, we expect the preferred banker to get a fast approval from headquarters. A process taking weeks with a lot of internal hurdles and approval delays leads to a "pre-historical" customer experience and nowadays doesn't cut the deal anymore.

When it comes to high-involvement decisions, we no longer want to rely solely on the 'human touch'. We expect companies to use digital technology that delivers fast, smart insights and decisions to move more quickly from one interaction to the next (whether that interaction is digital or face-to-face).

The KWARTS team is contributing to the Digital Transformation of commercial teams.

New paradigm of digital

Being active in Life Sciences for many years, we have witnessed the breakthrough of digital transformation in its Commercial Operations.

"Digital" started off as a key aim in the 2010s. Think about coverage of digital channels being expressed in 'physical detailing equivalents'... Today in 2021, it ended up being a means to an end: we expect it to bring improved journey insights and process excellence for more relevant and effective customer interactions via either channel (physical or digital).

Physicians are under increasing pressure to provide (COVID) care to a growing amount of patients. For key account managers and medical representatives, relevance is key. If they don't have something valuable to say, the door to the physician's cabinet remains closed. This door can be a traditional wooden one, but even well a spam-filter in the physician's mailbox, a decline in his/her online meeting calendar or a gatekeeper at the hospital desk.

Chasing relevance, collectively blind & busy

According to Forbes (2018), a typical sales rep spends 65% of his/her time finding out what experience a certain customer (or HCP, say dr. Janssen) has gone through in the recent past. They check in different systems (scrolling through own CRM records, clicking through campaign results in marketing automation, ...) and data silos (attendee lists from corporate webinars, ...) how positive and/or influential dr. Janssen is about the treatment in focus, how he reacted to specific messages, and which colleagues from Market Access, Medical and Marketing have recently interacted with him on which topics. Then they spend another hour merging all of that information in order to define the best way forward for the next interaction with dr. Janssen.

Sure, data is never perfect so they might miss out on certain details. A colleague sales rep might have tried to conduct the same interaction with a very similar HCP in the past. Maybe this didn't really work out. But as a sales rep, you don't know what you don't know... and you don't want to bother your colleagues with this hypothetical question, since they are already losing their own time finding out what they don't know and what they need to do themselves...

Hence, you visit your HCP with the best of information you can get. Guess what's the consequence? Low relevance. According to EPG Health Media, more than half of HCPs put limited or no value on pharma reps as a source of medical information. Doors risk to remain closed.

Chicken-and-egg, you say? Sure! That's why we feel a strong need for digital transformation in Life Sciences' commercial operating model... applying the power of process mining on HCP journey analytics to learn true customer preferences. Ground-breaking in the industry!

Based on literature and research, we bring innovation in the commercial operating model.

How process mining shapes insights in the HCP journey

Process mining can discover, monitor and improve HCP journeys, by extracting data from all past, time-stamped, interactions available in corporate data silos.

Process mining is designed to discover, monitor and improve real processes (not assumed processes) by extracting knowledge from event logs readily available in today’s information systems. Process mining includes automated process discovery (i.e., extracting process models from an event log), conformance checking (i.e., monitoring deviations by comparing model and log), social network/organizational mining, automated construction of simulation models, model extension, model repair, case prediction, and history-based recommendations. (Gartner, 2021)

The KWARTS solution improves HCP journeys.

At KWARTS, we detect HCP interaction profiles via automated process discovery. Every "HCP profile" groups HCPs with similar message & channel preferences and/or ways of reacting to it. Some of them might have already received certain communications while others did not. Hence, by creating an 'analytical Deus ex magina', we can predict reactions to new communications for similar HCPs in a powerful way. By suggesting these communications to sales reps, they might get inspired. In the end, they decide to execute yes or no.

As Gartner (2021) states, the starting point for any process mining task is an event log. Each event in such a log refers to an activity (i.e., a well-defined step in some process, e.g. an email click or a visit by a sales rep) and relates to a particular case (i.e., one HCP). The events belonging to a case are ordered and can be seen as one “run” of the process. The sequence of activities executed for a case is called a trace or an "HCP journey'.

In the below figure is an example of three traces, or to say three individual HCP journeys (for HCP ID 653504, HCP ID 795832 and HCP ID 124789).

Journey analysis Kwarts

Each of them represents an individual HCP in interaction with a pharmaceutical company (in this case pharmacists conducting sell-in of OTC drugs via a gross retailer web shop to resell it again in their own pharmacies; but it could of course also encompass visits by sales reps to these pharmacists, as part of the same HCP journey). The behavior between them is slightly different. One of them never gets to page Sales_3, two of them do. One of the latter two starts from an open shopping basket (Sales_Open). The other one doesn't.

It becomes interesting when we aggregate insights over hundreds of HCPs, over different sales rep portfolios (think about Deus ex magina). As the below figure shows, interesting insights might be revealed. Certain HCP journeys might be very popular (thicker lines), others might not be so frequent (thinner lines). The HCP's appreciation (e.g. amount of monthly prescriptions in a certain group of physicians) or even financial outcome (e.g. Sell-In EUR to a hospital) of some journeys might be very good, while the outcome of some others might not be too fantastic.

Process mining by Kwarts in an aggregated view

When the rubber hits the road

Process mining analytics are all nice & fancy. How to turn them into actionable insights, so that key account managers can spend more time with customers and less time integrating and analyzing data?

At KWARTS, this is our daily bread and butter. We bring actionable insights straight into CRM, based on process mining.

Triple win:

  • Sales reps don't lose 65% of their valuable time by integrating data silos. The insights are right there in intuitive visualizations, out-of-the-box in their CRM system.
  • Sales reps can learn from other colleagues what worked out, without having to talk to them and explain the full situation on a certain HCP: the machine automates that for them.
  • Sales reps bring more relevance to the conversation with HCPs, combining hard behavioral data with domain expertise by themselves and their colleagues. Over time, the machines get smarter.

To get there, we apply a 4-step process:

1. We connect our customer data platform A-Inside to online & offline HCP data sources

Step 1: Collect data

We have a semi-automated data integration pipeline with data quality alerting and checks on data pipelines that drop out. We can deal with both structural data, as more ad hoc Excel-files.

2. HCPs are categorized into customizable engagement stages

Step 2: categorize data

Our neural networks bin customers into a set of engagement stages (e.g. Averse, Neutral, Engaging, Champion) based on their lower-level behavioral and characteristics data. These stages are fully customizable, while we can guide you based on some good industry practice applied to different customers.

3. Our algorithms predict which initiatives help you advance the HCP journey

Step 3: Add intelligence

In its core, A-Inside learns from behavioral and characteristic data sources. It also takes feedback from key account managers, sales reps and other users (such as brand managers) into account. Often it is the case that HCP data does not cover the full story. Whenever domain knowledge is used to approve or decline a recommendation in the journey for a certain HCP, the underlying AI-machines get smarter based on reinforcement learning algorithms.

4. We visualize customer journeys and actionable recommendations in the daily workflow of key account managers

Step 4: Deliver insights

We have integrations running within Veeva CRM and are ready to integrate with other systems such as Microsoft Dynamics. Sales reps don't need to quit their trusted environment in order to work with our intelligence engines. The visualizations we have built are 100% intuitive. No PhD in data science is needed, just some common business sense.


We don't believe that digital transformation will make interactions go 100% digital. The sales rep (or key account manager, as you want) remains the ochestrator, especially in highly complex industries such as Life Sciences. However, digital tools could assist those sales reps in understanding HCP journeys. That in turn could drive them to more effective & relevant interactions. Sales reps gain time and improve their first-time-right % in conversations with HCPs.

To summarize, digital transformation can speed up a sales rep's performance, provided that digital tools are smart, intuitive and useful. They should be 'fit for purpose'. That's exactly why we built A-Inside. It prevents Life Sciences companies from turning towards Retail-oriented CDPs. A Life Sciences' operating model is not transactional in kind, so there is little value in using a system that processes billions of data points of millions of customers at a single transaction moment. Often, there are few HCPs, but at least one person in the organization knows them well, and there is a long relational history with each of them. A-Inside focuses on calibrating knowledge and experience between commercial (and even medical) team members. By learning from the past, it better predicts the future. In this way, key account managers can create more meaningful journeys with every single HCP.

Relevance via the usual channels (face-to-face visit, email, and remote meetings), through a subliminal, appreciative understanding of behavioral patterns and HCP preferences, transcending insights over individual key account manager portfolios: that's where we believe digital transformation will take us in 2022.

What about you?

How do you think digital transformation will affect the Life Sciences industry? Curious to hear from you!

Bart Van Proeyen, KWARTS

Bart Van Proeyen

Founder / Product Owner