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Driving Sales Execution Excellence in Life Sciences: The Role of Goal-setting, Coaching, Practice, and Accountability

March 11, 2024 – 6 min read

Life sciences sales are highly complex, and success in this field hinges on how effectively your sales team can execute your company’s marketing strategies in the field. Unfortunately, putting this into practice can often be more challenging than it sounds. Just like a road trip requires careful planning, a reliable map, and a well-tuned vehicle, knowing how to take strategy on paper to world-class execution can only be achieved through proper goal setting, consistent coaching, relentless practice, and accountability. This article explores how harnessing these elements, among others, can unlock the full potential of sales teams, turning lofty goals into tangible, sustainable results.

Goals: The Destination

The old saying goes, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Setting goals is similar to choosing the destination for a road trip. The goals represent the specific outcomes that sales professionals should aspire to. They should align seamlessly with the strategy and act as benchmarks to track achievements and evaluate performance. Without proper goal-setting, there is a risk of directionless efforts and a lack of focus, making it difficult to determine if your efforts are effective or if there’s a need for adjustments. Having goals provides a sense of purpose, clarity, and a metric against which to gauge success. Let’s look at some potential goal-setting challenges and explore strategies for overcoming them.

Results from a review of laboratory and field studies on the effects of goal setting on performance show that in 90% of the studies, specific and challenging goals led to higher performance than easy goals, “do your best” goals or no goals.

American Psychological association

Goal-Setting Challenges

Ideally, goals should be collaboratively established between the sales leader and the sales representative. They should be clear and follow S.M.A.R.T. goal criteria (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). The wheels can come off when goals are unrealistic, misaligned, or communicated ineffectively.


Vague Goal: Increase revenue through improved sales performance.

S.M.A.R.T. Goal: Increase revenue by 15% over the next six months by acquiring five new high-value clients through targeted engagement and effective product positioning.

Setting goals comes with an inherent share of human challenges that sales leaders should be aware of and help mitigate. For example, juggling many daily tasks can interfere with goal-setting. The sales leader can help the rep prioritize accounts and manage time. Also, the fear of failure can be paralyzing for some. Leaders play a vital role in fostering a culture that empowers their reps to set ambitious goals without fearing negative consequences.

The data on the importance of goal-setting speaks volumes. Results from a review of laboratory and field studies on the effects of goal setting on performance show that in 90% of the studies, specific and challenging goals led to higher performance than easy goals, “do your best” goals, or no goals (American Psychological Association).

So, now that we’ve established our destination, we need a map that tells us the best route to get there.

Strategy: The Roadmap

A well-crafted strategy is the roadmap that directs sales efforts toward the most efficient route, considering the competitive landscape, resources needed, and the evolving market. It’s a comprehensive plan that details how to navigate to the destination.

A robust strategy, proper goal setting, and accountability towards those goals help ensure you reach your target. It also allows sales professionals to remain agile and responsive in an evolving and competitive landscape.

Leading and Lagging Indicators: The Navigation Tools

Leading indicators are like real-time navigation tools, providing insights into the journey ahead. Consider it like checking the gas gauge to see if you have enough fuel to get to your destination. Leading indicators include things like engagement metrics, pipeline velocity (the speed at which prospective customers move through the sales pipeline), and market trends. These can indicate if you’re on the right track or need to reassess.

Lagging indicators, on the other hand, are kind of like mile markers that are in your rear-view mirror, reflecting past performance, such as closed deals or revenue figures.

Together, these indicators help paint a picture of a successful sales journey by guiding in real-time and offering a retrospective view.

Coaching: The Compass

Consider the coach (sales leader) as the compass, guiding sales reps back on track if they take a wrong turn. Coaching is really the key to sales execution excellence. Sales leaders leverage their knowledge and experience to help their team members set and reach goals. Coaching is not about imparting knowledge. Effective coaching cultivates accountability, fosters continuous improvement, provides motivation and encouragement, helps develop and hone skills, builds adaptability and resilience, emphasizes a consultative selling approach, and ensures individual goals align with organizational strategies.

three individuals standing behind increasing line

Statistics show that companies that invest in sales coaching see an average of 19% increase in sales performance. Additionally, sales coaching can help reduce sales cycle time by up to 25%.

Practice: Driver’s Ed

Practice is another vital component in the journey toward sales execution excellence. Just like getting the hang of driving and knowing the rules of the road requires time, patience, and hours behind the wheel, refining sales skills, especially in this intricate field, demands a commitment to continuous learning, consistent practice, and individualized feedback to achieve gradual improvements over time.

Accountability: Driver Responsibility

Accountability is a collective effort between leaders and sales reps to ensure everyone understands the destination and how to reach it. Just as a driver is responsible for steering the vehicle, your sales reps need to be held accountable for achieving their targets. However, accountability for execution cannot exist in a vacuum. Sales leaders must be held accountable for setting clear, measurable goals and having regular 1:1 check-ins with their sales reps to track individual progress and make necessary adjustments.

It’s crucial for sales leaders to model a culture of accountability by setting expectations, providing support, and encouraging open communication. In addition, celebrating individual and team-based achievements reinforces the shared commitment to staying on course toward success. Coaching is the compass that helps individual sales reps stay on course.

In Sum

For Life Sciences companies, the path to sales execution excellence involves a continuous loop of goal-setting, effective coaching and feedback, practicing towards perfection, and fostering a culture of accountability. Following this approach will help sales leaders shape high-performing sales teams capable of navigating the industry’s complexities, ensure that goals align seamlessly with organizational strategies, and unlock their team’s full potential.

Our Expert
Marla Zarlenga

Marla Zarlenga
Marla Zarlenga brings over 25 years of cross-industry expertise in global leadership development, talent management, and building human capability across all levels of organizations. Her industry experience includes life sciences, manufacturing, retail, and high-tech.

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