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Pharmaceutical Executive


However, Michael Burgett, former US vice president of operations for QIAGEN Sciences and former vice president and general manager of Ortho's Blood Bank business unit, cautions that overpromising or misinterpreting data can lead to disaster. "Ask yourself if your sales force is aligned with your customers and therefore committing your organization to the most important deliverables," he recommends

One caveat: When looking at data, ask whether or not reps' comments "mirror" those of customers. Members of the sales force are representatives of the brand—they influence service perceptions and play a major role in building relationships. One of the first tests of whether a sales strategy will be successful is how well aligned sales reps are with customers' needs.

3. Focus on Key Performance Drivers

Attempting to raise the performance of your entire sales force is an admirable but costly goal. Unless you're blessed with deep pockets, it's wiser to focus on managing and leveraging the current performance curve for greater sales growth. In every sales group, individual performance varies. Some of the reasons are obvious, as when performance varies by different products or territories, across different demographic groups, or in reps with shorter tenure or less experience. Some less obvious drivers of sales performance are related to "People Equity."

Research has demonstrated, over and over again, that star performers have a high degree of People Equity. That is, they possess three key performance drivers:
They are in Alignment with the overall sales strategy.
They possess the Capabilities—the knowledge, skills, information, and resources—that customers need and expect.
They have a high degree of Engagement with their job, their function, and the company as a whole.

Strategic alignment is crucial in optimizing performance. Misalignment leads to higher costs and customer dissatisfaction. For example, one Metrus study found that by aligning company and sales strategy with sales reps' skills, process, and speed of execution, customer defections were cut in half and productivity increased dramatically. Being aligned freed up 25 percent of reps' time, allowing them to call on more target customers, use customer time more wisely, and conduct more effective follow-up calls.

Capabilities include not only the ability to close a sale, but the ability to access information and resources when the customer wants them. Pharmaceutical reps who possess good sales skills but lack the information that doctors want will fail at the moment of truth. Capabilities must all come together at the right time.

Henry Cohen, senior vice president of human resources for Orasure Technologies and former executive with Johnson & Johnson, looks for sales reps who have "a need to work and win, in addition to their strong capabilities." This is engagement—the vital energy that salespeople bring to the equation. Engaged employees are not quietly satisfied with their job; they think and act like ambassadors for the organizations they work for, expressing their enthusiasm to colleagues, customers, and anyone else who will listen.

A gap in alignment usually means "working hard" instead of "working smart." One VP of sales for an Asia-headquartered pharma says, "We always find time to redo things that haven't been done right the first time, but it's costly." At a time when many pharmaceuticals have restructured and made their sales forces leaner, the alignment dimension is absolutely critical.

Gaps in capabilities usually lead to market damage. Customers may detect these gaps, and such customers become low-hanging fruit for competitors. The degree to which sales reps are—or are not—informed and skilled has a profound effect because they represent the organization on multiple fronts: product knowledge, service, problem-solving, and information assistance.

Gaps in engagement can lead to lower productivity and higher levels of employee and customer turnover. According to Henry Cohen, "Sales managers must be monitors of engagement—they need to monitor disconnects, eliminate the underlying causes, and take action."


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