Training Pharmaceutical Sales Reps: Middle Performers

Training pharmaceutical sales reps who are middle performers requires motivation and training to increase performance, sales, and market share.

Published on 10 August, 2016 | Last modified on 14 May, 2024
Training Pharmaceutical Sales Reps 1

Company kickoffs, pep talks, and sales rallies aren’t nearly all that effective as hoped. After these events, many pharmaceutical sales reps don’t retain new information, or can’t transition taught skills into clinician calls, emails, and visits. What ends up happening is that the majority of sales reps become comfortable as middle performers while few rise to the top. Filling in this gap between sales performance is necessary for pharmaceuticals. Which why organizations are placing heavy emphasis on training pharmaceutical sales reps.

Traditional motivation techniques are no longer up to par. If you put a lot of time into organizing meetings and creating training materials, you can certainly understand the frustration of watching post-sales training motivation plummet. It’s time pharma identifies the gap, and begins training those middle performers who are stuck in a rut.

Identify Sales Gaps

To begin understanding performance gaps, sales management should map the breadth of performance among team members. Identifying gaps between high performers and low performers is critical in increasing overall market share and sales. But why should the middle sales performers be the target of improvement? It’s really not that complicated. Middle performers have the most potential to substantially increase revenue, because as Forbes points out, they make up 70 percent of the workforce. Many people are under the assumption that these people are simply “maxed out” and are already working at peak efficiency. Forbes dis-sways this, highlighting the fundamental reasons why middle performers are blocked from reaching greater potential:

  • Have doubt or an overall lack of confidence
  • Hold an obscure understanding of the criteria
  • Accredit the costs of being a “high performer” to be too high
  • Believe the benefits of being a “high performer” are too low

While improving performance across the whole betters top pharmaceutical sales reps, it’s only by an edge. In juxtaposition, the reps that fall in the middle have the potential to drastically improve both performance and numbers. This results in a jump of productivity for the entire sales organization. Further, a strong learning and development program is something that can cement your goals. Enhancing current employees’ skills and knowledge will have long term effects and will help existing reps to sell more. Not only does this mean increasing overall performance, but it enables companies to reduce the expenses of hiring new pharmaceutical sales reps.

Create Pharma Sales Rep KPIs

An analytical, scientific approach to sales force effectiveness helps to identify gaps between performers, skill sets and knowledge. Top salespeople surely have a different process in comparison to salespeople in the lower performance quartiles. However, those differences may not be obvious at first glance. Sales Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) track important statistics and data. Using KPIs, you can begin to increase engagement and motivation for middle sales performers. KPIs can also serve as an opportunity to create a baseline for desired performance and sales outcomes.

Once a baseline is created, you can begin working towards closing the performance gap. This may entail establishing new processes, eliminating old steps, onboarding new software programs or even reorganizing your sales structure. Additionally, KPIs take the guesswork out of evaluations and training. Above all, HubSpot recommends that sales leaders create KPIs for rep territory coverage, price promotion impact, and new accounts approached. For pharmaceuticals, this is a chance to quantify different sales channels and techniques like patient-centric selling.

Provide a Close Coaching Program

An effective coaching program is guided by the results of your KPIs. Coaching is essential in training pharmaceutical sales reps because they work with very scientific products. You can create training kits that contain information for reps to learn during sessions, along with materials that they can take with them to continue learning. It’s the unfortunate truth that the human brain forgets learned information when not put into practice. According to eLearning Industry, based on the Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve learners will have forgotten an average of 90 percent of what they’ve learned within the first month. The longer learners wait to apply knowledge, the less they remember.

You can avoid this dilemma through immediate content that employs new knowledge. For instance, you may decide to tie newly learned information with digital content collaboration where reps can directly apply knowledge into real world situations. Ultimately, coaching and training pharmaceutical sales reps with relevant and meaningful scenarios will reinforce messages and increase knowledge retention.

Use Intrinsic Motivation in Training Pharmaceutical Sales Reps

Research shows that traditional models of if-then rewards or “carrot and stick” motivation tactics often limit people by destroying their creativity. In the TedTalk, “The Puzzle of Motivation,” best-selling author Daniel Pink summarizes how if-then motivators actually lower performance. Incentives like commissions, bonuses or raises narrow focus, dulling thought and blocking creativity. The same behavioral science applies to training pharmaceutical sales reps, financial incentives really only motivate those closest to attaining the so-called carrots — the top performers. Middle performers receive lower motivation and engagement because hitting high targets seem distant or beyond reach.

Instead of being rendered as the light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes bonuses or commissions function as mechanistic punishments. This doesn’t mean to rid monetary incentives altogether, but by solely offering if-then rewards only top performers are motivated, resulting in limited returns.

Pink campaigns against offering extrinsic if-then rewards, offering intrinsic motivation in substitution. “The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive–the drive to do things for their own sake,” assures Pink, “The drive to do things because they matter.” Intrinsic motivators solve the puzzle of motivation by revolving around autonomy, mastery, and purpose. These three elements function as motivation’s building blocks.

Offer Versatility Training

Due to the limitations and restrictions on pharmaceutical sales rep visits, it’s paramount to make connections with healthcare professionals during clinician visits. With most sales and customer relationships, when a connection is made sales reps are more likely to yield greater influence. Wilson Learning Worldwide’s study, “Versatility: The Key to Pharmaceutical Sales Performance,” divides social styles into 4 categories:  driver, expressive, amiable and analytical. The study attests that those who match in social styles are more likely to create stronger connections. In their study, Wilson Worldwide Learning offered versatility training to 2 different pharmaceutical sales teams. The group that was given versatility training–in comparison to the control group that did not–increased their market share by 53 percent.  

Versatility training doesn’t entail sending pharmaceutical sales reps to acting camps or improv classes. It can be relatively simple. You can train pharmaceutical sales reps to adapt to match with other social styles. These can be through classic methodologies like mirroring the speed in which others speak, cascading similar expressions or exhibiting similar body language. Versatility training also applies to patient-centric models with empathy as the focus. You can train pharmaceutical sales reps to try and understand the realities of patients.

[Free Webinar] Measuring the Effectiveness of Your Training9-29-2016-8-49-12-am

Millions of dollars are being invested in training each year. But how are organizations measuring the effectiveness of their training, especially soft skills training like sales? At Richardson, Eileen Krantz, Vice President of Client Analytics, has discovered that some clients believe that there is just an inherent value in providing quality sales training, others are more concerned with just aligning training with the sales strategy, and some develop a comprehensive measurement strategy to isolate the financial return on their investment.

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