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Selling Power Magazine Article
Belinda Mikel has been navigating those hurdles for 25 years. A regional business director at King Pharmaceuticals, Mikel came to the pharmaceutical industry in 1985, hoping it would offer a greater challenge than her job selling soap and canned food. It did – and still does. As a director responsible for seven district sales managers and 70 sales representatives, Mikel’s challenges today are very different from those she faced in 1985, but that, she says, is part of the fun.
So what’s on her mind these days? Primarily the changing nature of the pharmaceutical business. As mergers proliferate, access to medical professionals diminishes, and low-cost generics put prices under pressure, pharmaceutical companies are finding that the old ways of doing business aren’t working anymore. Increasing the number of feet on the ground used to guarantee increased connections with prescribers. Today, that share-of-voice model is more costly than effective, and pharmaceutical companies – including King – are searching for new ways to promote their products.
“Many pharmaceutical companies are piloting or implementing new sales models that take a more account-based focus and incorporate teams, which may include different roles with different levels or areas of expertise to service the client base,” Mikel observes. “It has yet to be proven which model will be the best one for the future.”
Knowing its sales reps needed to work smarter, not harder, in such an environment, King recently rolled out a competency model that its leaders hope will serve as a catalyst to accelerate professional growth. Based on customer and internal surveys, the model identifies four primary competencies for sales reps and managers and, for each competency, a corresponding set of skills, knowledge, and abilities. Sales rep competencies, for instance, include territory management, customer engagement, clinical and therapeutic knowledge, and marketplace and industry knowledge. Individuals are rated among four levels in each area. Mikel says managers and reps will use the ratings to craft specific goals for each individual, capitalizing on his or her strengths and shoring up areas of “developmental opportunity.”
King’s sales managers began communicating the competency model to sales reps in March of this year. “Each sales manager is sitting down with his or her team members individually to talk about the model and where the rep fits in the competencies. Then the most important part of the conversation is about what is critical, personally and professionally, to the sales representative,” Mikel explains. “It’s about how we can use this model to build skills, knowledge, and abilities to ensure [reps] succeed.”
For instance, if a rep is weak in his or her ability to use clinical reprints, the rep and the manager might identify that as an area of focus and create a plan for improving it. Or if a rep wants to be considered a leader in one of the competencies, his or her manager can explain the specific behaviors the rep will need to demonstrate to get to that level. This initiative takes the general goal of improving sales effectiveness in a rapidly changing, tightly regulated environment and turns it into very clear, specific actions reps can take to improve their results.
“The bar is rising fast for pharmaceutical sales representatives in terms of the skills and knowledge required to succeed in the industry,” concludes Mikel. “Tomorrow’s successful reps must be able to execute at a high level in business management, including knowledge of their markets and the industry, engaging the customer, and clinical expertise.” The competency model, the sales team’s biggest initiative in 2010, aims to give King Pharmaceuticals reps a giant step forward in that direction.
King Pharmaceuticals is a vertically integrated, branded pharmaceutical company that develops, manufactures, and markets therapies and technologies primarily in specialty driven markets, including neuroscience and hospital and acute-care medicines. Its revenues have grown from $13 million in 1994, when the company was established, to more than $1.78 billion in 2009. Based in Bridgewater, NJ, King is a publicly traded company with more than 2,600 employees worldwide.
King employs two separate sales forces. A team of more than 700 individuals throughout the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico sells King’s branded, prescription pharmaceutical products. A second team of about 100 people sells the company’s animal health products in the US, Europe, Canada, Latin America, and Asia.
– Heather Baldwin
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