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SALES performance

Accelerating Life Sciences Sales Performance Starts with Shattering Traditional Learning Paradigms

Written By: Rich Mesch

In the fast-paced world of life sciences sales, organizations must constantly seek ways to improve performance and stay ahead of the competition. While learning and development can equip sales teams with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed, traditional learning paradigms are no longer sufficient in today’s dynamic business environment. Accelerating sales performance requires us to break free from “training” and embrace innovative strategies that can better engage and create real behavior change.

Why Pharma Sales is so Difficult

Pharmaceutical sales reps face a wide range of challenges, from finding innovative ways to reach out to customers to how to stand out in a crowded marketplace. With a constant stream of new data and rapidly changing technology, reps also need to leverage the latest tools to stay ahead of the curve. However, their biggest challenge may be capturing the attention of busy Health Care Providers (HCPs), who have limited time and multiple priorities. To be successful, reps must build engagement and stay relevant in an ever-changing landscape.

To complicate matters further, many pharma reps have a vast portfolio of products, which requires in-depth knowledge of various disease states, clinical information, and therapeutic benefits. Reps need to maintain up-to-date knowledge of competitor information and regulations and use only approved messaging when interacting with customers. Strong selling skills, strategic account, and territory planning, and relationship management are also critical to success. With all of these requirements, it’s no wonder that reps can feel overwhelmed! The shift to hybrid and omnichannel selling has added another layer of complexity. While these approaches offer expanded customer channels and reduced travel time, they require reps to master an entirely new set of skills. As virtual selling becomes more commonplace, reps must adapt to the changing landscape and learn how to communicate effectively through digital channels.

“Perhaps the biggest challenge a pharma rep faces is capturing the attention of busy HCPs who have limited time and multiple priorities.”

A Framework for Sales Readiness

Today’s complex selling environment requires a new lens for success. First, we need to consider if we are preparing our field forces for the right challenges, equipping them with the necessary skills, and verifying that they are effectively applying their knowledge and skills in the field. Ultimately, we want to know if our efforts in learning and sales readiness are making a difference. To build a framework for a sales readiness solution, we need to keep in mind three key principles:

  1. Leader-led: Learning can drive knowledge and skills, but it is usually the sales leader who drives performance. Therefore, it is important to include leaders in any solution we build.
  2. Performance-focused: Learning can make people smart, but organizations measure performance. To turn smart into capable, the solution needs to be focused on performance.
  3. Measurable impact: Learning drives behavior, which drives performance. To ensure that our efforts are making a difference, we need to measure the impact of our behavior—and whether the behavior is occurring at all.

Measuring Impact

The most logical metric to measure sales impact is more sales. However, “more sales” is a difficult metric to measure. It can take a very long time to determine if sales numbers have increased, and it can be difficult to determine which factors drove a change in sales—seasonal changes, competitive forces, changes in the medical and payer landscape are just a few factors.

Measurement works best when we think in terms of leading and lagging indicators. Increased market share is a lagging indicator; it usually takes longer to measure and requires analysis to determine the root causes. Leading indicators can be measured in the short term, and tend to focus on behavior change: , Do reps know what to do? Are they actually doing it consistently? Are they being reinforced and coached by their leaders? Leading indicators give us insight into what our lagging indicators are likely to be. If we believe behavior change will lead to better sales outcomes, leading indicators allow us to measure behavior change.

Shifting the Way We Think About Learning

The past few years have been a challenge but also an opportunity to reevaluate what’s working and what’s not. It would be a mistake to continue doing what we’ve been doing for the past year or to revert to how things were three or four years ago. Instead, we should examine the experiences of the people we are trying to help and support and ask questions about what is and isn’t working. This shift in mindset, rather than tactics or content, begins with how we think about training and development.

“To succeed in the new environment, we need to stop thinking about training and focus on performance. Performance is a series of consistent behaviors that drive business goals, and are consistently coached and reinforced by sales leaders.”

It’s important to look at the entire ecosystem that contributes to the sales rep’s success to shape a personalized experience that scales, is sustainable, and truly changes behavior. Every rep is at a different place in their career—with different skills, needs, preferences, and motivations. When it comes to learning, coaching, and leading, it is important to avoid a “one-size-fits-all” approach, as this can demotivate and devalue learning. Instead, it’s important to meet people where they are and ensure that everything we do drives value.

To succeed in the new environment, we need to stop thinking about “training” and focus on performance. Performance is a series of consistent behaviors that drive business goals, and are consistently coached and reinforced by sales leaders. Ultimately, reps will respond more to the coaching of their leader than they will to “training” programs. The learning framework should be driven by business goals. Every interaction within the framework is focused on achieving a business objective. The framework should also be time-based, with information delivered in small doses over an extended period. This is an iterative process that requires applying what the sales rep learned, receiving feedback, and coaching to refine skills. This approach leads to mastery and long-term success.

Summing it Up

In conclusion, to accelerate sales performance in the dynamic business environment of pharmaceutical sales, it’s essential to shatter traditional learning paradigms and embrace innovative strategies that can better engage sales teams and create real behavior change. This requires a new lens for success, including equipping sales forces with the necessary skills, measuring the impact of learning efforts, and shifting the way we think about training and development. Additionally, it’s crucial to meet sales teams where they are and ensure that everything we do drives value and connects learning to meaningful impact. By doing so, we can build a framework for sales readiness that focuses on performance, is leader-led, and has measurable impact, ultimately driving results for the business.

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