Q&A with Kai Gait, Boston Scientific

Mark Taylor, Blackdot’s Managing Director, EMEA spoke with Kai Gait, Digital Transformation Director at Boston Scientific to understand his perspectives on the future of Sales, along with the shifts required to achieve immediate and long-term success.

Hi Kai, thanks for joining us, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your current mandate, and previous roles at GSK?
Hi Mark, sure – I’ve worked in the Pharmaceutical industry for over 25 years. Currently, I’m the Digital Transformation Director at Boston Scientific and have been in this role for the past six months – absolutely loving it. Previously, I was the Global Digital Strategy Director at GSK, looking at their new product modalities, innovation and also leading the overarching digital strategy for several divisions and functions.
What is your perspective on the difference between multi-channel and omni-channel?
Industries that have moved through multi-channel are focussing on activating individual channels over time and trying to bring them together, but they aren’t necessarily unified. Whereas, in an omni-channel environment, the channels are interconnected and working together, with data around the customer. So, we’re moving away from individual channels being driven by the business, to a data-connected series of channels that operate together, and become more fluid in the way they integrate.
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has significantly changed how buyers and sellers interact. As a result, companies that relied on relationship selling have had to accelerate their digital maturity. In your perspective, what will the sales function need to do, to operate well in a multi-channel environment?
Based on my experience and looking at how other companies have managed this over the years, Health Sciences have made a huge leap from where they were before COVID-19. Is it perfect? No.
They still have the sales rep in the centre of its operation, but it’s equipping their people with the digital tools and tactics to have greater engagement with the physicians. However, the current model is still highly dependent on the representative.
I think the challenge brought about by COVID-19 has seen that model pushed back – since the representative is not out there, they’ve had to move forward with digital channels. Where organisations go wrong is when they try to use digital channels in the same way they use their representatives. I’ve always said this – selling pharma and medical-devices products is complex, and can’t be solved entirely by digital – they need to be facilitated by a human. So, human interaction will always remain, but what we are seeing now is a change in the way it’s happening.
What are the capabilities and mindsets of sales representatives who are embracing these newer channels?
The reps who are embracing new technology are the ones who are seeing the benefits – and understanding the impact on engagement and the conversations with their HCPs – it almost becomes second nature to them. Reps are beginning to use customer insights; thinking about where the opportunity for engagement is, key discussion points, and how they can better prepare for the conversation. Off the back of that, they try to close the interaction so they can complete the circle of data, which then improves the follow-on activities, ultimately boosting sales over time.
We’ve seen this over the years; when we introduced tablet of detailing – reps who used it well had longer and more meaningful conversations with physicians. I’m not saying it solves all of our problems – but when the representative and digital are working well together, more often we see a greater level of interaction and opportunity.
What are the biggest challenges preventing Health Science organisations from accelerating towards an omni-channel engagement model, and do you have any tips on how to overcome them?
Health Sciences have been beaten up over the years for being slow – well actually, we’re behind in some areas, but more progressed in others. However, I will admit, the industry has been traditionally reliant on legacy sales models, evolving at a slower rate than most. In many organisations, I’ve seen what I like to call a “treacle sandwich”; this is where the leadership, along with everyone on the ground loves the idea and can see the benefit – but there is viscosity in the middle layer, which slows the process down. This is likely because they’ve had their fingers burnt in the past; with poorly thought-out technology execution, integration, training and planning. However, when it’s put together really well, is when we see the explosive growth – and that’s where the real opportunity lies.
What does omni-channel really mean to you, what are some of the shifts Health Sciences need to make to their operating model, and how will it impact the future of sales?
A common struggle with multi-channel, is having data all over the place. When considering omni-channel, one of the biggest challenges is bringing all that data together. There is a lot of work that needs to happen behind the scenes, even before bringing in the customer-facing channels and enablers – because that data has to be working for the business. You then have to think about how new data will come in from various channels, in a format that will enable action off the back of it.
For this to be successful, you have to break down a lot of the cultural silos internally, and form really strong bonds across the organisation, ensuring everyone is working together. If a digital team tries to do it all on their own, they will fail – and the same goes for IT. All functions have to be invested in this to make it work. Sales in this instance will be key, because they will still be one of the enablers and data gatherers contributing to the data sets, which will enable you to embrace this omni-channel model.
From the customer perspective, we should be able to use the data to understand what their needs are and anticipate future behaviour – this is where machine learning logic has to be really strong. But this forces the industry down another route, because you’re moving towards true personalisation and almost that ‘Next Best Opportunity’ identification – which requires re-engineering of organisational mindsets. By moving away from a campaign cycle, to more of a needs-based, content-driven agenda – you need the insights to develop content for various segments.
What will the role of sales look like post-pandemic?
The role of sales will definitely evolve and COVID-19 has been an interesting driver to where heading. Where we’ve got representatives that can interact really well through digital, remotely – this will be the model that we’ll fall into. Why would physicians change their behaviours again, and go back to old ways of operating, when remote is fine? We’ve all been forced to work from home, and businesses haven’t come crashing down – Health Care is going to do the same, because they’ll realise it’s still effective. So, I think that sales models will evolve, and our representative role will change to be both remote and in-person – depending on length of interaction.
What are your top three tips to focus on when progressing your omni-channel capabilities?

  1. Break the silos – Having worked in the industry, and knowing the number of silos that exist, you will never achieve omni-channel maturity if they continue.
  2. Capability – Most digital transformations fail because the business has not got the organisational capability needed to deliver on the experience now, and in the future.
  3. Do not underestimate the scale of change management needed – The technology is the easy part, the organisational change, structure and capability is often where transformations fail.

Watch the full webinar recording for a deeper exploration of the insights explored above.