Written By: Rich Mesch
January 26, 2023 – 4 min read
How do you create great sales leaders? I recently had a conversation with a senior life sciences sales leader of a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company. The leader discussed the highest priorities for the organization: “I’m most concerned about the development of tomorrow’s sales leaders. I know that if I have solid folks leading my organization, then I don’t have to worry about my reps because they’ll be as good as the people who lead them.”
Let’s discuss how the modern life sciences sales leader is changing and three critical strategies for creating the next generation of sales leadership.
Pharmaceutical companies historically promote high-performing life sciences sales representatives to the front-line managerial ranks based primarily on their performance in the field. With about 65,000 pharmaceutical sales representatives reflecting an annual cost of about $13 billion, developing effective leaders from those ranks stands as a critical success factor for a company’s overall commercial effectiveness.
Charged with the overall commercial success of an organization, sales leaders contribute directly to the creation and execution of sound strategies to grow the business, while conducting critical coaching and development opportunities with sales representatives. The profile of tomorrow’s leaders involves something more complex than just the ability to sell. Shifts in the industry range from rapidly changing sales models to a greater emphasis on account selling to the always-evolving managed care landscape. Key areas like these require more attention within a commercial leadership development program than ever before.
If you’re familiar with the speed at which commercial effectiveness runs in the pharmaceutical industry, you’ll know that the era of assessment days, weeks-long development workshops, and binders full of curricula simply won’t do. To match today’s highly-competitive ecosystem, life sciences sales organizations need to define the core competencies of their leaders and ensure that representatives are identified, selected, developed, and certified through a series of short, impactful, accessible experiences. Investing in tomorrow’s leaders requires that this development occurs at the speed of business. But a program of this nature isn’t a series of events. It needs to be developed as a process to cultivate and nurture individuals so they can practice and apply their skills freely. And it needs to be fun, too!
To accomplish an approach that will have the largest measurable impact, best practices dictate that the following components drive the development of future leaders:
Organizations continue to develop at different paces and there may already be components in the above list that are being employed. But let’s hearken back to the senior sales leaders’ priorities that we started this article with: How confident are you in the sales leaders in your organization? To learn more about how to create the next generation of life sciences sales leaders with your organization, contact the experts at Performance Development Group today.