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Building High-Performing Commercialization Teams

Maximizing People Power to Develop Your Commercialization Strategy

As a leader in the life sciences industry, you are well aware of the high-stakes nature of the business. Once drugs overcome the long odds of approval, more than a third fail to meet market expectations in their first year. To maximize the chance of success and reach patients in need, your company must have a team with the right commercialization mindset, skills, and tools.

Establishing the commercialization mindset

One of the biggest industry misconceptions is that pharma and biotech commercialization planning begins once there is certainty around the data and market fit, and marketing resources are in place to own the process. While marketing plays an important (and often leadership) role in commercialization planning, limiting this mission-critical effort to one team deprives it of cross-functional energy and wisdom, creates timing pressures and risk, and leads to fragmentation and confusion.

A biotech commercialization strategy should be integrated into the fabric of the entire organization from the beginning of clinical development. Successful commercialization requires a company-wide focus and a variety of outlooks, backgrounds, and training. It’s a customer-centered mindset that starts well before the launch and goes hand-in-hand with the overall corporate strategy. With this type of mindset, companies can ensure that their drug is accessible to patients, adopted appropriately, and labeled and promoted effectively.

Harnessing the power of multiple teams

Many teams work together to bring a product through development and commercialization. These cross-functional teams collaborate around decision-making, always keeping the current phase and future milestones in mind. However, collaboration is only successful if the executive team has articulated a clear vision and overall strategy. When a team understands the vision, they are more likely to become invested.

In addition to the executive leadership team, the following teams are essential pieces of the puzzle:

  • The program team is the highest-level strategic forum, focusing on the overall registration and associated development activities for a product.
  • The brand team is the “architect” of commercialization. This team ensures the building blocks for success are in place well before launch, and they inform the strategy for the life of the brand. Often assembled in late Phase 2 or early Phase 3, the brand team is led by marketing and includes representation from teams that play a role in various aspects of the brand (medical, market access, HEOR, etc.).  
  • The launch team is very operational and focused on the key deliverables to promote and distribute the product. This team is formed much later when it is clear the product will be filed for registration, and the priority is planning for a successful market introduction.

Building a high-performing team

In building a high-performing team, you want to assemble the right people with the right skills, experience, and attitude (not to mention the ever-elusive “fit”). Adequate bandwidth is also essential so people feel committed and empowered to represent their function in critical decisions.

When developing your team, you may rely on existing staff to fuel commercialization activities. Pharma commercialization service partners and external consultants can also play an important role depending on hiring plans, the talent pool, and funding. Consultants can create bandwidth, add skills, and help coach less-experienced team members in your organization. Consider it a big win when you can move beyond adding roles to building capabilities within your internal team.

You may consider a mix of internal and external resources to optimize bandwidth, expertise, and strategic thinking. There are a few situations where you may consider a hybrid staffing approach:

  • Funding constraints. Until certain milestones are achieved, you may not have the budget available to hire the people you need when you need them. Leaders must often rely on available staffers, even if they are not fully equipped to do the job.
  • Challenges in recruiting. The war for talent has recently become critical, with firms aggressively outbidding each other for candidates and turnover on the rise. Even if you have the available funds and headcount approval, you may not be able to find the talent you need, when you need it, at a price you can afford.

Bringing the team together

However your teams are set up, a centralized, collaborative, and strategic workspace is critical for planning efforts. This “single source of truth” can drive visibility and alignment and avoid information “silos” that tend to bog teams down and lead to a fragmented plan.

Technology can play an important role in helping your team avoid such a fate, and it can help drive a faster, smarter commercialization effort. We created Corval, an innovative SaaS platform, to guide and encapsulate all of the work required to build a full commercialization plan. Corval helps teams create a comprehensive strategic roadmap and budget, completely aligned with the company, product, and vision.

Providing a clear path to market

It’s well documented that you only get one shot to launch a product well. Early commercialization efforts, including the appropriate selection, creation, and management of high-functioning teams, are essential.

The team extends well beyond the sales and marketing functions typically associated with commercialization efforts. Fundamentally, biotech commercialization is a mindset. It’s an overarching culture that the entire company embraces, ensuring every leader and function is focused on the end game — the market, customer, and patient.

Do you have a commercialization planning process that sets you and your team up for success?

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