Pharmaceutical Business in Pakistan (Part 13) – Blog Post by Asrar Qureshi

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Dear Pharma Veterans. This series of Blogs is a summary view of Pharma Business in Pakistan. It is a series spread over several parts covering the entire spectrum of Pharma business.

Pharma Business – Sales CUSTOMER MANAGEMENT II

We shall roughly divide Sales Management into following broad categories.

  • Sales Planning
  • Sales Operations
  • Sales Team Management
  • Sales Performance Management
  • Customer Management
  • Sustainable Business Growth Management


The customer and business are connected through ‘NEED’. The businesses ‘identify’ customer need(s) and offer solutions to fulfill these needs. This is what Need-Based Selling is all about. The concept has evolved over time.

  • First, there was talk about ‘Existing Needs’. For example, in cold weather, you needed hot water geyser. In Pharma, the doctor needed an antibiotic which would effectively treat respiratory infections in winter, and so on. These needs were already there; sometimes the customer talked about her/his needed or agreed when the salesperson identified and articulated it. The salesperson then went on to offer solution in the form of her/his product(s); the customer accepted if it fitted well. In the context of Pharma, there were mostly needs for efficacy, safety and economy. The customer communication focused on these needs.
  • Then, the businesses went ahead and started talking about ‘Perceived Needs’. For example, you needed a geyser and you had one; why not to have Instant Geyser? It would save time and energy cost. In Pharma, it would run like this. You have an existing range of antibiotics which treated respiratory infections because it covered Gram positive pathogens. But some patients may have Gram negative involvement also, so why not use the antibiotic which covered both? Basically, you tried to make the customer realize that this need was not there fully, but it might come up anytime. Many products were and still are sold on the basis of perceived needs.
  • Currently, a lot of business is done on the basis of ‘Imagined or Created Needs’. The life goes on perfectly, but why not have a Google Assistant? who could switch the geyser on and off even when you are not home? Or why not have a drug which would alter the body environment and make it unfavorable for bacteria? Or modulate immune system to control certain condition? Some created needs are greatly beneficial; many are only fluff, money-making tricks.

Customer Management in Pharma is broadly based on the following premises.

Right Selection. Right customer for the product, and right product for the customer is a long-standing rule. You can add on 80-20 principal and whatever else, they all point to the same direction. Right Selection leads to mutually satisfying relations because it saves time, saves resources, maximizes results and enables to provide good customer service.

Right Communication. What does the customer want to know? Very little is done about it. Instead, the salespersons or companies tend to insist on telling what they want to say. Right communication leads to satisfaction, congenial relations, and long-lasting business. Another fatal error by salespersons and companies is that they try to get ‘up close and personal’. They fail to recognize the line between good business relations and personal relations. It is highly advisable to keep customer relations strictly business and right communication includes this.

Consistency. True that the business is loyal to itself only. Having said that, it does not preclude the need for consistency. Consistency means doing same things over and over again. Consistency builds reliability and becomes the foundation stone for great business relations. If the customer selection is right, and the communication is right, but is not consistent, it would have little impact and may even sour the relations. Salespersons do not carry enviable record about consistency and are now tacitly supported by their seniors also. That is why we see very short-term, purely commercial and self-interest-based relations between customers and salespersons. I can assure you that while Pharma companies and their staff are unhappy about customer relations, the customers are equally unhappy, if not more.

Reliability. Reliability comes from integrity. Integrity is required in all aspects; in the product quality, in the information about product, in the commitments and understandings, in services and in relations. The bane of pharma salespersons is lack of consistency and reliability. There are several salespersons in Pharma (other businesses too), who consider ‘salesmanship’ akin to ‘conmanship’. They think they are super-smart, and they can make a fool out of a gullible customer. Pathetic it is anywhere, but it is suicidal in Pharma. Pharma is not one-time business; it is always a long-term thing. It takes time to build, and it stays over time. It would be impossible to operate without reliability.

Customer Relationship Management – CRM. CRM did not start from Pharma; it started from consumer businesses. The intent of CRM is to observe, record and analyze customer buying behavior patterns so that right products and right sales pitch could be selected. It was among the first big-data analytics software. Currently, CRM is a buzzword and several companies offer CRM solutions. Laggard as Pharma is, it is also waking up to CRM. In Pakistan Pharma market, CRM is still inadequately understood and poorly applied. Though one could raise questions about the intent of CRM, but by and large it can provide strategic, focused approach to business growth through Customer Management. Ernst & Young publication ‘reinventing pharma’ is highly recommended to understand CRM in Pharma. Link is given below.


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