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Pharmaceutical Selling: Driving Bigger Results Through Coaching

Pharmaceutical companies that truly understand the value of coaching, and using technology to manage the process, attain better results. There has been exhaustive research into coaching—specifically, understanding the correlation between sales management coaching and sales performance. And the results from this research are overwhelming.

Studies from the Center for Management and Organizational Effectiveness (CMOE) and the Sales Executive Council (SEC), analyzing more than 2,500 sales professionals and as many as 500 sales managers, have determined coaching has a significant impact on sales results. Understanding this and applying technology to the coaching process to track, manage, and monitor these results provides significantly greater value.

The SEC study also revealed the amount of coaching a rep receives drove greater performance and had a direct link to retention. These studies (and others) have also strongly concluded coaching increases the level of sales rep engagement and overall effort given by these individuals on a daily basis.

The research verifies salespeople perform even better when the coaching skills of the manager are strong. Sales performance of representatives whose managers had lower coaching capability was 83 percent, compared to 102 percent for representatives whose managers had excellent coaching capability.

Using technology tools helps pharmaceutical companies to better understand who is coaching, how they are coaching, and who has stronger coaching skills. A technology system designed for managing the coaching process allows for the manager to capture the essence of the coaching session, and even rate the salesperson's skill level on a given technique.

Having a system to manage the coaching process saves pharmaceutical companies countless hours and reduces costs, as turnover can be better managed and the new hire ramp can be considerably shortened. Managers can track each coaching session, and the score associated with the session can roll up to monthly, quarterly, and annual reviews. When completed, the chance of sales improving is significantly increased.

Tracking and reinforcing training through coaching also shows big results. By combining training with post-training field coaching, the impact on productivity has been reported to increase by nearly 400 percent. Research has shown post-training field coaching leading to an 88 percent increase in productivity, whereas training alone led to a 23 percent increase. The coaching of sales individuals and leveraging managers to improve sales performance has become a requirement.

The SEC study also looked at the relative impact of effective coaching on A, B and C performers. The study clearly indicated coaching offers greater value when targeted specifically at the B players, or "core performers"—those who show ability but have unrealized potential. Effective coaching showed only minimal sales improvement for the A players, but it has a strong positive impact on the retention of these individuals.

Recent statistics indicate the access time physicians will typically give a pharmaceutical salesperson has drastically been reduced, down to 2-3 minutes per visit. It is absolutely essential the salesperson know exactly what to cover in those precious moments.

When a manager interacts with a salesperson and has tracked the history of their coaching sessions, they can better examine the required skills that need to be sharpened. This allows them to deliver the results rather than just focusing on the end-of-the-month financials. When coached well, salespeople have a much greater impact during those several minutes in front of the physician.

Overall, pharmaceutical companies can benefit from having a consistent process for coaching and understanding what a salesperson needs to perform better. Once understood, and once technology is put in place, coaching becomes a daily occurrence or a process, rather than a one-time event.

Improvement on skill set can now be tracked and coached, and a resulting increase in revenue is naturally evident. Coaching and using technology to track and manage coaching is no longer a nice-to-have; research clearly shows it is a necessity to reach optimal performance.

Patrick Stakenas is president and CEO of ForceLogix, a Chicago-based company that builds on-demand sales performance management and coaching solutions.