Former GE CEO Jack Welch's no frills—and sometimes cutthroat—approach to business helped him make General Electric a $400-billion
company by the end of his tenure in 2001. Though criticized for his desire to make GE a more competitive company, Welch is
probably most admired for his leadership style. The CEO enjoyed tailored suits, private jets, and an eight-figure salary per
year, but that didn't stop him from sitting face-to-face with a team of 15, 150, or 1,500 employees to talk about what they
needed to do to make GE a better company. He knew the value of his team and customers, and he knew that strong leadership
made for strong employees.
The growing complexity of the healthcare environment demands salespeople who better understand customer needs. In turn, the
industry also demands highly trained managers who understand the needs of their workforce. Amid a greater segmentation in
the marketplace that requires salespeople who have more specialized knowledge about their products and customers, it's now
more important than ever to concentrate on providing proper attention to the regional managers (RMs) and directors (RDs),
a group that companies sometimes neglect. Without great leaders, pharma companies cannot have great sales reps.
For training executives, these challenges mean that pharma's sales organizations need better, and more exacting, training.
To uncover the areas of the biggest need, the Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers (SPBT) and the Hay Group conducted
a study of more than 100 pharma, biotech, and medical device companies in May and June 2005, representing more than $300 billion
in global health revenue and training nearly 90,000 pharma employees (see "Methodology of Study").
Methodology of the Study
This article looks at some of the key trends in learning and development (L&D), including more formalized regional director
training and the use of technology. It also suggests how training departments are adapting to the current challenges and rethinking
their role—now and for the future.
"RM" Is For Role Model
According to the industry's training heads, the scope of L&D departments continues to expand. Take, for example, one marked
reversal of tradition concerning regional director development. Companies now offer—or plan to offer—more formalized training
development programs for regional directors or regional managers.
"We are doing three or four times as much training for RSDs [regional sales directors] as we have in the past, or that I have
seen at other companies," says Steven Rauschkolb, associate vice president, leadership and management development, at Sanofi-Aventis.
"We are covering a wide array of topics, including a thorough review of our core management practices, business acumen, understanding
customer needs, strategic thinking, and the ability to deploy resources strategically."
Eric Otterbein Director of field sales management development, TAP Pharmaceuticals
While many companies have had formal training programs in place for reps and district managers for several years, RMs and
RDs have flown under the radar. Why? The SPBT and Hay Group study found that these tenured, well-compensated managers are
expected to know the business before they get promoted. Still, that doesn't mean RMs and RDs don't need development, says
Eric Otterbein, director of field sales management development at TAP Pharmaceuticals. Companies hope the effort results in
better retention, improved performance, better overall leadership, and higher sales.