Vertex Lessons Learned: Love Vanilla CRM


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Learn to crave vanilla.

How do you educate medical prescribers about the benefits of a new drug? With the help of CRM, of course.

Startup life sciences companies make for fascinating CRM case studies, because they adopt CRM software for the first time only after submitting a drug for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, at which point they go into educational mode, reaching out to prescribers to detail the forthcoming pharmaceutical. After FDA approval, meanwhile, the sales team kicks into overdrive, attempting to maximize sales during the patent or exclusivity window.

That’s been the CRM path followed by Innoveer customer Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which creates new cures for extremely sick populations for which no cure or viable treatment yet exists. In May 2011, the company deployed its first drug, INCIVEK, which is a treatment for curing for hepatitis C. Meanwhile in January 2012, the company brought to market KALYDECO, which offers the 4% of children–numbering about 900 in the United States–who have cystic fibrosis caused by a specific genetic mutation the chance at a markedly extended life.

To learn more about life sciences companies’ CRM demands, as well as how any business can better hit the ground running with CRM, I spoke with Jennifer Kenyon, the CRM platform manager at Vertex.

What are your responsibilities at Vertex?

We have two CRM applications: Veeva [which is built on], and a Service Cloud implementation. So I’m responsible for the overall platform itself, managing that, keeping the lights on, as well as all of the optimizations of that platform and with integrated systems. I’m also accountable for all the projects that are happening, either on the IT or commercial space, or both.

My team here is made up of project management and configuration folks. We work very, very closely with the business, and we also have a program manager–who’s part of IT–who works closely with us, helping us to manage the whole roadmap.

How does Vertex approach CRM?

CRM, to us, is not just an application—it’s also a process. A lot of what Innoveer is helping me with are process-related things that are related to CRM, such as territory alignment and call-plan management, and identifying low-hanging fruit, including not just technology refinements but also business process improvements.

Why did Vertex select Veeva?

Veeva, which has all the capabilities of, provides really good, out-of-the-box pharmaceutical vertical capabilities, based on an indirect selling model, since the industry doesn’t really do opportunity management. So Veeva provides the framework to manage calls and call-cycle planning, track spheres of influence, identify thought leaders and all those essentials, including tracking interactions for our 12 different field groups, which work together as a team.

Did Vertex’s CRM journey begin when it began seeking regulatory approval for its first drug?

Yes, that’s INCIVEK, the hepatitis C drug. What typically happens is, you start getting your field force on board when you’ve submitted for FDA approval. You have a period of time where it’s basically all hands on deck–especially here–to get everything ready as quickly as possible, including hiring the field force and putting tools in place to support them, because they’re quickly out in the community. In this case, that meant profiling healthcare providers, then educating them about Hepatitis C, including the therapies that are in place or will be coming from Vertex.

When we actually launch the drug, the direction on everything that they’re saying changes; the materials that sales reps can provide are different. So there’s a quite a lot of work that needs to happen within CRM, both leading up to the launch of the drug, then again as we go live.

What advice do you have for businesses that are just beginning their CRM journey, as Vertex did a year ago?

The biggest one is to understand, really, what are the core things that you need to just get up and running? Focus on just those core processes first, identify similar needs between the user groups, and try to not break off more than you can chew.

Try to go out as vanilla as possible, then make adjustments once you actually have employees out in the field, working. They’re knowledgeable about what they do from day to day, and what things are important for them. So you better support those requirements as part of a second phase, to further optimize their experience. But if you don’t know for sure initially [which functionality to enable], it’s better to err on the side of caution, and not clutter your screens with stuff you’re not sure is really going to be “added value” for you.

For example, right now we’re spending time fixing all of the “quick decision” customizations that were made at the start, just in the name of “managing exceptions.” For example, Innoveer is helping us … take 10 steps back on the call management front, to simplify customizations and make it easer to share data [company-wide].

Is it safe to say that Vertex’s initial approach was focused on growth, and now it’s shifting more toward a balance of growth and efficiency?

Yes, that’s exactly it. We now have a field force that ‘s been out there for a year. They know what they’re doing. So for every user group, we’re now at phase 2, circling back to simplify what we’d put in initially–saying, let’s make this easier for you and streamline. But also on the IT side, we’re reducing the customizations in Veeva, which will make it easier for us to maintain, allowing us to focus on projects in the future that deliver more benefits to users.

Learn More

Want to build a more effective CRM program? For optimal results, identify the next, best step for your marketing, sales or service program, by benchmarking your current program against the best practices we’ve assembled through our experience with more than 1,200 CRM projects. Once you’ve identified what to improve, then find the best tools and technology for the job.

Blog Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user seelensturm.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Honig
Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a recognized thought-leader in sales process and effectiveness, and has previously co-founded three successful technology companies: Innoveer Solutions, C-Bridge, and Open Environment. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the 'No Jerks' hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.


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