Succeeding in the digital domain

Pf talks to Heidi Edwards, Senior Respiratory E-detail Representative at Bionical Solutions, on behalf of AstraZeneca and winner of the Digitally Enabled Sales Professional Award at this year’s Pf Awards, about what it takes to succeed in the digital domain.

Tell us about your job
I have been working in the pharmaceutical industry for four years, and always in the virtual space. My first role was Vaccine Account Executive, on behalf of Sanofi Pasteur. I was successful in achieving my KPI’s and increasing vaccine sales, so I was put forward by my manager for the Pf Awards 2018 Best Newcomer, where I was a top finalist. I then gained an E-detailer role with Bionical Solutions, on behalf of AstraZeneca. Here, I predominantly contact respiratory nurses and practice-based pharmacists in primary care practices and promote AstraZeneca’s respiratory portfolio using a digital platform.

How have you progressed?
I have been in this role for almost three years and due to overachieving on KPI’s, product sales, and my positive attitude, I was promoted to Senior E-detailer, where I am heavily involved in the development of my team. Because of my passion for the digital space, I am also involved in development, learning and marketing within AstraZeneca. This includes conducting training sessions for their new starters and passing key insights from customer conversations to the marketing team.

How has Covid-19 affected your role?
The biggest impact was when my field force colleagues were suddenly converted to virtual working. Huge amounts of people in the company were all working in the exact same way and we needed to adapt to ensure our healthcare professionals (HCPs) were not overloaded with information.

It became very important to be sensitive and empathetic to HCPs, who were managing vulnerable patients virtually for the first time. Initially, our role became less promotional and more focused on support; understanding how their role had changed and how we could help. I personally learnt a lot about the importance of open questioning and allowing HCPs to voice their opinions, which I took back to my commercial conversations.

What motivates you?
I love having in-depth educational conversations with HCPs. I recently had a call with a practice pharmacist, updating her about a new launch and she was so enthusiastic about using the information in her practice going forward. Ultimately, what motivates me the most is informing HCPs about products, so they can use that information to prescribe to the correct patients and improve their quality of life.

What professional challenges have you faced?
My biggest challenge has been working through the Covid-19 pandemic. Access to HCPs has been tough and the opportunity to have in-depth conversations reduced. I have overcome this by working to the best of my ability and knowing that I can only do my best. I also make sure I keep an optimistic, positive attitude; if on some days it wasn’t possible to interact with HCPs because they were busy with a Covid vaccination clinic, I tell myself that the next day will be different. After work, I spend time away from my laptop, so my mind is fresh and I am motivated to put 100% effort in the next day.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your role?
Working in the digital space is extremely fulfilling and there is real evidence that digital conversations can make a real difference. However, getting to that stage takes hard work and resilience – gaining access to HCPs over a virtual platform, and then building strong relationships virtually is not easy. Therefore, anyone looking to work as a digital representative must have a real passion for working in the digital space and be motivated by having engaging and impactful conversations with HCPs.

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