Get Your Assessment In Gear

By Malcolm Fleschner

Your company’s marketing department puts a great deal of care and effort into crafting powerful and compelling messages designed to resonate with physicians, increase product awareness and drive prescription volume. Despite all this diligent work, however, many pharmaceutical companies rely on secondary research sources to monitor how well the marketing plan translated into sales effectiveness. As Sandy Sonnessa, a practice manager with the North Carolina-based Campbell Alliance notes, the result is often a substantial knowledge gap between the planned delivery message and the presentations that genuinely produce results in the field.

To bridge his gap and improve the back-and-forth information flow between sales and marketing, Sonnessa suggests a testing tool called the Interactive Sales Assessment (ISA). In a recent Product Management Today article, Sonessa explained that to use an ISA, the marketing department furnishes the sales organization with training materials well ahead of time, then tests the individual reps on how well they’ve absorbed the information.

Testing consists of reps telephoning into a call center where trained assessors play the role of intransigent or difficult physicians who ask a lot of questions and raise numerous objections. The assessors then judge the reps based on personal selling skills (opening, rapport-building, probing, closing and the ability to cross-sell) as well as how well they handle content specific to physician segments, marketing message delivery, patient profile use, objection handling and the use of clinical support.

Sonessa says that the ISA provides an ideal tool for handling upcoming launches, new promotional programs, new competitors and other challenges. The insight provided also allows sales and marketing to correct shortcomings promptly, before problems become so widespread they hamper performance.

The ISA also helps reveal why a product may have underperformed in the marketplace. As a diagnostic tool, the ISA will determine whether the root cause is sales force performance and if so, isolate the area of concern and provide a blueprint for correction. Conversely, if the ISA shows that the sales force has a firm grasp on the product and is selling it properly, marketing knows that the solution lies in reworking the marketing message.

Ultimately, for sales and marketing to work in unison to deliver a single, targeted and effective message, information must flow, unimpeded, from the front lines back to the message crafters. As Sonessa points out, a structured and systematic tool that’s uncomplicated and simple to implement like the ISA can keep those channels open, and help pharmaceutical companies make strides in improving sales and marketing effectiveness.