Pfizer: Next Generation Sales Insights Through Analytics

This is part 9 of 13 from “Analytics: The Widening Divide,” a report on the findings of the 2011 New Intelligent Enterprise Global Executive Study and Research Project.

After years of exclusive sales from its Lipitor patent, which delivered almost 20% of its annual U.S. revenue in 2010, the patent’s looming loss made capital allocation a key priority at Pfizer Inc., a global biopharmaceutical company.i “From a business challenge perspective, taking billions of dollars out of a corporation in one fell swoop is a little bit daunting,” said Dr. David Kreutter, vice president of U.S. commercial operations. He believes the new business environment makes analytics more critical than ever before, because each expenditure must be rigorously evaluated for its contribution to company strategy.

With scientific research at the core of its business, the company has no lack of skills in areas of quantitative analysis. Yet too often, Pfizer’s business leaders have been able to pick and choose which decisions should be guided by data. Those days of “cherry picking” are going away, Kreutter says, because without the multi-billion-dollar operating buffer of past years, the stakes are simply too high.

Kreutter believes analytics can play a new role in a leaner company by enabling a “frame shift” based on understanding the interplay between strategy and execution. Use of market data remains foundational. Generally, every major pharmaceutical company knows which products doctors are prescribing. But it takes six to eight weeks before this data arrives, a time lag that limits the usefulness of the data.

Next-generation insights, says Kreutter, will be gleaned from streams of data uploaded daily by representatives in the field. Armed with tablet devices, Pfizer reps customize information using interactive presentations and then synchronize data obtained from their sales meetings at the end of every day. “We’re able to see things like the order of presentations, the messages that were delivered, the responses, and how engaging each physician found it,” explained Kreutter. “Our master customer dataset has all that click-stream data for each representative and each doctor they met, nearly in real-time compared to our syndicated data.”

The value of the interactive data lies in linking behaviors — what sales content is used by reps, how physicians respond to it and whether there is a corresponding uptick in prescriptions. Business analysts will then be able to determine whether, for example, a drop in prescribing by that physician is tied to flawed execution (the rep failed to provide the most appropriate approved information available to the physician at the right time) or the strategy is flawed (if the approved product information delivered according to plan did not meet the physician’s needs or preferences). As presentations of all kinds are tracked against actual prescriptions in the days and weeks ahead, strategy and execution can be finely calibrated. New data-based insights can be efficiently reviewed, approved and delivered to reps along with the daily synchronization of data between the field and headquarters.

How will Pfizer stay abreast and ahead of health care industry changes, including new prescribing dynamics brought on by physician participation in new types of health care organizations? Competitive advantage, Kreutter believes, will to a great degree come from hiring and motivating an analytic talent pool on par with those in more analytically sophisticated industries, such as consumer goods and financial services. Most importantly, this talent needs to be outfitted with context and knowledge about Pfizer’s particular business challenges and compliance requirements. At that point, says Kreutter, “The question isn’t how much money do we spend on data and analytics; it’s how much value are we getting from them?”


1. Organizational performance is a self-assessed measure that delves into the organization’s competitive position relative to its industry peers. Respondents are asked to select one option from five choices: substantially outperforming competitive peers, significantly outperforming competitive peers, on par with competitive peers, slightly underperforming competitive peers, or significantly underperforming competitive peers.

2. LaValle, Steve, et al. “Analytics: The New Path to Value.” MIT Sloan Management Review and IBM Institute for Business Value knowledge partnership. October 2010.

3. ibid.

4. IBM Institute for Business Value. “Capitalizing on complexity: Insights from the 2010 IBM Global CEO Study.” May 2010.

5. Corporate Executive Board, “Internal Audit’s Role in ERM,” referenced 21 October 2011.

6. Torok, Robert. “Improving enterprise risk management outcomes.” APQC. 2011.

7. Clanton, Brett. “Chevron stayed busy while idling in deep water: Staying busy while idle – Confronting a deep-water slowdown in the Gulf, Chevron worked to get more from its data.” Houston Chronicle. July 11, 2011.

8. ibid.

9. Teerlink, Dr. Marc and Dr. Michael Haydock. “Customer analytics pay off: Driving top-line growth by bringing science to the art of marketing.” IBM Institute for Business Value. September 2011.

10. Our findings on the two paths are based on response patterns from a representative sample of Experienced organizations using a subset of key questions from our survey.

i.Looking at Robert Bruce’s Two Huge Healthcare Bets,” September 6, 2011. Accessed on October 17, 2011.