How to Choose the Best CRM for Life Sciences Companies


  • Life science companies have unique business requirements that are only satisfied with CRM software built for these industries.
  • The best CRM for life sciences solutions are designed to accommodate industry specific requirements. Things like as mobility, sales order processing with CPQ, KOL and influencer engagement, KAM and related account management, integration with a strategic sale methodology and automation for defined multistep sales processes. They also show real-time inventory visibility, manage samples delivery, regulate content management, and deliver regulatory compliance reporting. Applications that cannot directly support these requirements are far less effective than those that can.
  • The top 4 life sciences CRM systems, as measured by market share and industry growth, are Salesforce with Veeva, Oracle NetSuite, SAP and Microsoft Dynamics Customer Engagement.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

CRM for Life Sciences, Pharma, Biotech and Medical Devices

Customer Relationship Management software for life sciences companies has different goals and requirements when compared to the generic applications shared across many industries. CRM for life sciences companies is not about routine account and opportunity management.

That's because pharma, biotech and medical device business success measures are based on things like sales effectiveness through direct and indirect channels, KOL engagement, KAM and HCP complex relationships, efficient inventory fulfillment and uncompromising regulatory pressures unlike any other industry.

Yet most CRM systems do not accommodate these industry requirements. That leaves customers scurrying to third party products and other systems to support what could be delivered in a single system, if that application is designed for the industry.

CRM for Life Sciences

Selecting the Best Application for Your Company

When searching for the best CRM for life sciences companies, many first time evaluators focus on technology features. That's a mistake as software features and functions may or may not deliver business results. A better approach is to lead with the most strategic business objectives and then identify the software capabilities that directly advance those goals.

The four most strategic Customer Relationship Management objectives are to acquire more customers, grow customer share, increase customer retention and lower cost to serve.

In this post I'll focus on three key business outcomes and the technology-driven capabilities we routinely use to achieve them.

Increase Customer Acquisitions

Start with Customer Intelligence

This industry is a customer centric, relationship-based, sales-driven business. Improving sales effectiveness starts with deep customer insights and really knowing your customer. The best CRM for life sciences solutions use customer engagement and data management methods to build rich customer intelligence for each customer. These application tools include the following:

  • Voice of the Customer surveys to engage, measure and prioritize what's most important to your customer (HCP) and your customers' customer (patients).
  • Customer insights to reveal when, why and how different types of customers make purchase decisions. The top medical device, biotech and pharma salespeople reveal this information is the single greatest source to increase sales conversions and sale opportunity win rates. Many times, insights create or link to the Ideal Customer Profiles (ICP).
  • Customer segments to group customers by shared characteristics or data patterns. Basic software will segment customers by type, such as physicians, surgeons, pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners or clinical leads. The best apps have more flexible tools to segment by behaviors, personas, and insights. Better segmentation creates more relevant, personalized, and contextual communication, engagement, offers and conversions.
  • Data enrichment tools and integrations to supplement customer information with third party data, such as HCP data from Definitive Healthcare, to improve sales strategies, Go-to-Market models and campaign conversions.
  • A 360-degree customer view to centralize all customer information in one place.

In the below diagram you can see how life sciences CRM software orchestrates the different types of customer intelligence into different application records.

Customer Insights Integration to CRM

KOLs Amplify the Brand

KOLs deliver a force multiplier effect when it comes to lead generation and accelerate sales velocity. These influencers are recognized as experts and thought leaders and their direct engagement with target audiences delivers powerful endorsements and word-of-mouth advertising.

CRM for life sciences uses social listening tools to engage KOLs, digital campaigns to collaborate with them, nurture marketing campaigns to persist engagement over time and events campaigns for KOL participation and CME tracking. And it does all these things while maintaining compliance with Sunshine laws and transparency requirements. These business system tools are also used for outreach and engagement with MA, MSL and other HCP influencers.

Effective Sales Calls are Critical

Time with HCPs is always precious and sometimes unpredictable. To make that limited time count, the best CRM for life sciences uses mobile devices (usually iPads) and activity records to display prior meeting notes, previously identified next steps and call objectives. Other application capabilities include:

  • Geo-based scheduling and routing optimization with integration to Google maps
  • The most salient questions to learn or reaffirm the HCPs goals, pain points and priorities
  • The most effective talk tracks based on the type of HCP, product pitch or sale opportunity
  • Personalized content, including video presentations and animated collaterals
  • Guided selling suggestions, such as when to review product mixes, suggest promotions or offer value-added services
  • Notes entry via the selection of categories, values and tags instead of free-flowing notes, which is particularly important to prevent compliance risks such as off-label messaging
  • Summaries for each call and the creation of scheduled next steps

When these agenda items and actions are orchestrated, the sales rep maximizes his or her productivity and the HCP education and engagement. The sales rep further contributes to the customer relationship building process.

Samples and Inventory Management

Life Sciences CRM software sales call management oversees samples and inventory. Sales reps must track and maintain field and sample units, such as device tracking and demo unit management. They need to record the disbursements of samples and promotional items to physicians and hospitals, and capture encrypted signatures for compliance.

The best CRM for life sciences salespeople displays samples availability in a dashboard. It predicts customer demand for sample units or devices based on prior purchase trends. It allocates and distributes samples to sales reps and tracks items by lot or serial number. It attributes revenue results related to samples, automates the audit and compliance reporting, and performs periodic or time-based inventory close outs and reconciliations. Automating the entire process delivers simplicity for the salesperson and compliance with aggregate spend and transparency disclosure reporting.

360 Degree Customer View

Every Customer Relationship Management software vendor claims to deliver a 360 degree customer view. But most do not. At least not for life science customers. What most deliver is a customer view with company firmographics and contact demographics. That's a start but it's static data and woefully incomplete.

Sales reps need a 360 degree view that can easily decipher complex associations, such as the relationships between doctors and hospitals or payers and the relationships that physicians or HCPs hold as KOLs.

A physician listed as a general surgeon at one hospital may also be a KOL at a different teaching hospital. A general practitioner who is as an infrequent prescriber may be responsible for recruiting many patients for a clinical trial at a different oncology division.

360 Degree Customer View

Customer relationships are becoming more complex. The industry is transitioning from product-focused business strategies to a more customer-centric approach. It is also increasing its engagement channels, from just healthcare referral channels, to include direct consumer and patient relationships. More types of customers and increased engagement over more channels requires solving the perennial challenge of achieving a single, central, shared and complete 360 degree customer view.

The best CRM for life sciences solutions display complete customer data, including customer insights, customer segments, market share, sale and purchase history. They show customer profitability (overall and by product), Customer Lifetime Value, affiliations, and relationships with other customers.

Many times, these relationships are displayed in a hierarchy that includes multiple types of customers and shows how they are related. It also provides seamless integration with ERP systems to deliver enterprise wide visibility to marketing, clinical, safety, and customer support.

Strategic Selling is the Top Producers Top Tool

Another area of significant differentiation among competing applications is their ability to support strategic sale methodologies. The most successful salespeople have shifted from informal selling to strategic selling backed with a sale methodology.

A sale methodology is a prescriptive but dynamic framework of sales strategies, tactics and responses that systemically and predictably advance the sales cycle and maximize the sellers win rate. A sale methodology shifts the selling strategy from what you sell to how you sell.

Sellers that apply sale methodologies always achieve higher sales win rates than those with informal sales methods. The best CRM for life science companies is designed to integrate the sale methodology with the activity and opportunity management. The most common sale methodologies in the industry are the Challenger Sale model and Strategic Selling.

Repeatable and Predictable Sales Processes Work Best

A structured sales process defines the methods or techniques to advance sale opportunities through each step of the cycle. For example, it defines the investigative questions to qualify a lead, the path to align buyer pain with product benefits, the strategy to create a win plan, the negotiation methods to preserve revenue, the incentives to get the deal closed and other tactics to win competitive deals. A simple example is shown below.

Sales Process Map

The best CRM for life sciences salespeople supports defined sales processes with guided selling tools. Many times, these are visual process flows with branching or conditional logic that display Stages and Steps to streamline sales cycles. They also facilitate repeatable processes and suggest best practices. These capabilities collectively increase sales conversions.

The combination of a sale methodology and disciplined sales process integrated with technology automation can grow pharma, biotech or medical device revenues by high single digits or low double digits, depending on the particular sale methodology and sales adoption discipline.

Increase Customer Share

As usual, I'm running long so I'll have to shorten these next sections.

KAM and Account Planning Grow Customer Relationships and Revenue

The most predictable and profitable revenue generation comes from repeat sales and selling more products to existing customers. To promote recurring and expanded product line sales within accounts, the best CRM life sciences applications offer KAM and other account management plans.

Account plans define how to grow customer relationships and customer share over time. They are created from a combination of short-, medium-, and long-term planning templates and various types of accounts (i.e., Top accounts, Premier Accounts, Foundation Accounts, etc.)

Once created, the seller enters the account's top goals, aligns the products that achieve those goals, schedules a time-phased action plan and identifies the potential sale opportunities over each time horizon. Customer account plans also identify stakeholders and their personal goals. They use this data to build relationship maps that easily decipher complex relationships, such as the relationships between HCPs and payers or the relationships among patients and KOLs.

Customer account plans are not done in isolation. Every client meeting, sales activity and sale opportunity should reference the account plan. Sales managers can link account plans and objectives for multiple sellers and multiple products to promote a broader footprint at the customer.

They also work well with territory planning and management. Account plans can roll up to view the total planned impact for a defined geography over future periods and measure progress over time.

Increase Customer Retention

Even with new customers coming in, company revenues, growth and valuation deteriorate when too many of those customers leave through the back door. Below are a few Customer Relationship Management tools and methods to lower customer churn.

Customer Self-service

More emphasis is being placed on the patient and how they manage their own care. this gives way for new technology tools to engage and serve both HCPs and patients.

CRM customer self-service portals can deliver information and answer questions on-demand, 24 by 7, and without incurring customer service labor cost. The best CRM for life sciences offers self-service knowledgebases, chatbots, virtual agents and other tools that when properly implemented can handle up to 80 percent of routine customer service questions or problems.

Customer Churn Prediction

The ability to improve customer retention delivers significant and sustained revenue growth. So, to aid that goal some applications can automatically calculate customer health scores and use artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to identify customers most at risk of churn.

Even better, knowing why customers churn is more powerful than knowing which customers will churn as it allows companies to fix causes of churn and prevent customer attrition before it happens.

Complex Case Management

Pharma and related case management can get complex. For example, a case may organize the funding for patients in need of high cost drugs. A patient may require a lifesaving drug that costs $3000 per vile and should be administered four times per week – a treatment that exceeds the patient's ability to pay.

Case management must be able to setup the case to engage and track insurance services, Government sources, not for profit entities and other providers who may arrange or contribute funding for the needed drugs.

Analytics and Big Data

Life science companies (especially pharma) are acquires of big data.

Big data can gather what drugs have been prescribed in what areas, often by which physicians or HCPs. It can then use that data to correlate with sales strategies and account plans or modify sales processes, local market plans, KOL plans and individual physician plans.

The best life sciences CRM software offers Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and predictive analytics to harvest customer and third party data. It then applies that data to deliver intelligent Next Best Offer or Next Best Action recommendations. Or it can realign markets by territory, product, salesperson or customer segment, or validate trade compliance management or other regulations. The use cases for data with intelligent software are almost limitless.

The pharma, biotech or medical device manufacturers that can use business intelligence tools to curate and convert raw data into actionable insights will outperform those than cannot.

The Top 4 CRM for Life Sciences

While understanding how to choose the best business application for pharma, biotech and medical device companies is important, the most common question I'm asked is, "What is best CRM life science software for my company?"

The short answer, based on market share and my experience from having implemented these systems at pharma, biotech and medical device companies for more than two decades, is Salesforce with Veeva, Oracle NetSuite, SAP and Microsoft Dynamics Customer Engagement. The longer answer and a deeper analysis is available at the top four life sciences CRM systems.

Top 4 CRM for Life Sciences

If you are evaluating CRM software, you may also want to consider our Salesforce fit assessment to understand how the top industry solution fits your company.