SAMPS was previously Association of Commercial Professionals for Life Sciences (ACP-LS)

CRM Systems for Life Science Companies: Benefits and Challenges

September 10, 2014

Editor's note: The authors work with, which is offering SAMPS members a 1-year free membership to its confidential outsourcing and procurement platform. Learn more about the service and the special offer.
CRM Guidance

Life science companies have unique needs when it comes to implementing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Some of these issues stem from the unique nature of scientists as customers and the role of third-party suppliers and services within a company's product offering.

Finding the perfect system to integrate into an existing business is difficult within any industry; life science companies must choose the system carefully and follow the implementation process closely to ensure that everything comes together seamlessly.

Critical features of a well-designed CRM

Four important features must be present for a CRM to work effectively on behalf of the company. Each feature must integrate seamlessly with the others to ensure that the user experience is simple, easy to learn, and easy to use. A CRM user will not adopt a system that lacks these elements, and customers will not respond to a system that is out of touch with their needs.

Relationship management. First, relationship management must be a key feature that allows rapid, customer-oriented service response and easily accessible support for the customer. With life science companies, some of the relationship management features may involve managing vendors as well as customers. The CRM must know the difference between the two groups and give the sales team indicators as to when and how to contact either group.
Sales-related functionality. The ability to automate sales-related activities is the second key feature. Such activities include client tracking for future sales opportunities, marketing, and sales strategy execution analysis. All of these services allow sales teams to spend more time with customers who are ready to move ahead in the selling cycle, all the while keeping contact with customers not yet ready to finalize a transaction and retaining the loyalty of established customers.

Real-time access. Real-time access is critically important in order to enable the ability to review a variety of data points. This allows the users to obtain key performance indicators at the moment they appear. The CRM technologies can be further extended in order to merge this data with other CRM functions. All of this allows the company to fully leverage all available data the moment it's available.

Opportunity Management. Finally, a well-designed CRM must also manage opportunities and differentiate between opportunities ready to be explored and those that will take time away from the sales team without producing sales. This allows the company to manage its rate of growth and the demands from customers. The opportunity-management features should also include the ability to create forecasting models in order to determine sales projections.

Integrating a CRM into an existing business

Many life science companies feature an existing IT infrastructure that was developed internally and can often be extremely complex. To derive the greatest benefit, a CRM should be integrated completely with existing IT infrastructure. This means that data should be exchanged with all systems, including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, HR systems, and support centers.

Only a seamless integration will deliver a complete picture of all the available data. The connection of the CRM with the IT infrastructure also optimizes workflow within a company. To create a seamless integration, certain software tools are required to allow corporate data to be exchanged and synchronized regularly without errors. Without this complete and open flow of information, full effectiveness of the CRM won't be achieved.

Training and support are critical. Every end user must be introduced to the system, trained to use it efficaciously, and supported through troubleshooting. Even with quality training, it's crucial that the CRM system be user friendly. Users simply will not adopt a system that is difficult, no matter how much it cost the organization. Users must also notice a definable, positive impact on their work performance. If the system is cumbersome or makes their job more difficult, users will work around the system instead of with it. Hands-on training is also key—it's not enough to hand them the software and a handbook and ask them to use the system. In the same vein, users must feel that support is available to them for any hiccups they encounter during use, especially during the initial exposure.

Challenges and opportunities with CRM programs

In order to successfully implement a CRM program, companies must have a well-designed CRM strategy, without which, CRM software will do little more than automate certain portions of sales and marketing processes. Some departments within the organization might experience residual benefits, but the full power of a CRM won't be realized.

CRM software can empower life science companies to focus more on growing their businesses. In many cases, companies are focused mainly on launching the CRM. But postlaunch, CRM software can become an ideal platform to nurture social and mobile relationships.

When relationship management and sales-related automation are combined with real-time access and the ability to single out prime opportunities, a CRM can greatly improve a life science company's marketability and connection to customers. With thoughtful execution, a CRM becomes an invaluable tool for employees throughout a company to manage customers and vendors to their fullest income-generating potential.

For a more detailed look into the issues discussed above, consider reviewing these articles.

  1. Davey N. The Big Picture: How to Build a CRM Strategy for 2014. [website]. Accessed August 24, 2014.
    This article describes some of the most popular models for developing CRM strategies and walks you through items to consider when creating a plan. The 10 topics addressed in the CRM-strategy-creation-portion of the document provide a well-rounded view of topics that should be thought out prior to starting the process.
  2. Creating a Customer Oriented Culture. Customer Champions [website]. Accessed August 24, 2014.
    The authors include a discussion of why CRM systems succeed and fail in a company's effort to create a customer-oriented culture.
  3. What is Marketing Automation? Hubspot. Accessed August 24, 2014.
    This article provides a brief-but-thorough introduction into content marketing automation and links to more detailed discussion regarding marketing strategy and automation.
  4. Advantages and Disadvantages of CRM Software. Marketing Weekly. [website]. Accessed August 24, 2014
    This article concisely summarizes features and limitations of CMS software.
  5. Dickie J. Demystifying CRM Adoption Rates. [website]. Accessed August 24, 2014.
    The author reviews issues that affect successful implementation of CRM systems.

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SAMPS, Sales And Marketing Professionals in Scientific research, is the first and only organization dedicated to sales and marketing professionals within the life sciences.

The association’s goal is to serve its members who work in commercial roles for life science products and services companies and associated businesses, globally.
SAMPS was previously named ACP-LS. We feel that SAMPS more clearly describes the membership, and will form a better foundation from which to expand this membership globally. 
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