The pharmaceutical industry has a rich history of investment in sales—not just in the quantity or size of a company’s sales force, but also in the quality, motivation and enablement of reps and managers. [ZS Associates, 2016]
The salesforce remains one of the highest areas of investment in the pharma industry, and the return is understandably evaluated and reviewed. Now that size no longer matters, sales effectiveness is ever more critical. Sales Force Effectiveness [SFE], is all about keeping ahead of the curve of shifting market dynamics and customer needs while increasing productivity and improving effectiveness. All of this requires an evolution beyond the traditional SFE focus areas which were based on:
- Resource Allocation
- Segmentation and targeting
- And Measurement
New focus areas are emerging including:
- Data-driven decisions including real-time data and actions,
- Planning and executing content and event-driven interactions,
- Enhancing the customer experience through integrated channel strategies,
- And adapting our approach to customer channel preferences.
Deep-diving into sales force data is both interesting and challenging. We need to understand the relationship between sales and various components including training, call frequency and coverage, remote vs. face to face calls, behaviours of top-performing reps vs. low performing reps, etc., if we want to better understand what is driving or blocking our growth.
But let’s not forget that behind these numbers, figures and graphs are human beings who are trying to do a good job and want to be successful. Human beings whose behaviour is driven by emotions, motivation and ambitions. The sales force is the most examined and analysed group of people in the pharma company. Their performance is on display to more than their manager through lead tables; incentive calculations; infield ride-alongs by HO personnel; industry monitors; and sometimes even development/ assessment centres.
Performance Measurement and Performance Management
We may wonder how to balance the measurement of the field force performance with the management of their performance.
Common SFE measures of performance include:
- Calls per day
- Calls per target
- Messages delivered per call
- eDetails per call
- Cost per call
- Sales per rep
- Coaching days per rep
One can believe that the higher numbers of sales calls by reps, will equate to greater sales. The common assumption is that 6-8 calls on the same target are required to change behaviour. But is this metric even valid in our multichannel information-rich-accessible world?
It is easy to set and review the number of calls per day per target, and the activity level can be compared against results such as sales and market share. A sales rep with a poorly performing territory might even be encouraged to increase their call volume to drive the numbers back up.
However, what about call quality? ‘Call frequency per day’ metric ignores the fact that the quality of the call impacts the outcomes. Call frequency favours non-targeted or easy to see HCPs. It suggests that the most important thing is getting a call, no matter what happens in the call. Service calls, such as sampling or dropping off an invitation are an easy way to get your call numbers up! With integrated channels such as call centres, website self-servicing, email marketing etc., actual sales of a brand might not necessarily be directly related to the number of calls made.
This is where performance management comes into play. How do we help the rep achieve the efficiency and effectiveness objectives we have set? How do we ensure they have the skill and will to do so?
The ‘orchestrator rep’ can do so much more: drive traffic to other channels like websites, patient programs, educational meetings, webcasts and self-details. What must we put in place to ensure the rep behaviours are aligned to this multi-channel strategy? What new skills are required, and what will make this evolved role motivating to the rep?
The balancing act then is to be sure we have set and communicated a clear strategy with SMART objectives metrics and are managing the skill and will of our reps to deliver.
A well-defined strategy and KPIs will help us to know how well we are tracking toward the achievement of our objectives. An overall performance management approach will ensure the reps have the skills to be effective in delivering on the objectives, as well as the will to evolve and to achieve the desired results.
Article Contributor: Melanie Brown, Managing Partner
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The Actando Consulting Team