Getting Everyone On Board

March 3, 2008
Marylyn Donahue
Successful Product Manager's Handbook

Pharma spends lots of time and money training sales forces. How did Allergan decide it should do the same for product managers?

A product manager's training course can be the most creative, innovative, and custom-designed program ever to come down the pipeline, but it will die on the vine without executive support and the sponsorship of commercial-business-unit group leaders.

Jim Trunick

So how did Allergan, in a period of two years, manage to get everyone it needed on board to develop and implement the impressive Product Manager's Resource Center (PMRC) (see "Everything A Product Manager Needs To Know But Might Not Know Enough To Ask")? Pharmaceutical Executive recently asked PMRC's codevelopers—Jim Trunick, Allergan's senior director of corporate training and development, and Alexandra Barton, senior manager of human resources—what they did to make it happen and what advice they would give other companies that might like to do something similar.

Q: How did you get the support to make PMRC happen?

Alexandra Barton: We basically went around to each of our VPs in sales and marketing and talked with them about the program. And we built a budget. We outlined the whole program—the advantages, the purpose, the objectives, who would be our primary audience—and then we got their feedback. Then we went to our North American management-team meeting, and along with one of our marketing directors, Jim Trunick and I presented a proposal.

One of the things I think the organization realized is that we spend a lot of time training and developing our sales force, but we don't always give that type of attention to our product managers.

We saw the program as another way for us to get out there, to make sure that people start off with really clear job expectations and that the training that they get—whether they're in a neuroscience division, an eye-care division, or a facial-aesthetics division—is going to be consistent.

Alexandra Barton

Jim Trunick: That part is really important, because we built this with small task forces of Allergan managers and directors for each segment. They would build, edit, approve, and support. In that way, it became company specific.

Barton: In terms of the selling process and how we created the learning modules, we actually took it "on the road." After we got approval from our North American team and our Allergan Medical Management team, which is the aesthetic side of our business, we held sessions with all of our directors of marketing. Jim and I actually did about three to five of these "road shows," where we had everybody come in to make sure that we could maximize people's calendars and gave them sufficient exposure to what Product Manager Resource Center is. We gave them a live demo. We showed them some of the exercises. We passed out our Leader's Guide. We made sure that they had enough time to ask questions so they could really understand what the tools are and what their folks would be using.

Q: What would you say is the value of a project manager's training program like this?

Trunick: As the impact of a sales rep-resentative is getting more and more challenging—particularly in the areas of primary care and other specialties—we've got to be more creative. We've got to be more dynamic. We've got to be more responsive and more reactive and/or even creative.

I think there's a lot of people looking back to the marketing departments and saying, "How and what can we possibly do to get better in this segment?" And they're looking at their talents and realizing they've had minimal or less-than-adequate development to take on some of the challenges that are in the marketplace right now.

There was status quo in the marketing departments for a long time. It worked. It worked very well. There's been a lot of success in the pharma markets over the past couple decades, and those markets have continued to be very successful. There hasn't been a reason to go out on a branch. But now there is.

Q: What is the most important thing you need to implement this kind of program?

Trunick: The support of the people in the marketing departments and above them. It becomes very important to the company to support its marketing people. There's a lot of off-the-shelf or outside-consultant-type trainings, but it is hard to know what you're getting because it's not tied back to the company's culture, or the company. If you really want to make a difference in your company's ability to market, you need to collect the best thinking and the best practices of your marketing teams and shape them into a format that can be interactive. Then you can begin to model what you want your marketing culture to look like. Right now, overall, it's fragmented. Some groups are upsizing, some are downsizing, and the entire marketplace is getting ready to be turned on its ear the next couple of years. You're really going to lay out who and what you want your team to be.

Barton: It is a competitive advantage for us, too. When new product managers are interviewing with us, we can talk about these types of programs. It supplies us with a really robust career ladder, along with other development tools. I've been really impressed with Allergan. There's a tremendous amount of sponsorship that I think speaks volumes.