Improve your sales insight using AI

Will this be the year in which pharma sales and marketing teams use augmented intelligence to successfully exploit infinite data? Improve your sales insight with AI.

Buzz Lightyear made his first appearance in 1995 at a time when pharma companies were first exploring Windows-based CRM systems. You’d get Buzz ‘out of his box’ and in your imagination he could fly and make all the right noises, but the reality was that he really couldn’t fly and still can’t. Similarly, while CRM has made some identifiable progress, pharma business managers and key account managers (KAMs) are still manually entering ‘Clinical Commissioning Group Medicines Formulary Status’ and similar information into CRM systems.

In 2019 however, pharma sales and marketing could finally combine the latest technologies and software ‘out-of-the box’ to realise infinitely more joined-up data at our fingertips: highly focused, actionable insights would result, transforming the way in which pharma utilises infinite data.

“We are wasting valuable time on information searching, gathering and assimilating data, rather than being in front of customers selling”

Data types

Where do we start? Gartner research indicates that by 2020, 85% of chief information officers (CIOs) will be piloting artificial intelligence (AI) programs through a combination of buy, build and outsource efforts.

Data is ‘the world’s most valuable resource’ (The Economist May 6th 2017). It will continue to grow exponentially and with the advent of faster, more efficient technologies, become easier to obtain. However, having ‘data mountains’ doesn’t lead to success; it will be how we utilise the data skilfully and efficiently to create actionable insights that will ensure success. Forrester analysts predict that data-driven companies who make the most of insights will favourably separate themselves from the herd.

Let’s look at the two types of data, ‘structured’ and ‘unstructured’

Structured data (i.e. available in a database-like format such as row column or similar form) accounts for only 20% of data available. Figure 1 below shows an example of how pharma currently merges different datasets into dashboards to enable business managers, kams and sales representatives to see effort vs results more clearly.

Sales, market share, sales growth and customer contacts are all ‘structured data’, easily displayed into such a dashboard using the latest business intelligence tools such as Tableau and Alteryx. The CCG Formulary Status information however, is ‘unstructured data’ mainly gathered by business managers and KAMs spending significant time searching NHS websites for up-to-date information on Formulary Status, or following customer feedback.

A McKinsey report noted that employees spend on average 1.8 hours every day searching and gathering information: this is simply too long. It’s certain that it’s true in pharma; we are wasting valuable time on information searching, gathering and assimilating data, rather than being in front of customers selling, presenting a constant challenge to business managers and KAMs as they juggle time.


graph comparing product growth, sales, market potential and total contacts with formulary status data
Figure 1: Data © 2018 Visual Numbers


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Unstructured data

Accounts for 80% of all available data, and while found in crm systems’ in call notes, customer interactions, emails and so on, it is predominantly found in webpages, documents, videos, audio files, presentations and social media platforms. There are individual tools to capture certain unstructured datasets, but for best results pharma needs to look at whole solutions which couple human intelligence with ai.

This is where augmented intelligence comes into play, which is best defined as a combination of human and artificial intelligence. It makes the most of the latest technologies to extract data from the internet and process it to ensure that the most relevant information is highlighted for action. This is an example of humans making the most of AI rather than being replaced by it.

In the financial services and insurance sectors, companies are already successfully deploying out-of-the box augmented intelligence solutions to have all the necessary insights at their fingertips, enabling more relevant and meaningful customer engagement and consequently, more success.

Technology companies such as Squirro already offer augmented intelligence solutions, which use the latest machine learning, predictive analytics and AI solutions finely tuned to business needs. All key information is gathered and analysed, then smart recommendations are made and visualised in dashboards (even inside CRM systems such as Salesforce) enabling users to utilise their time making much better informed decisions, rather than wasting significant time searching the internet.


Augmented intelligence solutions (such as Squirro) truly join up all pertinent structured and unstructured data with a single out-of-the-box service and really could deliver for pharma in ways both infinite and exciting.

Business managers and KAMs would have 360-degree views of their customers, not only from all multichannels within an organisation linked together, but also from relevant internet feeds, highlighting all key information around that customer. Augmented intelligence would draw new data pools of knowledge from right across the internet, leading to more real-time wisdom on customers, competitors and market factors.

Deeper and greater data insights will be drawn from available data in ways not seen before and greatest opportunities will be identified to make recommendations on best next actions.

Will augmented intelligence really take pharma to infinity and beyond – in 2019 and beyond? We will see…

This article was originally published in Pharmafield.