There are four generally accepted minimum functions of management: planning, organising, leading and controlling. These functions work together in the creation, execution and realisation of organisational goals. The four functions of management can be considered a process in which each function builds on the previous function. But planning is a key function for management actions and success.
The pharmaceutical industry is not different. In fact, this is the season of planning for sales and marketing leaders, especially if your company runs a January-to-December calendar like most. If you are such a national sales manager, you should be putting finishing touches to your 2023 sales plans.
If you have not started, you are almost late. But the good news is that you might find this piece useful in crafting a robust and practical plan for the next year. If your financial year cycle gives you more time, then you are in luck.
What is planning?
Planning is inevitable for things we are well aware will happen in the future. This is encapsulated in the saying, “By failing to plan, you are planning to fail”. This means that failure to plan is also a plan!
Another feature of planning is that it happens before the execution and result, as exemplified in the saying, “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”
What then is the formal definition of planning? I will describe it as “deciding in advance what to do, how to do it, when to do it and who to do it.” It involves anticipating the future and consciously choosing a future course of action.
According to Haimann, “Planning is the function that determines in advance what should be done”. While a goal is a desired future state that an organisation attempts to realise, planning is the act of determining the organisation’s goals and the means for achieving them.
A plan is a blueprint of action that specifies:
What is to be done, in numbers preferably, and SMART resource and resource allocations actions necessary for attaining goals schedules. Note that planning is goal-oriented, a continuous process forward-looking involves choice directed towards efficiency.
Benefits of planning
The question is, “Why should we plan?” Here is a short-list of benefits:
- Focuses attention on objectives and result
- To determine new opportunities
- Guides decision-making
- To anticipate and avoid future problems
- To develop effective courses of action (strategies and tactics)
- To comprehend and provide for the uncertainties and risks with various options.
- To set standards
Challenges of planning
We must however be aware of the obstacles on the way of proper planning and successful implementation
Lack of accurate information and data. Everyone who has had to plan in Nigeria will easily come against this obstacle. It is even more so in the pharma industry for lack of openness and data gathering cooperation
It costs time and money to do a plan. Both are usually in short supply for sales managers.
Resistance to change by those will run and implement it, as well as those who will be affected by it, as it often requires doing things differently
Lack of ability to plan. Leaders know that effective planning requires knowledge and skills which are not automatically possessed by those whose responsibility it is to plan.
False sense of security – from figures generated and assumptions that have to be made
Environmental constraints, especially from issues outside the control of the planners (remember COVID-19) and policy somersault by governments!
What to plan
Planning is multi-dimensional, certainly with many of the items interlinked and interconnected. It is even important to point out that the sales figures achieved and collections are consequences of the selling process and execution of activities. Sales do not just happen. So, such activities must be planned to guarantee the desired outcome.
Below are items to plan:
Sales: what products, SKUs, categories? What quantities do you want to sell? When? Specific period performance, say per quarter. Better to focus on volume than value/naira. Volume plans are more useful, realistic, accurate and easy to track.
Number of calls per day (doctors, specialists, pharmacists, nurses, hospitals, institutions, wholesalers, key accounts, wholesalers, distributors, etc.)
Types of calls (Healthcare professionals, specialists/consultants, trade, retail, administrators, primary/secondary/tertiary hospitals, public/private, etc.
Events and meetings
Coverage. Would you need to cover new territories? If you want quantum growth, you need to plan to significantly increase your geographical, professional coverage, etc. What new market/target indication do you have in mind? What new products are you putting in the market? Would you need to reduce your product list to a manageable proportion?
Head-count: How many more (or less) reps would you need to achieve your plan/objectives? Do they need training? How many managers would you need to effectively supervise them?
Prospecting and lead generations. To grow (which is compulsory) you need to expand your customer base and get new customers. You need to plan how, how many and where these will come from
Other business-development activities and promotions
Tunde Oyeniran, a sales/marketing strategist, selling/sales management trainer and personal sales coach is the lead consultant, Ekini White Tulip Consulting Limited, Lagos.
We deliver training, recruitment, online CME/medical marketing and field force management solutions.
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