Getting the Most from Your Sales Teams

September 2019 | By Danielle Hochstein, Ph.D.

It’s not easy getting the most from your sales teams. Organizations are getting better at developing and supporting sales reps to drive sales results. But they still often struggle with the fact that each project, each team and each sales process is different, and therefore requires a fresh look at how to shape the environment to best support the sales reps.

Getting the most from your sales teams

The good news is, in every sales situation there are some core elements you can look at to get the real sales performance you need. No matter how sales methodologies change over time, these core elements remain tried and true.

To get optimal sales results, you need:

  • Well-aligned sales reps and leaders focused on the same targets across regions
  • Consistent use of sales tools and methods
  • Smart use of existing data in deciding how to approach customers and choose territories
  • Consistent communication between national sales leaders and regional managers, and between regional managers and their reps
  • A focus on sales reps’ “leading behaviors” which are critical to the right focus during customer interaction (leading behaviors generate the lagging results you want)

Let’s illustrate these points through a client case: A national team from six diverse sales regions was tasked with selling a drug to health care professionals (HCPs). All the right elements seemed to be in place, and the sales reps and managers were highly motivated to sell. Results weren’t bad—but for some reason, they weren’t getting peak performance.

What was going on? The overall national sales team was new, but it was assumed these highly experienced leaders could jump-start sales performance.  Then we noticed differences in their approaches and tools. Each leader focused on what they knew best, rather than aligning with other regional managers or encouraging sales reps to communicate across territories and regions.

The client realized they needed a better understanding of existing experiences and application methods in the field, so that core competencies and frameworks for training and development could be clearly defined.

Data and metrics are key in all sales, especially pharma. This client knew they had the right data and metrics tracking and reporting in place. What they didn’t always have were structured conversations focused on the critical few Key Performance Indicators that drive results.

Existing data and KPIs could be interpreted in multiple ways, and we realized that some regions were missing opportunities because sales reps didn’t know how to analyze the data the right way and draw accurate conclusions.

Also see Pharmaceutical Sales KPIs – The Secret To Your Sales Team’s Success

We worked with the client to simplify dashboards, while providing clear guidance on how to evaluate and take action on KPI progress.

Not focusing properly on KPIs also meant that regional managers weren’t coaching their sales reps on the critical few behaviors needed to drive sales results. Managers were coaching their reps on sales performance, but what they were not doing was asking these important questions:

  • Using what we know from data and our observations—and if we could improve just a few business-critical behaviors—what would be the most valuable behavior changes for each rep or team of reps?
  • How will we know these behavior changes are happening?
  • How will we give feedback to individuals and teams?
  • How can we develop these specific skills and competencies across regions?

Clearly answering these questions enabled the client to make decisions on development opportunities and hold continuous improvement conversations at the front line, during regional sales manager meetings, and at higher leadership levels. 

The impact was visible quickly:

  • The client realigned the sales force on critical behaviors and results, while supporting more focused field coaching conversations.
  • There was improved communication across regions and sales reps, including faster feedback loops on challenges and best practices.
  • Weekly sales team meetings became more effective and potential sales performance challenges could be proactively managed.
  • Overall engagement and motivation of the workforce was higher than ever.
  • The client avoided an anticipated seasonal performance dip, a key outcome we strived to achieve.

These challenges were not unusual. But given the fast-paced, high-performance environment, the client needed outside support to move forward quickly and effectively without interrupting day-to-day business.

Want to learn more about developing a powerful pharmaceutical sales organization? Click the button below to download our free whitepaper, 4 Critical Steps to Becoming a High-Performing Pharmaceutical Sales Organization.

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Topics: Pharmaceutical Sales