Nobody Does it Better - Pharmaceutical Executive


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

Sales training and management development DMs need help in developing reps. Fundamentals like delivering positive and negative feedback with equal ease and managing poor performers should form the core of training for new DMs.

Regional management Only one in seven regional managers (RM) regularly discusses coaching skills with their DMs—but it needs to be a priority. The discussion should focus on DMs'previous success (or lack of it) to change rep behavior.

The "STAR" framework (Situation-Task/Action-Result) can be useful. A typical dialogue between an RM and DM might look like this:

  • Situation Let's talk about your coaching plan for one of your reps on pre-call planning. What led you to focus on that?
  • Task/Action What specifically did you coach? What was the follow-up plan? What communication did you have with the rep about pre-call planning after the field day?
  • Result Your next plan for this rep doesn't mention pre-call planning. Did you see changes in his pre-call planning? What were they? What are your next steps?

HQ Support
Senior sales management Senior leaders set the tone of the organization. And while there's no set number that defines the ideal resource allocation to sales operations for every company, appropriate budgeting helps to ensure that adequate training, tools, and resources are in place to guide DM's activity—toward spending more days in the field, creating and following up on developmental plans, and addressing performance problems aggressively. (See "HQ Support")

DMs struggle to balance administrative requirements with coaching time, so company leaders need to be aware of the many requests coming at them and push back to minimize their time spent on administration. When the organization needs information from the field, senior leaders must determine the extent of DM involvement required. Perhaps an administrative associate can collect the information, or it can be pulled from a database, or it can be bundled with other requests and handled more efficiently. Maybe the task shouldn't go forward at all. Even when tasks require DM time, they can be streamlined to present less of a field time barrier (a quick voice mail response versus a written report, spreadsheet, or web survey).

Every company experiences a bell curve of performance across positions, and district managers are no exception. How can companies capture the approaches of effective managers and transfer them to others? Education is an important first step, but simply knowing what to do is not the same as doing it. Sales trainers, regional managers, and senior sales managers can work together to equip DMs with the skills and resources necessary to implement effective practices. Organizations that do this well can expect more districts to consistently exceed sales goals.

Rick Rosenthal is a senior consultant and Rayna Herman is a principal at Health Strategies Group in Lambertville, New Jersey. They can be reached at
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