Seven Sales Management Strategies

By Malcolm Fleschner

Sales managers today face a difficult dilemma. On the one hand you’d love to be able to accompany your reps on every call and show them precisely how to handle each physician interaction to the greatest advantage. On the other hand the cloning technology necessary to make this feasible has yet to be developed. Instead, managers simply have to find other approaches to help field reps shine on their own. In Super Reps: From Ordinary Detail Men and Women to Physicians’ Most Trusted Advisors (Reticulum, 2002), author Dr. Lou Sawaya ( suggests the following seven key management tips.

1. Don’t fear commitment.
Part of your job in motivating and educating others is to stay motivated and educated yourself. Likewise, by showing leadership and commitment yourself, these traits will filter down throughout the sales force.

2. Keep reps on board.
Frequent turnover undermines the gains you make with individual offices and physicians. Also, competitors tend to target territories and companies with high turnover.

3. Don’t stop the training.
With all the difficulties pharmaceutical reps struggle against – solitary work, irregular hours, daily rejection and fierce competition – it’s easy to see why so many reps fall into selling slumps or the trap of complacency. A good way to combat this tendency is with regular continuing education opportunities. Workshops, seminars, conferences and trade shows are terrific sources of information. Another good strategy is to beef up reps’ marketing education. By learning to better understand physicians’ prescribing behavior and medical decision making, as well as how to analyze sales data, assess market potential, gather market intelligence and develop marketing strategies and plans, your reps will feel more invigorated and empowered to attack their daily challenges.

4. Personalize training needs.
Reps’ training needs vary according to their abilities, tenure and performance. Let your more senior reps help set the agenda for and make presentations at sales meetings. Seek out their advice and, if possible, solicit their leadership as potential mentors to newer reps.

5. Plan unscheduled ride-alongs.
Pharmaceutical reps generally value their independence, but managers also must exercise their supervisory duties. If a rep balks at the idea of an unscheduled ride-along it should raise an instant red flag.

6. Explain the benefits of technology.
Reps understandably might fear technology’s increased encroachment into their work as a sign of Big Brother or a threat to their job. You might need to sell them on technology’s benefits of greater sales and stronger customer loyalty. Emphasize that technology can never replace salespeople, but it can make them more effective at building relationships, which is the key to succeeding in this profession.

7. Team up.
Team selling is on the upswing among pharmaceutical sales organizations, though many reps remain skeptical. For a team approach to work reps must agree to unify their efforts. Stress the following points about team selling to get your salespeople on board.

  • Team selling opens more doors by using diverse personalities working toward achieving a common goal.
  • In complex markets a broad knowledge base can prove invaluable when selling to multiple decision makers.
  • With colleagues to back up one another fewer mistakes fall through the cracks.
  • A team of reps can cover a larger territory.
  • Evidence shows that team selling boosts sales; in short, it works.