After nearly 20 years in the industry and a myriad of pharma, med-device, and biotech speaker bureau launches, it has become apparent there are six key criteria that are ideal for one to take into consideration when thinking about bringing on a new pharmaceutical speaker bureau company. Whenever PharMethod engages a potential new partner, we make it clear at the outset that as they evaluate vendor options, they should keep in mind this checklist to ensure the best outcome.
Whether we win the business or not, our preference at PharMethod is to guide prospective partners and provide some free consultation in keeping with our core values as a company.
What follows are the first three of our six criteria. We’ve separated the content into two parts for the sake of brevity. If you prefer not to wait until our next blog post comes out, you may visit pharmethod.com to review the six criteria on your own.
The days of manually managing speaker bureau activities are far behind us. The industry standard has now advanced to the point that relying on a digital solution, like speaker bureau software, is not only critical but required as the optimal way to ensure smooth and compliant planning and execution of speaker programs and events. Additionally, speaker program activity can produce volumes of insight that can influence strategy and inform the next best actions for customer-facing teams. A robust digital platform like PharMethod’s PharmaSPEAK™ portal, for example, can deliver real-time data to enhance outcomes.
PharMethod informs all potential new clients to ask the vendors they are considering to share their own portal capabilities in depth, and to provide thorough demonstrations of how these platforms work not only for commercial team members, but for the bureau members as well.
At PharMethod, we recommend investing ample time up front to ask the right questions for understanding every facet of the portal; including how well it works for managing and capturing speaker program logistics. What is the process flow? How thoroughly and frequently are the updated reports and analytics provided? Let’s not forget about data integration either. Can data in the portal flow into the CRM and data lake? Is this handled internally and speedily, or outsourced by the vendor?
Your portal is front-facing and will be the primary point of engagement for your internal teammates and potentially your bureau too. Make sure you know what the typical user experience will be like and ask yourself if it is intuitive and easy to navigate. If not, you can expect pushback from your reps and your speakers about using it.
One should not assume that all speaker bureau management vendors share an aligned vision when it comes to speaker program services. In fact, the definition and scope of these services varies significantly from vendor to vendor. A failure to understand what a prospective vendor will and won’t do as part of their day-to-day speaker program services can leave one in a position where internal teammates and speaker bureau members are calling with complaints on a daily basis.
Make certain you understand how your prospective vendors handle programs in different formats. What do they do to ensure live programs go well vs virtual programs? How do they support hybrid programs and events? How are venues managed when one is required? How does the vendor ensure they are compliant ones? What kind of communications will be shared with the reps? How often will the speaker bureau members be given updates, and how willing is the vendor to customize and accommodate speakers based on their communication preferences?
This criterion is where the rubber meets the road in terms of making a vendor selection that alleviates the burden from one’s work life instead of adding to it!
One of the most common mistakes companies make when selecting their pharmaceutical speaker bureau management partner is not establishing up front every aspect of the service offering regarding KOL and speaker management services. Your speaker bureau members are busy professionals with many obligations and competing priorities. They likely do not have time or energy held in reserve for dealing with inconsistencies and knowledge gaps when it comes to your speaker programs and events. In this area, weaknesses on the part of a vendor can foster ill will toward your organization, and derail sales rep efforts when they visit an office ready for a clinical selling discussion, only to encounter an HCP who is angry and confused about an upcoming speaker program.
PharMethod’s recommendation is to think of KOL and speaker management services as if on a spectrum with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Ask your prospective vendors to bullet point everything they do from the outset of a speaker program request, all the way to the post-completion phase of a program. What steps do they take to eliminate any gray areas and ensure that speakers are comfortably aware of program details? What about the program initiator? How are they kept aware of progress? What forms of communication are used by the vendor? Can they demonstrate flexibility to conform to the communication preferences of the sponsor, the rep, and the speaker?
A strong vendor candidate will have no problem providing a comprehensive understanding of this critical process flow. The more you know about this, the easier it will be to differentiate one vendor from another during the RFP or evaluation phase, and the easier it will be to set expectations for your internal teammates as well as the bureau members themselves.
Thank you for reading Part I of our blog: Key Criteria When Selecting a Pharmaceutical Speaker Bureau Company. The PharMethod team would like your feedback on what you just read. Please click the link below to meet one of our advisors, or send us an email.