The Future of Competitive Selling in Oncology

Fred Marshall


Change, Complexity, & Competition

Of all the therapeutic areas out there, oncology & immunology are clearly changing the fastest. New treatment paradigms, genetic testing, and targeted therapies have fundamentally changed the way cancer is managed.

The payer landscape and basic models of care are changing as well. The Triple Aim is evolving to the new Quadruple Aim: Patient Experience, Population Health, Reducing Costs, and Care Team Well-Being. All of these forces are complicating both treatment choice and treatment experience. And finally, more and more brands are fighting for the same indications elevating the competitive noise level to the point where it’s getting easier than ever to get lost in the crowd.

For sales forces, the challenge can feel daunting. The question is:

Are your oncology sales specialists ready to compete, win, and grow in this new setting?

More specifically: What can you do, as sales trainers, managers, and leaders to empower your sales force to compete, win, and grow in this complex and changing ecosystem?

Salespeople are Asking for Help with Competitive Selling and Account Management

Most oncology sales professionals are clinically focused and care deeply about the patient. What they are asking for is more help with competitive selling and account management. And that includes everything from the ability to identify the key stakeholders both inside and outside an account that influences both treatment choice and treatment experience, to influencing their mindsets and behavior in a way that creates meaningful competitive differentiation.

Lessons from Apple: Creating an Integrated Customer Experience (ICX)

Apple figured out a long time ago that the end-to-end experience of using their products is a huge value driver and massive competitive advantage. Features are great, but it’s the seamless integration of those features that Apple does better than anyone else. Almost every aspect of the iPhone, Apple Watch, and iMac work together with iCloud to create a seamless customer experience that feels like magic. In oncology and biopharma, we can learn a lot from Apple about how to make sure that every aspect of the total treatment experience is seamless and “just flows.”

From treatment choice to patient education, from prior authorization to side effect management, the Oncology Sales Specialist is really in charge of making sure that everyone on your team is working together to create a seamless and better customer experience. That’s what ICX is really all about. From field reimbursement specialists to field trainers, from nurse educators to the people responsible for managing contracts – everyone has a role to play in delivering a better end-to-end experience than the competition. In a world where differences in efficacy are thin, elevating the total treatment experience is an essential part of creating meaningful competitive differentiation.

Team-to-team Engagement

Today, most Oncology Sales Specialists operate as lone eagles. Playing the superhero with the customer and only bringing in the field reimbursement specialist or others on an as-needed basis. But that’s not what the best oncology sales forces in the world do. Instead. the best OSSs and their managers are leading team-to-team engagements between key stakeholders in an account and the right people on their team. They are informal team leaders who lead without positional authority but play a hugely important role in the competitive experience. Back to Apple: the goal is to create a seamless experience at all levels inside an account and across the larger ecosystem as a whole.

Simplicity Wins

The last driver of success in today’s oncology setting is simplicity. Simple messaging that’s easy to remember, and easy to act upon. Yes, fair balance is essential, but we have to train our teams to summarize all those details into a pithy summary that’s meaningful, simple, and actionable. Something as simple as: “The one thing you need to remember is … and the one thing I’d like you to do differently is …” can be transformational.

The great irony is that in a world this complex we need to work extra hard to keep that complexity out of sight and out of mind for the customer so, like Apple, the customer’s experience is clean, simple, and impactful!

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