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“Many could think that sales reps could become less relevant in the future, but I am more of the idea that situations like this pandemic show us an opportunity to upskill our customer-facing teams, equip them and enhance their value.” – says Jose Luis LUNA from Boehringer Ingelheim.

Patient-centeredness and business growth – can pharma have both? What value can patient-centric approach bring to the business?

When a person, group of individuals or a company clearly defines what business they are in, all of their activities will take them there.
I am in the business of “making health”, this means that the core of what I do is centred on those people affected by a disease (patient centricity).
Business growth is a broad term that encompasses multiple factors: financial metrics such as sales growth, share growth, profitability, net profit margin, etc., market and customer impact metrics such as preference share, share of voice, brand awareness, engagement (social media and other channels), etc.
When looking at what drives every metric and the interdependencies that exist among all of them, we can clearly see the impact of right choices made with our customers.
Being patient-centric is necessary for companies that truly believe in the concept of making health. Business growth will happen because of it.
The advances in technology and information are positively influencing the role that patients have in their journeys. Their voices are stronger, their opinions are taken more and more into account on key decisions moments by multiple organisms, not only pharma. The more we truly connect and work with and for patients the more positive impact we will see in the metrics we choose to measure growth. The voice of the patient is a game changer in pharma, from product development, regulatory approval and commercialisation.

How to find the right mix of digital and in-person contact within customer journey to fit patient’s individual needs?

Data analyst might differ from my opinion, but I do not believe there is a magic formula that indicates exactly what the proportion of digital vs. in-person engagement should take place. Customer journeys vary depending on the disease area (e.g. chronic, acute diseases) and it is affected by multiple macro and micro factors.
Having a clear understanding of the customer’s journey, its pain points, our customer expectations, barriers, etc. will allow us to define the right mix. Methodologies such as design thinking, scrum, innovation, etc. provide good basis to truly connect with people and understand the opportunities for supporting them.
One important rule in today’s world is agility. Customer needs evolve over time and it is our duty to remain relevant. The current pandemic has taught us how quickly we sometimes need to adapt, reinvent and be there with our customers.

To what extend do you think will the sales model change in the immediate future? Will the relationship between sales reps and customers be affected?

Situations like the one we are currently living in impact the model we all know as “company representative – customer”. Many could think that sales reps could become less relevant in the future, but I am more of the idea that situations like this pandemic show us an opportunity to upskill our customer-facing teams, equip them and enhance their value.
Do not forget the essence of the customer-facing teams: they are the relationship builders, product experts and the extension of the business. They are the face of the company.
Digital integration should also consider integrating that essence and value. There are new concepts such as “digital sales-rep”, “digital medical expert”, “digital CIOPs (Scientific Operations)” which keep that essence and integrate it into the digital omnichannel approach.
We can see good responses from customers including openness for this approach. Innovation and evolution will continue to take place of course.

Jose Luis LUNA, Global Brand Director from Boehringer Ingelheim is a passionate and patient-centric executive within the pharma industry with over 15 years of local and global marketing expertise in the field of rare diseases, oncology & hematology. He co-authored two per-reviewed abstracts presented at five international medical congresses (ACR, EULAR, ATS) and published in recognised medical journals.
Conceived the award-winning disease awareness campaign “More than Scleroderma” (, a patient-centric campaign designed and developed to increase awareness of a rare disease (scleroderma). Co-created with global patient organisations around the world to produce the campaign, which received special recognition among others from the British Medical Association in 2019 and contributed to Boehringer Ingelheim receiving the EURORDIS Black Pearl Award 2020.
Connecting with people to generate change through effort, passion and ambition is his core.


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