Transform KOL Relationships and Engagement: Embracing the KOL Point of View in 2023
If you were sending a cold email to a key opinion leader (KOL) to ask to meet, you wouldn’t only tell them what you wanted from the meeting. Hopefully, you would also suggest reasons that the meeting would be of interest to them as well.
This same principle is true in every facet of KOL engagement.
Considering the KOL’s point of view leads to an improved KOL relationship and KOL engagement, stronger partnership, and better patient outcomes.
The Advantages of Valuing the KOL’s Perspective
When it comes to KOL engagement and building strong KOL relationships, the advantages of embracing a KOL’s point of view are numerous and transformative.
1. Enhanced Attraction
By acknowledging and respecting the KOL’s perspective, you pave the way for a more appealing collaboration. KOLs are more likely to express interest in working with you when they feel valued and understood.
For example, when inviting a KOL to an advisory board, if your invitation recognises the KOL’s interest in patient experience and highlights how this is an important part of the discussion, then the KOL is much more likely to feel understood and much more likely to accept the invitation.
2. Heightened Communication
Existing partnerships with KOLs flourish when you actively seek to understand their viewpoint. This leads to clearer and more effective communication, fostering a collaborative atmosphere that benefits both parties.
3. Elevated Performance
When KOLs sense that their input is valued, they tend to excel in their activities. Their motivation and commitment rise, translating into more impactful contributions to your projects.
And when you consider things from the KOL’s point of view, you are likely to be ore effective in aligning the optimum KOL with the optimum activity.
4. Richer Insights
An empathetic approach towards KOLs yields a treasure trove of valuable insights. By genuinely considering their point of view, you gain access to a deeper reservoir of knowledge and expertise.
5. Strengthened Alliances
The cornerstone of a successful partnership with KOLs is a genuine understanding of their motivations and goals. This approach fortifies your relationship and lays the foundation for enduring collaborations.
Recognizing and embracing the KOL’s perspective in your interactions fosters a dynamic, mutually beneficial partnership that enhances engagement, communication, performance, insights, and the overall strength of your alliance.
Challenging the Assumption: Are KOLs’ Perspectives Truly Being Considered?
It’s tempting to assume that everyone already takes the KOL’s viewpoint into account. However, this presumption can be misleading, and the reality often paints a different picture.
1. A Gap in Understanding
Regrettably, there is a prevalent lack of thought about what KOLs truly desire and why they opt to collaborate with industry players. This oversight can lead to KOLs experiencing dissatisfaction in their relationships with the industry.
2. Surprising Dissatisfaction
The evidence of this discontent is not only anecdotal but supported by concrete data. For instance, the 2021 CenterWatch study revealed that a staggering 91% of KOLs rated companies’ performance in engaging with them as worse than the previous year.
This alarming statistic indicates a significant disconnect between industry practices and KOL expectations.
3. A Path to Improvement
While there may be various factors contributing to this dissatisfaction, it is apparent that adopting a more empathetic approach—one that considers things from the KOL’s perspective—could significantly enhance relationships.
This approach aligns with the mutual goal of fostering productive and rewarding collaborations.
To bridge the gap between industry and KOLs and improve relationships, a genuine commitment to understanding and valuing the KOL’s perspective is imperative.
Why Overlooking KOLs’ Perspectives is a Common Oversight
Everyone thinks they are considering the KOL’s point of view, and often they will be.
But there are several factors that encourage an approach to KOL relationships that considers only what is in it for the pharma company, at least some of the time.
1. Overwhelming Busyness
Many of us find ourselves inundated with tasks and responsibilities. When we’re caught up in the whirlwind of daily activities, we often prioritize urgent matters, and our own immediate priorities, over everything else.
This intense busyness can inadvertently divert our attention away from considering the KOL’s perspective.
2. The Data Trap
Initial interactions with KOLs are often documented on spreadsheets or within Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software or insight management programs. While these tools are invaluable for tracking information, they can inadvertently depersonalize KOLs, reducing them to mere data points.
This impersonalisation makes it easier to overlook KOLs’ unique perspectives and needs and therefore fail to create strong KOL relationships.
3. Short-Term Focus
Business environments tend to emphasise short-term goals and immediate gains. Even when long-term objectives are aimed at fostering mutually beneficial partnerships, the pressure to achieve short-term results can cause professionals to prioritise their own goals over understanding the KOL’s viewpoint.
Given these challenges, it’s essential to pause and introspect. Are we genuinely considering things from the KOL’s point of view?
What do KOLs want from a relationship with pharma?
A common mistake made in the industry is to either not think about why a KOL would want to engage with you or assume that they will engage with you because of an honorarium paid for their services.
An invitation to present on topic ‘A’ is unlikely to be successful if you only provide details of what you want and the honorarium amount. Explaining why you would like them to present, and how it is an opportunity to express their firmly held belief on this topic, is much more likely to be successful.
KOLs engage with pharmaceutical companies for a multitude of reasons, beyond financial gain. Indeed, such is the necessary caution within the industry to only pay fair market value, for many KOLs the honorarium is far less than either their experience or their value to the company warrants.
So why do KOLs really engage with industry?
1. Engaging with Cutting-edge Research
KOLs are driven by a thirst for knowledge and a desire to engage with the latest scientific research.
By engaging with industry KOLs will sometimes be privy to the latest scientific developments before they become publicly available.
2. Peer Interaction
KOLs value the opportunity to interact with their peers, engaging in stimulating discussions that foster growth and innovation.
Attending advisory boards, in particular, can be a great way to discuss and debate with colleagues, and develop new ideas.
3. Building Relationships
Some KOLs seek to establish meaningful relationships with pharmaceutical companies, with the potential for future research funding and collaborations.
4. Professional Development
KOLs are often motivated by the prospect of personal and professional development. Presenting at conferences and delivering educational workshops are examples of pharma-sponsored activities that can help a KOL develop their skills and career.
5. The public benefit
KOLs know that their relationship with pharma companies is crucial for the development of better products and better healthcare.
Often for KOLs their primary motive will be their desire to steer drug development in the direction they believe is optimum for the public benefit.
What does an empathetic KOL relationship look like?
True consideration of a KOL’s point of view transcends merely tailoring your pitch to their desires. It entails nurturing a compassionate and empathetic relationship that ultimately drives better patient outcomes.
The key lies in identifying the convergence point between your objectives and those of the KOL. As your relationship evolves and trust deepens, this common ground expands.
For such development to occur, it is vital for the KOL to perceive that your intentions are not exclusively driven by your own goals, but that you genuinely recognize and respect theirs.
This approach represents the ethical pinnacle of KOL engagement, where both parties are dedicated to enhancing patient outcomes. In this mutual commitment, you will discover numerous opportunities where your interests align harmoniously.
For the relationship to develop in this way, it is important that the KOL can see that you are not driven exclusively by your own goals but recognize theirs as well.
This approach to KOL engagement is the ideal ethical KOL engagement. When both parties are devoted to better patient outcomes, it is easy to find areas in which your interests coincide.
Human Connections: Authenticity in KOL Relationships
When it comes to discussing the importance of considering KOLs’ points of view, there’s a genuine concern that the advice might come across as manipulative – a strategy to further one’s own agenda.
However, let’s be clear about the message we intend to convey.
Our aim is not to advocate for a superficial understanding of KOLs’ perspectives, driven solely by self-interest. Instead, we encourage a more profound and compassionate approach.
Beyond Self-Centered Objectives
It’s crucial not to view every interaction with a KOL solely through the prism of personal goals. The true essence of effective collaboration lies in embracing empathy and authenticity.
A Testimonial That Speaks Volume
One of the KOLs we’ve had the privilege to collaborate with expressed it best:
“Kendle Healthcare are a bit different. They take the time to properly get to know and understand KOLs to develop an honest, mutually beneficial working relationship.”
When KOLs perceive this sincerity in your approach, you unlock the key to enhanced KOL engagement.
More importantly, this authenticity translates into better patient outcomes, which is the ultimate goal of our industry.
In summary, it’s about a commitment to building authentic, mutually beneficial relationships.
By adopting this commitment, you not only foster trust and goodwill with KOLs but also contribute to the betterment of patient care – a win-win for all involved.