Sales Management: The X Factor - Pharmaceutical Executive


Sales Management: The X Factor
Pharmas are developing incentive programs to keep Gen X sales reps motivated and productive.

Pharmaceutical Executive

For example, a pharmaceutical company had been using deluxe travel as an incentive for top sales people. The program had been successful, but needed to be updated. So, the company decided to give its high achievers 60 seconds to run through a warehouse full of electronics, jewelry, and sports items and collect whatever they wanted. The program has proven so popular, it has been repeated every year.

Programs that incorporate the latest technologies are especially well received. One example is to offer a quiz online and design it as a game with the chance to receive higher-value awards. A company recently launching a new product used an online quiz to kick off an incentive program, with the opportunity to receive an award that was tied to the program theme. The program achieved 100 percent participation in a short time frame. Another pharma company increased its award options and its access to performance reporting through a more robust Web site for reps. Participation increased 50 percent, appealing to Gen Xers' desire for control and feedback. Managers can also develop interactive e-cards and e-certificates that are individually customized for each employee.

Contrary to popular belief, cash isn't necessarily the award that leads to peak performances for Gen Xers or other reps. In a SITE Foundation-sponsored study described in the paper "The Benefits of Tangible Non-Monetary Incentives," researcher Scott Jeffrey found that what employees say they want doesn't always match up with what they work hardest to achieve. Non-cash awards can motivate reps to improve their performance. Popular options include funding college tuition or donating to charity.

Better Ways to Communicate

There are many communications vehicles that can be utilized to maximize understanding, reinforce messages, and provide immediate, on-going communication. Maritz Poll's research on incentive programs found that 44 percent of respondents receive communications regarding incentive program guidelines only at the start of the program. Only one third of these respondents said they were happy with their program. In contrast, 66 percent who received communications weekly were happy.

Gen Xers prefer a sense of control and want to feel directly involved in their progress and growth. Managers should be sure incentive programs provide answers to the following questions: What do you want me to do? Why is it important? How do you want me to do it? How will I know if I am doing it well? What is in it for me?

Also, thinking in short terms—quarters or trimesters—during the design stage can address Gen Xers' desire for immediate feedback. Keeping annual programs energized with spurt programs, such as offering double points or a weekend trip for sales of a product, can give them a sense of instant gratification.

Generation X sales reps hold an important key to driving a pharma company's bottom line. As managers look to decode what motivates these reps, it is critical to offer targeted awards, ongoing communications, and feedback.

What About Everyone Else?

Gen X isn't the only generation to consider in your incentive planning. The ideal would be to know which awards best motivate each employee, but that's not practical in a large organization. Short of tailoring programs to every individual, the following "generational generalizations" are the best ways to make sure a program fits most of your participants.

Traditionalists, aka the Silent Generation

Age 60s to 70s

Rewards desired: Satisfaction of a job well done. Awards that may speak to this group include entertainment and travel, home and health-related items, plus things they can share with others. This group might not splurge on themselves but they spend millions on grandkids.

Feedback desired: No news is good news.


Age mid 40s to late 50s

Rewards desired: Money, title, better schedule, more seniority. Travel awards work well in this group. Boomers value health and wellness, personal growth, and involvement. Luxury and health-related items should appeal to many in this segment. Feedback desired: Once a year, with lots of documentation, they want to see appreciation from the company for their contribution.

Gen X

Age mid 20s to mid 40s

Rewards desired: Freedom and a balanced lifestyle; choice is power. Look for awards that enhance time with family and friends—things for the home and products that keep them in touch, such as cell phones and PDAs. Also consider the "cool" factor when choosing awards for this group. Feedback desired: Instant, immediate.

Millennials, aka known as Generation Y

Age mid teens to mid 20s

Rewards desired: Sometimes known as the "entitlement generation," this group is looking for work with meaning for "me." Make sure they understand the work they are doing is important, and recognize them for doing it. They value diversity, empowerment, and flexibility. This group is heavily influenced by peers and interested in brands that are hip and popular with their age group—not heavily commercialized brands. They want items to be highly customized to their preferences—colors, features, etc. Feedback desired: Want it from a virtual coach at the push of a button.


Larry Laws of Maverick Sales and Rick Rose of Dendrite International joined the board of advisors at iAdvantage. Laws will be the chairman. Rebecca Hayes joined Schwartz Group as project manager of audience generation services. Her responsibilities will comprise CME and Promotional Medical Meeting attendance generation. David A. Arkowitz, chief financial officer of Idenix Pharmaceuticals, joined the board of Impact Rx. Quintiles


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