A Sturdy Framework

Feb 01, 2010
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

With the healthcare environment continuing to change, sales managers and sales representatives must understand what drives both their customers' and their own company's profitability and strategic decisions. In response to this change, many pharmaceutical companies are asking field employees to run their sales territories as a business. This requires greater appreciation of costs and the effective management of resources. Thus, there is a need to create business plans that are aligned with corporate and therapeutic area goals.

For a sales manager to become more of a business manager and leader, the company needs to design blended learning solutions that continuously focus on improving decision making, understanding customers' business needs, resource allocation, financial analysis, and strategic thinking. All of these capabilities underscore the business planning process. Additionally, sales managers need the skills to coach and support their direct reports on how to create and execute an effective business plan.

Drawing a Roadmap

Most people realize that effective business planning is critical to achieving results, but implementing a consistent, disciplined process in pharma field organizations is always a challenge. For many field organizations, there is great deal of variability in business plan existence and quality. For other organizations, business planning is viewed as a "check-the-box" activity that yields little insight into opportunities with targeted initiatives.

Wendy L. Heckelman
Another challenge is that few organizations leverage planning as an opportunity to evaluate and allocate the vast array of resources available to sales reps (e.g., samples, leave-behinds, marketing-sponsored programs, field medical time, and senior leadership involvement with key customers). Ideally, the business plan should become the roadmap for success—but often it is filed away with no additional review throughout the year.

Even with these challenges, sales leaders are eager to develop a Business Planning and Resource Allocation Framework to support disciplined planning throughout the field organization. Making business planning a priority:
» Ensures alignment with broader strategic directions and objectives
» Creates greater understanding and appreciation of the "why" behind tactical activities and day-to-day actions
»Allows for appropriate roll-up and review of plans at each level
» Includes steps for ongoing reassessment and fosters necessary adaptation in a changing business environment
» Improves decision making by considering, applying, and deploying the entire resource mix when executing strategies and tactics
» Evidence suggests that sales managers and reps who effectively translate broader strategic initiatives into actionable plans that reflect local market conditions typically outperform their peers. In turn, these individuals should be rewarded for the results achieved by their plans, not just overall sales numbers.

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