Keep It Simple: Improving Sales Force Effectiveness
Having an effective sales force is crucial in the increasingly complex global pharma industry. Adam Wood, Training & Sales Excellence at Bayer’s Global Marketing Operations talks with us about how a simple approach to SFE and solid strategy helps to improve the effectiveness of sales teams.
Understanding the local environment is critical to ensuring that sales forces can be better aligned to match the current healthcare setting. This includes looking at the pertinent issues relating to sales forces and then providing training on these topics. For example, today’s complex global pharma sector involves more stakeholders and more channels for sales forces to work through. Wood says that asales force needs to know how to deal with multiple stakeholders and this should be specific to each healthcare system.
Engaging both external and internal stakeholders to come in and talk with a sales force is highly valuable for sharing knowledge and business intelligence and identifying which marketing channels to pursue. Also crucial is building a clear picture of different sales channels. It is about collecting the right information and using it in the right way. “We should be improving our ability to capture the essence of the information about who is accessing different channels and feeding this back to the sales force,” comments Wood.
There is still a traditional silo mentality out there which we should try and break down to promote a more collaborative approach.
I asked Wood if he thought the kind of collective and cooperative approach he is talking about is happening enough in the pharma industry at the moment. “No, I don’t think this always happens, there is still a traditional silo mentality out there which we should try and break down to promote a more collaborative approach.” I questioned whether he considered that external groups, such as patients and HCP, were supportive of this kind of more intensive engagement: “When given the opportunity to be involved at this kind of level, I have seen that external groups seem to really appreciate being listened to.”
In a more complex industry it is important to be clear and focused about where the sales force should be directing their efforts. “We need to break down the environment and identify the key areas to target”, says Wood. Doing this effectively means that the best way to interact with customers can be pinpointed so they can be kept informed of the benefits of the medication and any other important or relevant points.
An integral part of ensuring the targeting is relevant is being customer-focused. There is a change underway as to how the industry defines customers, and it is essential that this is done properly, such as whether they are a HCP, insurer, government or patient, explains Wood. He says being customer-focused needs to be based on value creation as well crafting a superior experience for the customer. Having simple, well-defined KPI’s for the sales force is critical to achieving this, and ultimately effectiveness.
Effectiveness to me means making the most of our execution. Don’t focus on too many things.
So how does Wood think that the industry can up its game and achieve better outcomes from spend on SFE? In the more mature pharma markets that are geographically-isolated, such as Australia, where Wood worked for a period before taking on a more global role, the focus tends to be more hands-off. Efforts are generally directed to some of the larger, complex markets like the UK, and the developing countries that need more support but also offer more opportunities. He sees that in terms of SFE in the large, more complex countries it is best not to become overawed by the complexity and to target specific areas, “Effectiveness to me means making the most of our execution. Don’t focus on too many things.” For maximum effect, Wood recommends identifying key areas and executing as perfectly as possible. “Then you should be able to free up more time to get a little fancier around the edges of these key strategies.” Essentially it is about constantly coming back to the main priority areas that drive a business, before tackling anything more complex. For SFE in emerging markets, the same principle can be applied but at a different level.
Ultimately, Wood believes that the key to Sales Force Effectiveness is maintaining a simple focus on strategies and executing these well. “It is not rocket science, but it can be really difficult to execute well”. And some advice for working in the emerging markets? “Don’t be afraid to look at other countries, see what strategies have worked and then adopt the parts that are relevant – you don’t need to reinvent the wheel in this industry to be effective.”
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