5 Critical Leadership Behaviors That Make Pharmaceutical Sales Leaders Successful

November 2017 | By Danielle Hochstein, Ph.D.

leadership-compass.jpgPharmaceutical sales leaders who are known to get results know there are critical leadership behaviors that¬¬ improve their ability to excel in their role. These leaders understand that strong sales performance is correlated with sales leaders engaging with their organization and the teams they lead in the right way at the right time.

Here are five critical leadership behaviors exhibited by successful pharmaceutical sales leaders.

Leadership Behavior #1: Define Strategy Clearly, For Everyone

Successful pharmaceutical sales leaders know that a solid strategy is key to growth. These leaders start by understanding the current state of their sales organization and mapping that state against the desired future state. Based on the identified strengths and gaps, successful sales leaders develop a strategy to build on strengths, close existing gaps, and prevent future potential barriers from developing.

A big part of developing a strategy is defining what leaders at all levels and employees need to do to help translate the strategy into action. Effective pharma sales leaders therefore define the critical few behaviors required of everyone to reach the desired state in the near and long-term. That means focusing in on the critical few actions that will get maximum momentum for the organization.

While defining the actions is important, it is just as important to ensure that all leaders and employees are aligned on clear goals and objectives. Goals, objectives and actions that are customized for each group or even for individuals enable pharmaceutical sales leaders to have the right regular dialogues with their team about progress made toward accomplishing execution of the strategy. This also empowers leaders to reinforce positive trends and to remove any barriers that pop up during execution.

Leadership Behavior #2: Be a Master Collaborator

Strong pharmaceutical sales leaders must collaborate across many different areas and functions of the organization. Today, departments and functions are increasingly interconnected, and cross-team collaboration is vital to individual sales success.

To collaborate successfully, pharmaceutical sales leaders exercise empathy, taking the time to ask, understand and actively show an interest in the positions of departments and functions outside of their own. Demonstrating empathy as a first step is about finding out about the motivations, concerns and interests of others, and not being driven by one’s own expectations or experiences to paint the picture.

It is just as important to ensure that other teams understand the situation and needs of the sales organization and leader. Successful pharmaceutical sales leaders are master collaborators who strike right balance between sharing and listening, while looking for opportunities to improve collaboration at every step.

Leadership Behavior #3: Demonstrate Decisiveness

Pharmaceutical sales reps out in the field look to their leaders to make quick decisions and to provide on-demand direction. The most effective sales leaders are empowered to act swiftly and decisively when questions arise, rather than having to pass all decisions through a long chain of command.

Senior pharma sales leaders must make sure decisiveness and responsiveness are priorities for sales managers and leaders, and should provide regular feedback to their direct reports on how they’re doing in this area.

Leadership Behavior #4: Follow Through on Commitments

This is a simple yet critical point. When pharmaceutical sales leaders actively engage their reps and ask the right questions about support they need, that’s just the first step toward developing a trusting relationship with their team. To truly build trust, sales leaders must also make sure that they follow up on every promise or decision made and that they close the loop on any issues discussed with their reps.

When sales leaders don’t follow through on their commitments, reps don’t feel supported and grow frustrated, which impedes sales performance.

Leadership Behavior #5: Change Seamlessly

For everyone in a pharmaceutical sales organization, there are a variety of internal and external changes to keep up with at any given time. To be successful, it’s critical for sales leaders to be agile and understand when a change of direction is inevitable. Sales leaders need to help their teams understand the need for change, provide the skills and tools required to manage the change and support their teams in prioritizing the change over other initiatives.

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Topics: Leadership, Pharmaceutical Sales