Remote Buying in a Virtual World: 6 Reflections from a Pharma Procurement Exec.

Recently, Zymewire’s Scott Ballenger had an opportunity to sit down with Stefanie Kuhner, an executive in the procurement department from Bristol Myers Squibb. Their discussion focused on how executives at pharmaceutical companies think about remote buying in a virtual world.


Based on their discussion, which you can view below, we wanted to share six of Stefanie’s reflections related to buying in today’s remote world.


  1. Critical relationship-building is more challenging today – no matter whether you are buying or selling, you know that having strong relationships is paramount to your success, enabling business alignment through open and honest discussion. Recognizing that much of this connection takes place in person, it’s important to appreciate the challenge of building this trust remotely.

  2. Acknowledge the broad range of stakeholders with whom relationships are being built virtually – while we often think of relationship-building as an external-facing game, it’s important to acknowledge that relationship-building happens within companies, too – and these efforts are posing the same challenges in this environment.

  3. Utilize online collaboration tools to foster virtual environments – there are companies and platforms like Miro that are designed to foster an environment where you can collaborate and brainstorm together virtually, if you are unable to get together in person.

  4. Leverage those warm introductions – seeing as how we are not able to be at conferences together or to meet on the street, there’s a lot of cold outreach being done via email. The problem is that this type of strategy can sometimes get a bit aggressive and can turn people off from wanting to engage, as everyone is so busy in this meeting-heavy environment. Instead, Kuhner recommends relying on warm introductions that can be generated through platforms like LinkedIn. For example, simply saying: “I see that you are connected to so-and-so” offers a more productive outreach.

  5. Call out your value-add immediately – people are busy, and it is hard to make time for those who are not already in our Rolodex. So, it is imperative to call out your value-add immediately, as people will simply delete emails where the point isn’t immediately clear.

  6. Be strategic about conferences this year – while we are starting to see in-person conferences planned for Q4 of this year, it is still important to be mindful of the ones you attend. Restrictions are still in place in many areas of the country, so Kuhner suggests starting with those that are within driving distance of where you live, so you don’t have to invest in travel that might not happen.


Remember, no matter what your work entails, it is always good practice to look at things from the other person’s point of view. In this case, it was helpful to get into the mind of a procurement executive like Stefanie. This helps you understand how she is thinking so that you can develop your outreach strategy with your target audience in mind. 


You can watch Scott’s entire conversation with Stefanie Kuhner below.



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