Nobody Does it Better - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Nobody Does it Better
Keeping district managers in the field is just one way to keep your sales force productive. by Rick Rosenthal and Rayna Herman .


Pharmaceutical Executive


Barriers to Effectiveness Through company-provided training, intuition, or personal experience, effective DMs understand what tactics drive sales and can effectively implement them. Their approaches include conducting more two-day work sessions, providing broad coaching support outside of field days, and taking prompt and aggressive action on poor performers. Other DMs face three key challenges to implementing effective approaches:

  • Administrative work cuts into field time.
  • Mirrored geographies—in which multiple reps sell the same products to the same customers in the same zip codes—and co-promotion blur rep accountability for results.
  • Underdeveloped coaching and performance management skills limit impact on rep development.


Where Are Your DMs?
On average, DMs spend a quarter of their time conducting field visits, which they recognize is not enough. So what gets in the way? Time spent at company meetings, analyzing district business, responding to e-mail, completing required reports, recruiting, training, conference calls, travel, special projects, realignments, technology issues, preparation for district meetings, and so on. The most effective DMs find ways to minimize these challenges. They rapidly dispense with administrative requirements, quickly deduce business trends from key reports, conduct travel efficiently, and push back on field time conflicts. But other DMs need more help. (See "Where Are Your DMs?")

External co-promotions and mirrored territories also create significant challenges for DMs, who may find themselves with multiple DM "partners" overlapping their district. Or, they may have one partner with reps, products, and target lists mirroring their own. In the first case, it quickly becomes impractical to engage with all partners, and in the second case, it becomes difficult to accurately assign credit (or blame) for business results. After all, accurate performance assessment drives ownership.


DMs Self-Assessment
DMs recognize that developing reps begins with delivering feedback, and they struggle with this aspect of their job. Perhaps the easiest situation DMs encounter is when they observe reps performing well. But, only 71 percent of DMs believe they are highly skilled in providing positive feedback. If almost one-third of DMs are insecure about their ability to deliver positive feedback, then less comfortable settings are sure to present challenges. (See "DMs' Self-Assessment”)

In fact, only 47 percent of DMs self-assess that they are proficient at providing negative feedback, and only 55 percent perceive that they "manage poor performers" well. Poor performers drain a DM's time and energy—and they deliver poor sales results. Consider a territory with a $6 million quota: 90 percent goal attainment (poor performance) costs $50,000 every month in lost sales. To resolve that problem, a DM needs to invest time in coaching and performance management, and potentially recruit, hire and train a replacement. Prompt and effective action on poor performers can mitigate the cost to the organization.

Regional Relief Increasing DM effectiveness requires organizational commitment—sales training and management development, regional management, and senior sales management all contribute.


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