To increase profitability and boost shareholder return, expensive production extravaganzas and celebrity speakers must take a backseat. Effective meeting planning and management rides shotgun. A key to making this happen is starting the learning relationship with reps prior to the event—and continuing it well after the meeting ends.
This article offers some advice for planners and their partner companies on how to maximize the value of a sales meeting. While this is not a comprehensive list, it offers some tools for boosting pharma companies' investment in sales reps and training initiatives.Real Communication
Most companies spend a substantial amount of money on meeting incentive programs. Attendees often earn points or accumulate raffle tickets throughout the meeting to be "spent" on prizes. There is no reason why companies shouldn't jumpstart these programs in advance to build momentum for the meeting. Attendees will arrive more prepared, and they will have already invested time and interest in learning the information.
Training is becoming an increasingly significant portion of the actual sales meeting. Pre-meeting training can increase the effectiveness of the education delivered at the event. Electronic or distance-learning tools have become a popular and relatively cost-effective way to conduct training, without the need to huddle everyone into one location. Training departments can host these tools on a Web site or distribute interactive DVDs and CDs to reps. Companies also may want to consider live webcast training (with two-way communication between a trainer and trainees in different locations), which can be set up using a handful of laptops and an Internet connection.
Companies should structure their training programs so that they are effective when delivered through the selected medium. In general, e-learning tools are very effective at building knowledge through disease-state and clinical-study training, and product knowledge. This allows companies to use the limited time at live meetings to focus on teaching reps effective selling skills and coaching them on client interactions, customer service, and sales techniques.
Although companies often invest heavily in developing meeting content and materials, opportunities can be lost if no attempt is made after the sales meeting to ensure that what participants learned can be translated into action.
Many executives view their sales goals as something that can be accomplished at the meeting—they assume success immediately after the event, and quickly begin planning the next one. A more effective approach is to view these goals—improved sales, market share, and company image—as things that are jumpstarted at the meeting but not fully realized until post-meeting follow up is complete.