Like most industries, the biopharmaceutical industry has been facing a host of challenges due to the pandemic. Trade shows and conferences have been cancelled and in-person meetings have become a rarity. In such a scenario, health science companies are finding it difficult to grow their businesses. This week, we speak to Lea LaFerla, vice president—marketing services and business development at SCORR Marketing, a leading full-service marketing and communications firm in the health sciences space, on how the sales and marketing teams at health science companies need to work in tandem and devise a proper strategy to grow their businesses.

There are lots of jokes on the epic friction between sales and marketing. After a year of significant change and disruption, do you feel it is more important today for these two groups to be on the same page?

Absolutely. As you know, businesses around the world continue to struggle due to the pandemic. Trade shows and conferences are still on hold or are being held virtually. Therefore, the opportunity to network, and have in-person interactions and meetings are minimal or have been paused all together. The ability to “get to know” prospective clients has been significantly reduced and is fraught with challenges. Understanding where a prospective client sits in the marketing and sales funnel is critical to the direct efforts of a company to grow the business.

What do you mean by the marketing and sales funnel? Is this funnel applicable in the real world? Or is it just an academic exercise?

The marketing and sales funnel is a way of breaking down the customer’s journey with a company all the way from the Awareness stage (when they first learn about your business) to the Lead Capture stage, the Prospect stage and the Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) stage. After that, the funnel has three key sales stages — the Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) stage, Opportunities Leads stage and finally the Customer stage. The funnel is broadest at the Awareness stage, and progressively narrows down until the Customer stage.

However, the funnel is not a linear process. Potential customers can jump in at various points in the funnel depending on their situation.

In the Awareness stage, customers need to be informed who you are before they consider dealing with your company. Marketing needs to do the groundwork to make things easier for the sales team. However, not all tactics adopted to create awareness necessarily transition to the next stage —   Lead Capture.

In today’s world, Lead Capture is a very important stage. It involves a process of gathering contact information in an attempt to convert the lead to a paying customer. An example of a lead capture page or a lead capture form is downloading a white paper or a quote request form on a website. The contact’s name, email address and phone numbers are usually captured. Keeping the number of fields captured to a minimum increases the likelihood that someone will provide their information.

Once you have a qualified lead — be it an MQL or an SQL — it is vitally important that your sales and marketing teams have clear communication and that they work together to bring potential customers through the funnel effectively.

Although sales and marketing may have different views on the funnel, they clearly have the same objective – more sales. What are some ways to get both groups working together in this process?

There are multiple ways for marketing and sales to work together. The first is by investing in databases and mining tools. Some resources are even available for free, such as PipelineProspector. And then there are others like GlobalData and PharmaTargeting. Regardless of which tool you choose, the important thing is to utilize the knowledge gained from them to help shape your marketing and sales targets.

Secondly, be sure to engage people with stage appropriate content and messaging. One of the best means of doing this is to set-up a joint marketing and business development playbook. Both the departments analyze a buyers’ journey and use that insight to develop tactical plans and set targets. Stay away from separate Sales and Marketing contacts. Marketing can and should help Sales nurture prospects all the way through the process; for example, nurturing SQLs by providing Sales with various scripts and tools.

Don’t good sales people just need more leads? What if marketing just focused all their efforts on getting more leads?

Several organizations are spending heavily on deploying tactics to get leads, and do not have a foundational strategy in place. They have to weed through leads and do not have a business development person who can prioritize this process. In our view, qualified leads should be assigned more value than volume leads.

Marketing needs to be aligned to Business Development’s target audience. They need a go-to-market strategy that is measured on the MQLs they have generated. The criterion for a qualified lead needs to be set in the playbook. And the marketing department also needs to nurture SQLs through to loyal clientele.

Once you establish your target markets and efforts are proceeding well in that direction, is it solely up to the sales team to penetrate their top target accounts? How can sales and marketing collaborate to help in this area?

There is an opportunity for both sales and marketing to work together even after the target market has been established and a client base has been created. Sales and marketing departments can help each other by (a) creating client dossiers to help identify specific needs, contacts, etc., for outreach; (b) utilize executive relationships and other connections — companies need to map these out as part of company dossiers; and (c) understand where each company/prospect is on the funnel, and target outreach to them that matches their stage (for instance, some prospects may need awareness, while others maybe existing customers).

Once you have a prospect that has become a client, do the roles of sales and marketing stop? How can you utilize current clients for ongoing sales and marketing?

The first thing companies need to ask themselves is whether they have invested in strategies to retain loyal clients, and if they have leveraged referrals and testimonials from these clients. There is one theme that is recurring in SCORR’s voice of customer surveys — that word of mouth or recommendations by a colleague are by far the most heavily weighted factor in establishing new business. It is understood that these leads are super valuable and should be weighted and nurtured as such.

A current client who feels you go above and beyond, especially when it comes to proactive communication and problem solving, becomes your greatest business development ally without the need to formally ask the client to do so.

If your teams are experiencing this tension, download our helpful BD & Marketing Worksheet to start taking steps toward intentional, effective plans that can get these two teams working together.

About the Author

Lea LaFerla


As a seasoned professional with over 25 years of experience in sales and marketing within the medical device, clinical diagnostic, and pharmaceutical industries, Lea successfully manages a portfolio of global health science clients and oversees SCORR’s business development, marketing, client service, communications, and digital departments. By leveraging her expertise and fostering collaborative relationships, she creates marketing initiatives that are not only impactful but also focused on delivering measurable results and demonstrating ROI.

Lea has built a reputation for her ability to navigate complex industry landscapes, adapt to emerging trends, and drive innovation. She remains at the forefront of the rapidly evolving health care and life sciences sectors, constantly seeking new opportunities to enhance SCORR Marketing’s services and deliver exceptional value to clients.