By Karl Tiedemann, Partner, Rosetta
This article originally appeared on the PharmaExecBlog.
Managing the pharma sales force has always been challenging. Reps are spread out geographically, often far from corporate offices, preventing them from taking part in the on-site activities and face-to-face interactions that typically foster a connection to the company. In order to help the sales force achieve their primary goal — educating physicians — they require frequent training and constantly updated information on products, industry news and regulatory changes. Satisfying the information needs of this far-flung group is a challenge that is only exacerbated by reps’ daily schedule — they are on the road all day, then inundated with information and catch-up work when they log in to their computer that evening.
Dumping informational emails and invites to mandatory training sessions on your reps after a long day of visiting busy doctors is exactly the type of “show up and throw up” delivery method that you tell your reps not to use when approaching healthcare providers. We’ve been preaching for years how they need to develop a mutual beneficial relationship with doctors in which the healthcare providers can access the information they want, how and when they want it. So lets focus on ways to enable pharma companies to bring that same level of engagement to their sales force.
Engagement Gets Easier
So what are the components of a great sales enablement solution?
First: Real-time information. No more waiting for the end of the day or trying to find a wi-fi hot spot – content must be delivered to a rep’s smart phone or tablet. This helps them keep up throughout the day, dramatically increasing open rates and ensuring they won’t be caught off guard by a provider more informed than they are on breaking news.
Second: A better user experience. The easier you make it to consume and act on the information, the more likely your reps will be to engage. Just like your customers, sales reps will respond best to communications that are visually appealing, relevant and personal. The information in dense, text-heavy emails is much less likely to be absorbed than material presented in a designed, readable way. Keep in mind that the more targeted your communications, the higher your open rate is likely to be across the board. Do your ophthalmology and gynecology reps really need to be getting all the same information or could you spare them the chore of sifting through material that they won’t need? Likewise, your rep in Newark, New Jersey is looking for different localized information then your rep in Alameda, California.
Third: Connectivity. The life of a sales rep is very isolated. Yes, you are engaging your customers all day long; but you are a team of one. Creating a connectivity, or community within the sales force can help drive competition and collaboration. Socializing best practices, account wins and sales leader stats makes for a motivating and “sticky” community that reps engage with more frequently.
Implementing a Sales Force Engagement Solution
Changing content delivery systems and technology platforms may feel daunting, but the benefits you realize will be directly proportional to the amount of thought you put into the planning ahead of time. There are several questions you should be asking at the very beginning of the process, including:
Will this solution be used by all employees or just sales reps?
Will it supplement or replace current tools such as the company intranet?
What types of content will be sent?
Will the solution provide training?
Will it connect with HR (managing time off, viewing benefits, etc.) and/or compensation systems (sales goals, commissions, etc.)?
What benchmarks will be used to track the success of the program?
This discovery process will help you determine what type of system you need, as well as the best partner to help you achieve your goals.
Who Benefits the Most?
The biggest challenge we’ve seen arise when establishing a sales enablement platform comes from conflicts around departmental ownership and responsibilities, and regulatory restrictions. At its most comprehensive, an employee engagement system combines elements of human resources, training, sales, marketing, compensation, regulatory, corporate communications, and more. With all those different disciplines, there can be disagreements over whose budget will pay for the program, who will manage the logistics, and who will control the content. Establishing the objectives for the platform up front can help identify which department should take the lead and which departments will feed into the process.
Effective sales enablement takes planning and commitment, but if done right, it can reduce turnover, increase productivity, improve recruiting, and drive revenue. In fact, according to a study by the Hay Group, companies with engaged employees had 2.5 times higher revenue than competitors with low engagement levels. If you take care of your reps, they will take care of your bottom line.
Karl Tiedemann is a partner at Rosetta, a customer engagement agency specializing in healthcare. Karl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The original article, Customer Engagement Isn't Just About Physicians: It's About Sales Reps Too, can be found on the PharmExec Blog.