Spread The Best Practices Around

By Malcolm Fleschner

When your company’s sales reps happen upon an innovative new technique or strategy do they willingly share it with their colleagues or jealously guard it like a grizzled miner worried about claim jumpers? Ideally speaking, pharmaceutical sales reps should compete fiercely, but against the competition, not one another. Unfortunately, as the pharmaceutical sales experts at RM Consulting International (www.rmcionline.com) point out, many pharmaceutical sales organizations neglect to develop the kind of team effort that fosters the sharing of best practices. To address this problem, RMCI suggests taking the following five steps.

1. Make the commitment.Instead of simply encouraging sales reps to work harder, which at best only produces unsustainable short-term gain, managers should coach with best practices and steady improvement in mind. Areas where best practices can be identified include business units that are particularly effective at integrating sales and marketing, sales teams that regularly access even the most difficult-to-reach physicians and CRM-based profiling that customizes messages with retargeted physicians.

2. Find out what’s best.It’s not uncommon for district managers to take new recruits and unlearn them of all the pie-in-the-sky notions they were taught in sales training. The result is an inconsistency about priorities across districts. To counter this, begin by putting together a team of top district managers, trainers and product marketers. Empower them to spend a few days in the field establishing best practice metrics. For example, if it’s determined that calls should be entered into the system as soon as they occur, make it an expectation that reps enter 95% of all calls on the same day the calls take place. Finally, incorporate these new practices into the training that all reps receive and encourage them to constantly tweak and improve on it.

3. Get the coaches in line.Since the district and regional managers will be operating on the best practices front lines, they need to believe in the project. Encourage managers to track results as new practices are implemented. When they see the benefits firsthand, they will be more inclined to adopt further improvements and champion performance enhancing ideas.

4. Identify the point person.Someone, most likely from the training department, needs to be responsible for taking in, assessing and disseminating the sales organization’s new best practice ideas. Without someone performing this task – acting as a centralized suggestion box – localized improvements will stay local.

5. Change the compensation structure.Ultimately, to get salespeople to change their behavior and adopt a more team-based attitude you have to change the compensation and reward structure. Rather than emphasizing rep rankings, focus on key team goals like share, total sales and gross margins. Add small incentives for activities, such as writing short success story articles for an internal newsletter, or recognize one team member for being the top innovator in the organization. It also doesn’t hurt to make demonstrating a commitment to teamwork and problem solving a prerequisite for promotion.