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The sales aid is dead, long live the value proposition! Controversial? Yes! I’ve been banging the drum for market access for well over decade. Those who know me well will know that drum is pretty loud! Market access is my passion (I’m serious!), so no surprises then at my opening line.

Today my drum is still banging loudly (it now has an amplifier) and I “get to talk” market access everyday with my clients and colleagues. One issue that continues to puzzle me (subtext makes me shout from the rooftops) is… “why doesn’t every brand have a customer facing value proposition?”

Firstly, to clarify what I mean by value proposition, as this is very interchangeable terminology. For some it is a couple of lines on a slide that summarises product value. For others it’s a document of 1000 pages, that someone once wrote a while ago and no one ever looked at! For most it is somewhere in between. For me, the value proposition is simply the value of the brand to the NHS.


Value creation isn’t easy, it takes work. It’s a craft. By understanding our customers “jobs to be done” we can align the brand proposition to our customer’s needs and help them solve their problems or unmet needs.

The value proposition sits at the heart of every brand and should be at the core of the sales and marketing strategy. It is in every other industry! One thing is for sure, in our industry the value proposition is often “owned” by the market access function and somehow separate or distinct from brand marketing. It can sometimes be an after-thought, once the sales aid has been copy approved and rolled out. Or sometimes there isn’t one at all. Eeeek!!!! Sob.

I do absolutely see the importance in communicating the clinical features and benefits of the amazing technologies that the industry develops. Day in, day out, clinicians need to make decisions on what products to prescribe to give their patients the best possible outcomes. But this isn’t the only “job” they have to do. In a cost-constrained NHS, where every penny matters, doctors and nurses are managing the complex agenda of patient outcomes versus value for money and efficient service delivery.

Furthermore, the industry knows the customer base is growing. The NHS commissioner is well established as a critical stakeholder and customer for UK Pharma. Clinical advocacy alone is no longer the key to success. Access to medicines is rigorously controlled and managed both nationally and locally. Aligning to the needs of this important and changing customer group is central to brand success. But we know this right?

This is only the tip of the iceberg. We need to be engaging multiple stakeholders across multiple health economies. A brand survey article published by the Harvard Business Review last year looked at B2B group buying behaviour. The research involving more than 5,000 stakeholders found that on average 5.4 people now have to formally sign off on each B2B purchase. Apply this B2B finding to the NHS. Consider a patient pathway, from beginning to end. Envisage the touchpoints, the decision makers, the interchange between CCG and specialised commissioning, the bottlenecks, the shared-care, the new models, the challenges and the “jobs to be done”.

Engaging with this complex matrix of decision makers takes skill and knowledge. The sales aid isn’t going to do the job. A well thought-out value proposition is what is required. The clinical data and product messages absolutely should be contained within the proposition. This is what the NHS is purchasing! However, the value of the brand needs to be communicated to each decision maker, cohesively and in relation to how it meets their “jobs to be done”.

Rarely now is there an individual “buyer” at all, certainly not in the NHS. This challenges the effectiveness of “making a sale”. The survey referred to earlier also highlighted that the likelihood of a purchase drops sharply as the number of decision makers increases. There was an 81% chance of a sale where one individual is involved in making the decision versus 31% chance for purchases made by six individuals. Apply this to the number of decision makers in a local health economy and we will be turning off our iPads and taking solace in a nearby coffee shop.

When done well, highly trained field teams armed with on-point value propositions can support their NHS customers to identify issues and provide solutions to these needs. The result? Elevated conversations, competitor differentiation and the emergence of “partner of choice” relationships.

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