How to get marketers and reps to work together

Pharma consultant Allan Dick on how to bridge the gap between sales strategy formation and sales strategy implementation Poor patient adherence is a well-documented problem for the pharmace

Pharma consultant Allan Dick on how to bridge the gap between sales strategy formation and sales strategy implementation

Poor patient adherence is a well-documented problem for the pharmaceutical industry.

But what about poor rep adherence?

According to Allan Dick, a pharma consultant and former business unit director at sanofi-aventis, sales reps often fail to adhere to marketing strategies, which can hurt both sales and marketing performance.

There is a lot of leakage between the strategy that marketers design and the strategy that sales teams implement, Dick told the audience at eyeforpharmas Marketing Excellence and Analytics conference in Sydney, Australia.

Communication breakdowns between marketing teams and sales managers are partly to blame.

Limited contact between reps and managers also contributes to the problem.

In large countries like the US or Australia, reps are geographically isolated from the head office and thus discouraged from stopping by frequently due to travel time.

The result is few field accompaniment days and plenty of freedom to divert from corporate strategy.

We generally hire intelligent, independent, entrepreneurial sales representatives, said Dick.

As a result, they sometimes think they know best and go out and modify the strategy.

A 2007 IMS audit of sanofi-aventis in Australia revealed that 40 percent of rep calls contained a product name but no message.

Most of the remaining 60 percent of calls were off-message and reflected a strategy that had been discontinued a year previously.

As an industry, we try to fix problems through process, said Dick, but often the problem is cultural. In this case, its both.



Building understanding with the sales team


If youre a marketer who has spent months devising a brilliant strategy, you may be tempted to tell a sales rep to Just do it!

But that doesnt work, Dick said.

The first thing you have to recognize is that you are actually powerless, he explained.

You have no positional power to get the representatives to implement the strategy as you see it.

The key, therefore, is to build understanding with the sales team through shared information.

Spend time explaining the analysis, market research, clinical information, and examples of best practice.

A lot of reps believe that a product manager goes into a darkened room and just makes the strategy up, said Dick.

And therefore, being just as clever, those reps can go into a darkened room and make it up as well.

At bi-annual sales meetings, sales reps and managers should be required to present new strategies so they understand the complexities behind the strategies and own the overall message.

Its not just a case of showing them slides but actually letting people process it and debate it, Dick said.



Integrating sales managers


In 2001, Dick researched where most strategy leaks occur between the marketers desk and the customers ear.

First, he interviewed sales managers and asked them for the key messages related to product X.

Then he interviewed the reps, and finally the customers.

The results were conclusive: leakage started at the top with the sales managers.

As marketers, if you dont get the sales managers to buy into the strategy, youre going to get magnified leakage from the representatives, Dick said.

One solution is to select sales managers who understand strategy and consistently implement strategy, as opposed to elevating your best reps into managerial roles.

Another solution is to cross-integrate.

Take marketers, where qualified, and make them sales managers, and take sales managers and make them marketers.

Youll find this increases understanding for good strategy implementation, said Dick, and youll get complimentary strengths in your sales team as well.



Commitment pays


Dicks final advice for closing the gap between strategy formation and strategy implementation is commitment.

Sales teams are acutely aware, he said, of how committed a marketing team is to its success.

Several years ago, Dick created Survey Monkey questionnaires to gauge sales team satisfaction levels.

The surveys asked sales managers, GP reps, and spec reps to rate overall customer service, responsiveness, clarity of messages, quality and quantity of promotional material, and so on.

The surveys, which were collected prior to sales meetings so as not to skew results, revealed a strong correlation between level of support from marketing and strategy adherence.

If the sales team believed the marketing team was doing a great job for them, funny enough, they actually implemented the strategies well, said Dick.

Cycle strategy cards are a particularly useful resource for sales reps.

They shouldnt be thick, heavy training manuals, but lightweight reminders that can slide into a glove box or coat pocket while covering the key objectives and selling messages of the strategy.

In most things in life, you get what you focus on, said Dick.

If you focus on messaging and performance appraising, it will improve.

For more on reps, see Sales force effectiveness: are reps still relevant?


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