How do your reviews stack up?

September 1, 1998

Pharmaceutical Representative

Do your homework to make your performance reviews count.

In most pharmaceutical companies, front-line managers are asked to conduct regular reviews of each sales representative's performance. Although the frequency and structure of these reports vary from company to company, they are commonly essential tools that companies use to award an annual raise or assess a sales rep's potential for future career opportunities.

Performance appraisals, therefore, are very important for sales reps. If a sales rep does not know the structure of the performance appraisal process, or the timing of the performance appraisal, for instance, he or she must take initiative and get that information from his or her supervisor.

Not surprisingly, performance appraisals can be anxiety-filled events for sales reps. Many have no idea what to expect, or how their managers are going to rate their performance for the year. What sales reps may not realize, however, is that the process often creates anxiety and frustration on the part of the manager as well.

Fortunately, much of this mutual anxiety can be alleviated if a sales rep follows a few basic steps during the year to assist in the performance appraisal process.

Preparation

Pharmaceutical sales reps should ask their managers and themselves, "What can I do to ensure that the performance appraisal process is accurate and offers an opportunity for career development?"

Preparation is the key to successful performance and to a successful performance appraisal. Before the year begins, the sales rep must know what criteria are going to be evaluated during the performance appraisal. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes that sales reps and managers make is failing to agree on the criteria for successful performance prior to a new year.

Most companies use one or more of the following categories to evaluate their sales representatives: sales performance and development.

All companies are concerned about sales, and in the pharmaceutical business, sales can be measured in a variety of ways. Annual dollar volume, product dollar volume, percentage increase over previous year, percent of quota, market share and other factors are all measurements that pharmaceutical companies use to evaluate sales performance.

Also, front-line managers are frequently just as concerned with how a sales rep is generating sales as with how much a sales rep is generating. Managers are asked to evaluate sales skills, territory management, teamwork and a variety of other criteria surrounding performance. In addition, many companies expect their employees to be more valuable to the company in the next year than they are in the current one. These companies are asking sales reps to take responsibility for their professional growth and development. When preparing for performance discussions, be sure to discuss all criteria that will be evaluated.

High-performance sales reps reach an agreement with their managers about how they will be evaluated so that they can set goals that will satisfy the company's requirements for their performance.

Remember, sales managers never complain about reps who are prepared for an appraisal.

Goals

Pharmaceutical sales is a profession driven by goals. Sales reps have goals that are provided by their companies, such as quotas. In addition, many successful sales reps write down goals that exceed or go beyond the goals that the company provides. Once a sales rep understands the expectations of his or her manager, he or she can establish and pursue those goals to meet those expectations.

Research has shown that 85% of people who write down their goals achieve them. Goals should be shared with a sales rep's supervising manager. This allows the manager to recognize that a sales rep is very serious about his or her performance. By writing down and sharing goals, a sales rep has already demonstrated that he or she intends to be a high-performing employee. The sale rep is letting his or her manager know that he or she intends to be accountable for the accomplishment of established goals.

Communicate results

The final step in the performance appraisal process is communicating which goals are being accomplished and which goals are proving difficult to achieve.

First of all, it is a mistake to wait until the end of the year to tell a manager about the accomplishment of goals. Celebrate victories and successes with the manager all year long.

Second, keeping records of achieved goals is important for a successful performance appraisal. Otherwise, sales reps and managers forget all of the things that they have done between performance appraisals. A file of accomplishments allows a sales rep to recall all of his or her accomplished goals during the year. Bringing these accomplishments to the performance appraisal meeting is something a sales rep can do to demonstrate that he or she has met established goals.

Still anxious?

Feedback about performance should be a very motivational event. A sales rep has the opportunity to review all that he or she has accomplished during the past year and the chance to demonstrate how he or she has contributed to a company's success.

If a sales rep prepares well for his or her performance appraisal, then that rep will be in control of his or her success or failure, and the quality and results of the annual performance appraisal. PR

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