Living the Dream

Perspective from the field

What does “great” really look like? March 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenward @ 8:54 am
Tags: , ,

I was at a management meeting today and got into an interesting discussion.  How good is good enough?

Let’s imagine a patient who lives with daily pain for a year.  They go see a doctor, and the doctor says “I know what’s wrong, and if you take this pill, you will feel dramatically better.”  The patient takes their pill every day and they feel much better, very quickly.

If you ask that patient how they are doing, they will then probably tell you “I feel great!”  But do they?  Their threshold for discomfort has been reset.  Their expectation when they wake up each day is to be in pain.  The medicine has greatly reduced that pain, and that means that their expectations are being exceeded. They are happy, they are pleased.  However, how good COULD they be?  Are they feeling completely “normal”, in line with what is expected for their age group?   After so much time feeling pain, can they even possibly remember what “good” looks like?

Now take this analogy to the sales arena.  Do all of our reps and managers know what “good” looks like?  Think about a rep who has been struggling with performance over time.  The manager has been giving them strong and direct coaching, but hasn’t seen any response.  At a certain point,  the rep certainly starts to improve.  The DM tells them “You are doing great!”  The rep feels great too – and keeps doing what they are doing because they think they are now a “great” rep.    However, while that rep has shown marked improvement over the sub standard level they were performing at previously, they are still not fully meeting expectations.

In both of these instances, a calibration needs to happen.  The doctor has to carefully and thoroughly question their patient to recognize if that patient is living pain free.  He knows what “great” really looks like for the larger population.  The Representative and the Manager need to be fully realistic and honest about what “Good” and indeed, what “Great” looks like.  Is the performance great compared to the prior performance, or is it truly great?

Calibration is one of the keys to ensuring performance excellence.  As professionals, we need to constantly seek out opportunities to recalibrate our own view of what excellence looks like.  No matter how good your performance, you should look to those around you for examples of excellence which will help you to better enhance your own performance.    As managers, we need to look for opportunities to ride with the highest performers – and the average performers – in other groups outside of our own staff.

Top performers are those that constantly strive to identify new levels of performance.  They don’t compare themselves to their peers – they are those that compare themselves to what could be.


The melding of Pharma Sales and Marketing through Engagement February 3, 2010

Filed under: Marketing,Sales,Social Media Marketing — jenward @ 1:08 pm

I came across a very interesting article announcing the launch of an ebook titled Six Key Areas of Learning for Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing in 2010.  The ebook contains perspective and opinions from many of the Pharma Social Media thought leaders.  Here were their takeaways:

1) e-Patients are at the center and critical to learning and design;

2) Authenticity isn’t a ‘nice to do’, but a ‘must have’;

3) Don’t get distracted by social media ‘bells and whistles’—remember the basics (especially SEO) and keep your brand core strong;
4) The ‘marketing cycle of life’ is going through unprecedented change requiring the industry to unlearn much—movement from paid marketing to earned marketing requires a different mindset and skills;
5) New marketing requires new ROI thinking…the ROI of connection, authenticity and compassion; and
6) Effective marketing and engagement requires new kinds of leadership skills.

What really struck me was #4, which contained a new term for me – “Earned Marketing”.  In sales, our most successful reps are those that have established a trust and value relationship with their customer.  They are liked and respected by the physician, and their message therefore contains more equity.

It therefore stands to reason that Social Media is so unique because it truly is a melding of sales and marketing.  The best SMM campaigns are those that engage the target demographic, that build trust and emotion, and that put a friendly and accessible face to a corporation.  These are the very points that make Sales Reps so important and valuable.

I saw a new title yesterday called “Chief Engagement Officer” and I thought that was a really radical – and appropriate – term.  That type of position is exciting because it truly puts the customer and their needs first.  To engage you must offer several things:  valuable content, emotional pull, and personality.  In the new era, corporate loyalty will be a key target focus just as much as Brand Loyalty.

I was on a webcast yesterday hosted by John Mack @pharmaguy called “ePharma: What’s Working, What’s Not, & What’s Next.  John had an interesting comment in response to my question about how social media might change the structure of Marketing.  He pointed out that prior to the late 1990’s, many Pharma companies had Corporate marketing teams.  At the turn of the century, many of those teams moved to a brand level, and there was some loss of the corporate identity.  Now it apppears that social media will neccesitate a return and focus to the Corporate structure.

All of this points to a new focus, a new attitude, and a new structure for marketing 2010 and beyond.  It will be important to have the right people in place in marketing positions who will embrace change and who will be leaders in engagement.  The key factors that make sales reps so important in the field are the very same factors that will make our marketing efforts successful in the future – the ability to engage, to trust, and to build -and nurture – a relationship with the customer.


Web 2.0 for Sales Teams February 1, 2010

Filed under: Sales — jenward @ 2:47 pm

One of the unique challenges for many managers is that it’s common to lead a team that is remote and spread out.  I may see some of our reps 2 or 3 times a year, at best.  Yet it is important that each rep feel as if they are in important part of the team. They must be engaged, with each other, with the team, and with the leadership.   I’m a big fan of motivational resources, and I want to be able to share what is getting me fired up  on a more frequent basis with my team.

I’ve had a Newsletter in the Region for some time now – and the feedback has been very good.  However, the time and effort that goes into it is just too great.  My Manager’s find it to be another ‘to do’ added to their already heavy load of administrative stuff.  Our poor admin (who is very good at things like this) bears the load of getting everything formatted and “looking pretty”.  It’s also out of date immediately when we finally get the darned thing cleared by our PR department and published online.  With this in mind, and with the age of Social Media upon us,  I set out to create a virtual water cooler for my team in the Twittersphere.

My comfort factor was highest with Facebook, and I knew that I was already connected to about half of the team on my personal account.  My vision was to create a “Fan Page” – a repository for motivational tidbits, quotes, pictures, that would nurture the personal connection amongst teammates.  To maintain privacy, I made the page only open to those who I approved, and also established a “no product discussion, no business discussion” policy.

It was pretty straightforward to build the fan page, and also pretty simple to upload media such as photos and videos.  I also found it easy enough to post links to items that I felt would be interesting to the larger group, such as motivational links, etc.  Still, I’m finding the Fan Page to be a clunky tool at best.  I can’t log directly into the page – I am always logged into my own webpage and have to manually go into the Fan Page in order to post.  It would be so much easier if I could be logged in separately from my own profile so that I could better customize the experience on the Fan Page.  I also found that I had to log into my own account, then search for the Fan Page.  I have not found a way to provide a link on my personal page to the Fan page.  Frustrating!

I’m pretty proud of my eye catching, aesthetically pleasing page that has lots of inspirational rah rah stuff on it.  But I have to be honest –   I am not getting the hoped for engagement from the team.  Oh, they are looking at the page every now and again, but they aren’t commenting or contributing to the conversation.   They are checking out the pictures and videos from our last sales meeting, but are not posting any messages or responding to the posts.  The feedback is that they “forget it’s there” or “don’t have the time”.  Both of those translate to “Thanks Jen – but you have provided absolutely no value to me with this.”  And so I’m beginning to think that I either really mucked this up, or that Facebook might not be the right medium to achieve the goals that I have set forth (I prefer to believe the latter).

With my limited Twitter experience, I enlisted a group of reps to help me test that as our “water cooler”.  A massive failure.  The twitterspeak was too much for some reps, too labor intensive for others, and just wasn’t returning value to most.  I admit – this one was my fault.  I’ve recently stepped up my Twitter activity and am learning how to form groups and promote discussion.  However, I still don’t think that is the medium to achieve the objectives.

I know that Social Media can help to elevate the experience that field based personnel are challenged with and hopefully provide a connection back to the main office.  I work in a highly regulated industry, and the company has done an exceptional job of teaching our employees to be extraordinarily cautious and conservative in the choices and decisions that they make.  For the majority of the team, Social Media is a new frontier – something they may or may not understand.  Therefore, the safest route is to avoid it and therefore mitigate their risk.  My experience thus far could be linked to that mental factor, or it could be that I’ve executed poorly – wrong methods, wrong avenue.

And so, I am currently ‘noodling’ my next steps.  I know this could be one of those soft environmental things that helps to boost employee engagement and employee satisfaction – but in order for it to be of value, the reps must find it valuable.   I’ve made some mistakes along the way, but am eager to find that magic combination that will bring my sales team into the new Web 2.0 world


Making it Personal January 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenward @ 11:38 pm

As Salespeople, we are charged with influencing the decisions of others. Doesn’t matter what you sell – your success is defined by changing the mind of customer.

I recently read a very interesting blog about “Competitiveness in Sales People” by S Anthony Iannarino. In it, he states that Competitiveness is one of the top 3 attributes of a top saleperson. He also points out that competitiveness has come to be seen as a negative attribute, but that it’s not.

His blog got me thinking – why is it that some folks shy away from wanting to beat the competitors?   Why is it that some people try to soften and redefine their role?  I am surprised sometimes by reps who shy away from that responsibility.    It’s almost as if sometimes people go out of their way to avoid defining their primary objective as “sales”.  I’ve heard their responsibilities defined as to “service” customers, or “add value”.  Really?

I had an interesting discussion last week with a couple of sales team members.  One of them insisted the competitors needed to lose in order for us to win, but the other rep was more focused on outperforming her past performance.  Both took their success personally, and were focused on achieving new highs.  Listening to them reminded me that different people have different styles – some can be fiercely focused on dominating the competitor while others are more focused on outperforming their own goals.

To me, the key is to have a specific goal – be it kicking your competitor’s “tookus” out of the game, or outperforming your own established stretch goal.  Bottom line – those that fail to establish a specific goal will be unable to strive to overachieve – and therefore will never be the best.


How to change behavior January 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenward @ 10:43 pm

As a Sales Leader, I often coach reps on the “art of the sale”.  I find that one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of many reps is that they prioritize the Relationship with the customer above all else.  Listen – we all know that relationships are important.  People want to do business with people they like.  However, it’s also important that reps are skilled in being a Change Agent (that term makes me think of James Bond with an MBA).  Bottom line, sales reps need to become comfortable with making others uncomfortable.

Nature is to resist change – to continue with what is proven and safe.  The unknown is scary – it comes with new sets of questions about what might be.   An effective way to elicit change is through careful exploration of negative stimulus.  Let’s think about migrating animals.  The negative stimuli – be it lack of food, or cold temperatures, or overcrowding – these negative conditions are what stimulate migration.  Otherwise, everybody would probably stay put.  It’s the same with humans.  Most people won’t change what they know to be safe and comfortable unless there is something making them uncomfortable with where they already are.  To sell someone on something new – you must present them not only with the benefits of the new situation, but the drawbacks of the old.

Of course, those of us that are early adopters are slaves to whatever is new or cool (we are the geeks that were online today to get our orders in for the i pad).  For us, the potential negative stimulus is being envious of those that have the latest gadget in their bag while we get left behind with old technology.

The most successful reps – the most persuasive individuals –  are those balance the benefits of the new product / gadget / service / concept while also carefully painting the picture of remaining with the status quo.