Rocket transforming showing the power of behavior change.
sales coaching

Transforming Life Science Sales through Behavioral Change

Written By: Sean Frontz

December 14, 2023 – 7 min read

In my 25+ years working with sales teams, I’ve witnessed firsthand how changing behavior creates a transformative impact. In this article, I’ll share insights that demonstrate how behavior change can impact the landscape of life science sales.

The Power of Behavioral Change

In life science sales, success is not just about having cutting-edge products or innovative solutions. It’s about how our sales teams adapt their behaviors to match what healthcare professionals (HCPs), stakeholders, and the market need. Changing behaviors isn’t just about doing something new; it’s about making lasting adjustments in how we act, react, and go about our routines.

I firmly believe that it’s people who change behaviors within organizations. Sales leaders play a crucial role here. They need to focus on understanding, influencing, and transforming behaviors to get real, lasting, measurable outcomes. It’s not an overnight switch, but trust me, the payoff is worth the effort. Let’s dive into some practical advice on how to make this happen within your sales team.

If your sales strategy is still focused primarily on “hitting the numbers” based on reach and frequency, you’re missing the mark. To navigate this complicated landscape, field teams need support and guidance from conscientious, empathetic leaders who can provide the guidance and coaching they need to break down barriers and create engagement. It’s not about telling reps what to do, it’s about providing the necessary tools and coaching to transform performance.

Create Alignment and Buy-In to Overcome Change Resistance

Sometimes, sales representatives resist change for valid reasons. They may worry about upsetting established relationships, feel left out of the decision-making process, or have past negative experiences. Creating buy-in and alignment is crucial for overcoming change resistance. When team members feel involved in decision-making and can share their thoughts about changes, they’re more likely to embrace those changes and take ownership. Believe me, magic happens when diverse minds work together to tackle barriers and adopt new behaviors. It’s all about creating a shared purpose.

Identify Moments of Truth

Ever heard of “moments of truth”? I’m referring to those game-changing moments where a salesperson’s choice of behavior can make or break an outcome. Let’s say you’ve trained your team on customer-centric selling, but then you notice some reps slipping back to old habits like pushing product features. These moments are a goldmine for coaching.

The key is for the leader to help the field rep understand the WHY behind the behavior. Why did you revert back to old habits when you knew the current expectations? Was it fear? Was it a lack of knowledge of the new process? Was it the anxiety of trying something new and uncomfortable?

Understanding why they reverted to old habits helps leaders coach to that specific challenge and guide them toward better behavior.

I’ve seen how critical it is to pinpoint these moments and guide sales reps in making the right choices. By recognizing the factors that influence behavior at these crucial junctures, we empower sales professionals to align their actions with organizational goals. All too often, leaders let these moments slip by.

Provide Continuous Coaching, Feedback, and Learning Opportunities for Lasting Change

I think of behavioral change like muscle memory. Just as you drive to work every day without consciously thinking about the rules of the road or the route, behavior that’s been practiced and ingrained over time tends to become second nature. Unfortunately, bad habits are formed the same way good habits are.

For sales leaders, coaching plays a huge role in helping shape, model, and reinforce the behaviors they want to instill in their team. By providing consistent feedback, opportunities to practice, and encouraging the behaviors they want to see, sales leaders create an environment where new behaviors become an integral and sustainable part of a person’s professional toolkit.


Imagine one of your sales reps is struggling with ineffective call planning, leading to poor-quality interactions with HCPs. To address this, you might provide additional coaching, aiming for a 10% increase toward their sales target within a specific timeframe. Initially, their target numbers improve by only 4%. Recognizing their progress, you give them positive feedback and further coaching. In the next period, improvement goes up to 6%. You emphasize the positive impact of enhanced call planning on their sales performance, and the cycle continues. This gradual coaching approach steadily guides the sales rep toward the desired proficiency, using incremental improvements as stepping stones for sustained behavior change in the sales process.

train your brain for behavioral change

Just as you drive to work every day without consciously thinking about the rules of the road or the route, behavior that’s been practiced and ingrained over time tends to become second nature.

What’s genuinely rewarding for me is witnessing sales professionals embrace and internalize these desired behaviors. It’s a testament to the power of consistent coaching and feedback in aligning individual actions with the organization’s goals, strategies, and objectives.

Identifying Leading Indicators for Insights into Behavioral Change

Imagine having a crystal ball that can help you predict the future. That’s what leading indicators are. Recognizing leading indicators is crucial for gauging behavioral change because they allow leaders to foresee changes, make informed choices, and take proper steps, like fine-tuning strategies, to steer things in a positive direction.

Unlike lagging indicators, which look back at what’s already happened, leading indicators give a heads-up about potential shifts before they happen. Unfortunately, many sales leaders tend to rely more on lagging indicators because they’re easy and accessible—like printing out a sales report showing past numbers.

Performance Development Group (PDG) provides a framework that examines systems, processes, behaviors, and activities through the following lenses:

  • Do your sales reps know what to do?
  • Are they doing it?
  • Are they doing it well?
  • Are they being coached to it?
  • Are they being coached with quality?

You can assign leading indicators to just about any activity through this framework and get a predictable method for evaluating performance. It provides a structured approach to assess not only the knowledge and execution of tasks by sales reps but also the effectiveness and quality of coaching practices.

Assess Change Through Data and Measurement

So, how do sales leaders determine if behavior has changed or areas where their team still needs improvement? Data and measurement serve as guiding compasses on the path to behavioral transformation. Through data-driven insights, sales leaders’ coaching efforts can be precisely targeted, maximizing their impact.

At PDG, we’ve developed a Performance Matrix to help sales leaders assess their team members in terms of aptitude and attitude regarding their job performance. This information helps tailor coaching, support, and other needed tools to speed behavior change.

Measurements for behavioral change may include:

  • Quantitative Metrics: Keep an eye on the numbers. They help us see how behaviors are changing and their impact on results.
  • Qualitative Feedback: Talk to people. Ask them in surveys or interviews about their experiences and thoughts about the changes happening.
  • Behavioral Observation:  Seeing is believing. Watch how people work—either in real-time or from recordings—to see if they’re using the new skills and knowledge you’ve been teaching.
  • Pre and Post-Intervention Comparison: Compare how things were before you made changes and after. It helps you see if the changes made are really making a difference.
  • Adoption Rate and Engagement: Keep tabs on who’s adopting these new behaviors and how involved they are in coaching sessions. It helps leaders fine-tune their strategies.
  • Continuous Iterative Assessment: Keep checking and adapting to new challenges. Ongoing assessment helps you keep getting better.

In Conclusion

Things are constantly changing in life sciences, and adapting to change is a big deal for sales reps. Behavioral change is crucial in helping sales reps adapt to industry shifts. It is not just a theory; it’s a practical and powerful tool for driving real-world sales results. When companies understand that sustained behavior change is built on continuous learning and practice, effective coaching, and constructive feedback, that’s when they’ll start seeing the rewards and hitting their sales targets like never before.

Never Miss an Article from PDG