Best Practices for Leading Virtual Pharmaceutical Sales Teams

Written By: Sharlene Douthit

May 10, 2023 – 9 min read

Like many other sectors, the pharmaceutical industry has seen a significant shift towards remote work in recent years. This shift was already well underway, fueled by technological advancements and changing work trends – but was accelerated by the pandemic. For pharmaceutical sales leaders, the transition to virtual and hybrid sales teams has brought many new challenges – and understanding how to manage remote teams effectively is crucial for field force transformation and success.

Challenges of Leading Remote Pharmaceutical Teams

Leading a remote pharmaceutical sales team comes with a unique set of challenges, including:

Impacts on Communication, Relationships, and Team Dynamics. Not having regular face-to-face interactions can impact communication, team dynamics, and the ability to build relationships.

Develop Trust. Building trust and rapport requires additional effort in a remote setting, as team members may not have the same level of personal connection and familiarity with each other.

Maintain Employee Engagement and Morale. Keeping team members engaged and motivated in a remote setting can also be challenging. As a result, team members may face feelings of isolation, decreased motivation, or disengagement.

Foster a Culture of Accountability and Ownership. Without direct supervision and oversight, sales teams may face challenges with accountability and taking ownership of their responsibilities.

Best Practices for Leading and Managing a Virtual Sales Team

There are several ways pharma sales leaders can ensure their remote teams are performing at their highest levels; these include:

Set Clear Expectations and Communication Guidelines

If your team doesn’t know how they’re being evaluated, they won’t know if they’re successful, and it could lead to frustration and morale issues. Begin by outlining team goals, individual responsibilities, and performance KPIs that they are being measured against. Likewise, it’s also crucial to establish communication guidelines to ensure your team is aware of expectations for response times, communication channels, and availability.

If your sales reps have to wait until their annual review for your feedback, you’re missing a great opportunity to establish rapport, align goals, improve accountability, build trust through coaching, and enhance performance.

Provide the Necessary Tools and Resources for Remote Team Members

Virtual pharma sales teams require access to relevant sales and customer data, sales enablement tools, marketing information, product details, competitive products, CRM systems, compliance matters, and other tools needed to do their job properly.

Conduct Regular Check-ins and Feedback Sessions to Stay on Track

If your sales reps have to wait until their annual review for your feedback, you’re missing a great opportunity to establish rapport, align goals, improve accountability, build trust through coaching, and enhance performance. Regular check-ins allow team members to discuss their progress and challenges and seek support. Feedback sessions enable leaders to provide constructive feedback on performance and recognize achievements.

Encourage Collaboration and Teamwork Among Remote Team Members

We all know that great ideas can come from anywhere – but how do you encourage information sharing among your team? Pharma sales leaders need to create opportunities for remote team members to collaborate, share ideas, and work together on projects or challenges. By encouraging teamwork and collaboration, you will foster a sense of camaraderie and promote a positive team culture.

Implement Omnichannel Capabilities for Remote Teams

In today’s digital world, successful sales leaders recognize that there are multiple ways to reach their audience and help their remote teams to be successful in each channel.

Having access to the right technology, remote teams can conduct successful virtual sales meetings, deliver sales presentations, and provide product demonstrations to customers. Providing training and ongoing support on these technologies is essential to ensure that remote team members are leveraging their full capabilities.

Implement a Multi-Channel Approach to Reach Customers

Reaching potential customers today requires a multi-pronged approach that utilizes a variety of communication channels, such as in-person meetings, phone calls, emails, video conferences, social media, and other digital platforms. Remote sales teams can tailor their communication to suit the preferences of different customers and increase their chances of success. According to Veeva Pulse Field Trends Report, in-person meetings with HCPs still account for 76% of foundational engagement, with virtual channels and content used to extend the conversation.

Develop Strategies for Tailoring Sales Pitches to Various Channels

As you might expect, different channels require different approaches. For example, a sales pitch delivered over the phone may require a different tone and structure than an email or a social media message. Sales leaders need to mentor their remote sales teams on strategies to tailor their sales pitches to different channels.

Different channels require different approaches. Sales leaders need to mentor their remote sales teams on strategies to tailor their sales pitches to different channels.

Communication and Collaboration for Remote Teams

Communication is the backbone of remote sales teams. Effective communication ensures team members are aligned with goals, expectations, and tasks. It also helps build trust, foster teamwork, maintain engagement, and ensure team members don’t feel abandoned. Without proper communication, remote teams may face misunderstandings, misalignment, and decreased productivity and morale. Pharma sales leaders must emphasize the importance of communication with their remote sales teams and establish clear communication channels and guidelines.

Strategies for Effective Remote Communication and Collaboration

Remote sales leaders need to adopt effective strategies for communication and collaboration. This includes utilizing video conferencing, instant messaging, email, and other communication tools to stay connected and share updates. It also involves setting regular communication schedules, establishing clear expectations on response times, and encouraging active participation in virtual meetings and discussions. Additionally, fostering a culture of open communication, where team members feel comfortable sharing ideas, feedback, and concerns, is crucial for remote teams to thrive.

Tips for Maintaining a Sense of Connection Among Remote Team Members

Virtual sales reps can sometimes feel isolated due to the lack of regular, natural interactions that come with being on-site. Therefore, it is vital for pharma sales leaders to maintain and encourage a sense of connection among their virtual team members. This can be done in several ways, including incorporating team-building activities, virtual social gatherings, and informal catch-up sessions. In addition, celebrating successes, recognizing achievements, and fostering a positive team culture can also contribute to building a strong sense of connection and belonging among virtual teams.

Clearly defining the expected outcomes, timelines, and success metrics will help remote field reps understand what is expected of them and enable leaders to track progress effectively.

Goal Setting for Remote Teams

The importance of goal setting can’t be understated. Without it, you won’t know if you are successful or where to improve. Here are some approaches to implement with your remote teams.

Establish Clear, Measurable Goals

Setting clear and measurable goals is critical for remote teams to stay focused and motivated. Goals should align with the overall sales strategy and be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). Clearly defining the expected outcomes, timelines, and success metrics will help remote field reps understand what is expected of them and enable leaders to track progress effectively.

Set Realistic Targets and Timelines for Achieving Goals

It is crucial to set realistic targets and timelines for achieving goals. Taking into consideration factors such as workload, availability, and potential limitations of remote work, leaders need to ensure that goals are challenging yet achievable. Unrealistic targets or tight deadlines can lead to burnout, decreased motivation, and reduced productivity among your remote field force.

Develop Strategies for Motivating Remote Team Members to Achieve Their Goals

Motivation plays a key role in driving remote teams toward achieving their goals. Strategies to keep remote team members motivated include providing regular feedback and recognition for achievements, celebrating successes, and creating incentives or rewards programs. Additionally, leaders should ensure remote teams have the resources, training, and support to perform their jobs effectively. Providing regular coaching and mentoring sessions can also go a long way to boost motivation and engagement with virtual teams.

Understand and Improve Remote Team Performance

As the sales leader, you’re responsible for ensuring your team hits its targets. To do this, you need to understand if they’re performing at a level consistent with your goals. To do this, you’ll need to:

Establish Metrics to Measure Remote Team Performance

Tracking performance is essential to ensure your remote sales force meets its goals and performs its best. In order to track performance, pharma sales leaders need to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to measure their remote team’s performance.

These metrics can include sales targets, conversion rates, customer engagement, and other relevant KPIs. It is important to align these metrics with the overall sales goals and regularly review and update them to ensure they are relevant and achievable.

Utilize Tools and Software to Track Performance and Productivity

Various tools and software can help track performance and productivity, including sales-tracking software, CRM systems, project management tools, and time-tracking software. These tools provide real-time data and insights into remote team performance, allowing leaders to monitor progress, identify areas for improvement, and make data-driven decisions.

Develop Strategies for Using Data to Improve Remote Team Performance

Leaders can leverage the data collected from performance-tracking tools to identify trends, patterns, and areas for improvement. This can involve analyzing sales data, customer data, and other relevant performance metrics to gain insights into your team’s performance. Based on this analysis, leaders can implement targeted strategies and interventions to address performance gaps, provide additional training or resources, and optimize sales processes. Regular data analysis and feedback can help remote sales teams continuously improve their performance and achieve their goals.

Summing it Up

Building a thriving pharmaceutical virtual field force has its challenges. Success requires effectively managing remote teams by setting achievable goals and holding sales reps accountable for them, providing clear and ongoing communication and feedback, encouraging collaboration and teamwork, and leveraging technology to optimize sales strategies and monitor team performance. In addition, providing regular training and development opportunities is critical to transforming the performance of your remote field force. By using these best practices, pharma sales leaders can overcome the challenges of remote work, leading to improved HCP engagement and increased sales success.

Never Miss an Article from PDG