Building a high-performance pharma sales team (2)
In the first part of this article, we had written, inter alia, “…the sales and marketing function of any organisation is the only revenue-generating function in a commercial set up. It means, from the foregoing, that for the firm to survive, grow and thrive, its sales personnel must perform well above the break-even point, consistently.” That still stands. It also bears repeating that it is the responsibility of the CSO (chief sales officer), who, in my opinion, should be the CEO. The national sales manager or anyone in that role is just the CSOO (chief sales operations officer)
We also listed and discussed the following issues as germane for building an HPST:
- Setting and communicating clear objectives
- Reward and sanction system must align with your objectives
iii. Celebrating success
- Real-time performance tracking
We will proceed with additional issues (again, not in any particular order)
- a) Product knowledge. Pharmaceutical products are highly technical and require full dose of information to market. I am a strong believer in benefits and information sales, instead of focusing on price sales. Price is relative and variable. Positioning sales strategies on low price is a shortcut approach and is mostly not sustainable in pharmaceuticals. It affects organisations’ bottom line and may present a product as substandard.
Organisations must have a working product or brand department that must ensure staff training and retraining. This unit must work with an avalanche of industry data to ensure that the sales team have the relevant information at all times. It is a sin to send a salesperson to the field without proper and current product knowledge training. One can only liken it to sending a soldier to the battleground without a gun.
- b) Sales commission. This is a dicey terrain that requires diplomacy. Most companies do not like discussing it. Even when discussed, many do not implement it. There are various methods of calculating sales commissions. Adopting an accounting software that is very transparent to all stakeholders is the best choice.
I prefer commission based on per pack sales that is tied to timely payment. Sales commissions must be paid as and when due, to encourage the sales team and reduce the propensity of theft. Sales mark up by the salesperson must be discouraged. Sales commission is what drives a salesperson, not salary; however, a combination of the two is surely a jackpot.
- c) Create and sustain a strong sales culture. According to a recent research by Deloitte, 88 per cent of employees and 94 per cent of executives believe that a distinct corporate culture is important to the success of a business. This is doubly important for a sales team as it is the culture of the team that will motivate and inspire both new and old employees to perform well, stay competitive and maintain high results.
Indeed, given that the survey also found a strong link between employee happiness, job satisfaction and the perceived strength of company culture, it’s vital you put the effort into creating a space where your salespeople feel challenged, valued and supported if you are looking at ways to improve sales performance.
By setting out clear expectations of what you expect from your employees and putting a strong emphasis on hitting goals as a way of measuring performance, you can cultivate a high-energy, productive and competitive atmosphere where salespeople can push themselves to succeed. As sales can be a solitary job, you should invest time in creating a cohesive team through bonding exercises and regular team meetings; after all, the team that supports each other will be stronger as a result.
- Give continuous support. How often do you allow your salespersons access to the existing accounts before hammering on new leads? Imagine a situation where no existing client was transferred to a salesperson on resumption. Imagine where his or her newly established big buyers are confiscated by the head office in the name of “proper handling”, when there is no case of poor channel management. Imagine lack of field coaching and clinical presentation by the management team. In all these scenarios, the sales person is bound to be discouraged and in most cases will be on the lookout for new opportunities in a competing company or eventually leave the sector.
- Continuous Training. What team can improve without the relevant training? There’s a reason why 80 per cent of high-performing sales teams rate their sales training process as outstanding or very good. Regular training sessions can help them develop new skills, helping to lead a sales team to success. Get to grips with the newest technology within the industry and brush up on old skills that might have become a little rusty over time. Get them to practise and use roleplay – preferably with their colleagues – to help them improve their selling skills, as well as occasionally listening to calls to see whether they can improve in any way.
Make the time for coaching or training days, too. Though they might work for a few hours less that week, the benefits they will bring back to the business in terms of skills will be invaluable. High performance sales training doesn’t have to be dull – it actually, can be a lot of fun for all involved.
See this as an opportunity to re-energise your team, equipping your team with new and useful tools