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Building a pipeline of leads as a healthcare communications agency

“Do not underestimate the power of letting the prospect speak on that first call. That is what is ultimately valuable to you, not what you say to them.”

How to strategically use Lead Generation services to solve your healthcare b2b business leads problem


The health sector is worth nearly $10 trillion, so how is that money really benefiting patients? Pharmaceutical companies continually need to prove these benefits to the wider world and it all boils down to one thing: communication. Therefore knowing the importance of how medicines are communicated through the global markets to their customers is key and that is where healthcare communication agencies come into play. But how do you as a communications agency communicate your benefit? 

Understanding your leads landscape

Firstly, we need to understand not only the prospects that we are talking to but also the HCPs, patients, and the pharmaceutical companies as a whole that are part of the wider process.  You would hope that after many years of collaborating on a Healthcare process designed to help people that it would be a smooth, well-oiled machine, however in reality many aspects of the process are siloed and devoid of well-thought-out communication. This is even more true of pharmaceutical companies themselves. It’s easy for a healthcare communications agency to think that once you’re ‘in’ with a company like Boehringer Ingelheim, sitting pretty on the PSL, that you’re going to be working with the whole company, unfortunately, in reality, this isn’t true. The teams sit away from each other with completely different remits, so it may be that you’ll be working with one team within Diabetes but the Obesity teams won’t have a clue who you are. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, this can be because they believe your agency is good and they want to keep you for themselves. All this means is that you have to do the lead generation work yourself as they won’t be referring you on.

Speaking the prospect’s language

As I said one too many times, people buy from people. In our experience speaking with the Head of Oncology at Bayer is no different to the Head of Design at Mars. It’s not reciting their job back to them (after all they’re the ones with a PhD!), it’s about understanding their challenges and what is keeping them up at night. That’s the true job of lead generation, not to bore them with your extensive list of services on the first call, you can do that later in the room when you meet them if need be. Instead, Lead generation, as well as Business Development, is about finding out those challenges, on a global, regional, business, and individual level so that when you walk into the room you are best equipped for the situation. The way to do this is by asking a series of questions to get them to open up. As I’ve said in my previous blog, they will not open up unless you are honestly trying to have a conversation with them, again, by not trying to sell anything. It’s about understanding their situation, yes, but more importantly, empathising with their need and getting them to understand that you have a solution to their problem that’s worth exploring. In reality they need you, as much as you need them, but unfortunately for you, there are another fifty agencies waiting ‘on hold’ and it’s your job on that cold call to prove why you are the best fit for the job and this usually comes down to a few fundamental things:

  • Interaction
  • Expertise
  • Empathy 
  • Emotional intelligence

All human factors, not the services that you provide. If you’re an agency that has done some work in a particular therapy area for a company and you’re on the PSL, then the usual response we get is that they want to speak to the team member that you have worked with. The relationships you build as you grow as an agency are vital for long-term growth. If you haven’t worked there before then your personality is the only in-road into turning a b2b lead into work.

New Business Leads

Starting from scratch with new leads is a hard thing to do. It’s important to have a strategy in place before you start list building otherwise you’ll be firing in a dark room. Where do you have the experience? First, learn to quickly locate where the low-hanging fruit is, don’t move out of your comfort zone too early, then after this fruitful ground is covered you can do some experimentation. That’s how we all grow. Start somewhere where you feel you are strong as an agency because there are plenty of people who do have the relevant experience competing for the same project.

During the initial call to a Brand Director or Head of Finance, there’s no point saying that you win 90% of the work that you pitch for because these people don’t know you from Adam. They want you to be as concise as possible and to understand their needs, so they can think, ‘if this person really does what they say I could work with them’. Once you agree to a meeting, it’s about mining as much information as possible so you can do the preparatory work to make sure you put your best foot forward.

Digital Transformation

“Deploying new digital tools and services has the potential to increase consumer satisfaction, improve medication adherence, and help consumers track and monitor their health.” – Deloitte

We’ve seen quite a few buzz words being bandied around but one aspect to remember is the common ground, everything you do is ‘patient centric’. So use that on the first phone call, let them know that you have a common goal: to improve patient’s lives through the right engagement. Since digital has come to the forefront this has played a vital role in getting brands directly and instantly into doctors’ surgeries, patients’ homes, and ensuring that patients understand the medication that they are using is right for them. People are so used to apps now, why not use one to track their chronic liver function or chart their diabetes levels or schedule a conference using VR and AR while sitting at home. The scope of possibilities is outstanding, not to mention the potential of AI coming in and being able to improve patients’ lives in real-time. Everyone’s on a learning curve so it’s about using your expertise to guide them through their issues. This can be done on the first call, it just takes some time to learn how to keep it part of the conversation.

Do not underestimate the power of letting the prospect speak on that first call. That is what is ultimately valuable to you, not what you say to them. Let them take the discussion into the areas where they are struggling but don’t let them go off-piste. If it all works out once you have mined that information, go back and prepare specifically for that. Even after that first phone call, I can guarantee you’ll already be somewhere at the top of the pack.

Henry Regan

Managing Partner

Carbon Global