Each year at the LTEN Conference, we have the pleasure of collaborating with some of the most progressive business leaders in life sciences – many of them Qstream customers. Last week’s annual conference in Phoenix did not disappoint.
Our colleague Nancy Pratt was joined by execs from Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, B. Braun Medical and Pacira Pharmaceuticals for a discussion on the linkages between sales training and business outcomes. Here are some highlights:
Align Objectives, Align Outcomes
For sales development initiatives to be successfully aligned with business outcomes, trainers must first possess a deep understanding of the business. Everything in the annual plan must ultimately tie back to revenue goals. Challenges to this arise for even the best trainers, however, when management itself can’t identify the behaviors and outcomes they’re looking for.
The best advice? Don’t settle. If you can’t get the training program that you want and need, don’t do it, offered one panelist. “Hurried dog-and-pony shows aren’t real world. It’s not practical, and it’s set up for failure. Get the time, fight for it.” To succeed, trainers need to establish properly planned workshops, ensuring that reps can apply new information and behaviors on the job – otherwise, you’re just checking off a training box.
In many instances, this investment of time and planning can inform not only the development and mission of training teams, but practically guarantee success. For example, one panelist’s organization identified a segment of customers – large, very sophisticated, integrated delivery networks – where they were underperforming in revenue.
The business team then spent six months speaking with customers to understand why their reps weren’t getting in to see clients, and why sales reps were not aligned on messaging. As a result of their findings, the team adapted their capability model to identify the required skills for reps calling on those specific customers.
Once established, they took the new model to training team and said, “Okay, let’s understand how we build a better sales rep to be more relevant, talk about total cost of care, quality metrics, meaningful use, etc.” Not only was the team able to build the training prospectively for that need, but they had a performance yardstick as well.
Reinforce the Skills That Matter Most
Without a formal reinforcement strategy, sales reps coming through even the most informed training programs find that new information begins to decay quickly. For each of the panelists, mobile technology, particularly iPads, tablets and smartphones, have provided an answer to the challenge of keeping core selling skills top of mind, and measuring what reps know. And, Qstream can help.
“I don’t want to sell the advantage of mobile apps, but it’s actually amazing because it can be used to tell each manager – whether they’re in Florida or California or Texas –what the knowledge gaps of their teams are, ” said one panelist. This can make a huge difference when teams do regional meetings and POAs, allowing them to know in advance the knowledge and skills that need to be addressed.
The system also [lets] you slice and dice data in meaningful ways. For example, sales development can use the data to compare the knowledge and performance of senior reps vs. new reps; or clinical educators vs. medical affairs. The use of mobile technology is “just an amazing way to get them to engage. We’ve had 100% participation because [reps] just love it. And, the managers love it because they get that data set.”
Yet for some, even technology can’t replace the impact of a good old-fashioned sales coach. “I think the single most important ‘reinforcer’ is the person who does the sales reps’ appraisals. You’ve got to get them involved and make sure that they’re supporting the message and the alignment of strategy, ” concluded one panelist.
Indeed, ensuring that sales managers understand and are highly involved in achieving training objectives (and not just in the back of the room on their computers) is one of the best ways to achieve the results you seek!
Thank you to the following panelists for their contributions to this LTEN discussion:
- Connie Murray - Director, Sales Training & Development, B. Braun Medical
- Keith Willis - Associate Director, Cardiovascular Sales & Access Learning, Bristol-Myers Squibb
- John Park – Senior Director, Learning & Development, Pacira Pharmaceuticals
- Matt Portch - Senior Director & Team Leader Commercial Effectiveness, Pfizer