With pharma a fiercely competitive industry, how can organisations optimise sales teams to drive suc
SummaryThe pharma industry is in the midst of a significant transformation, driven by technological advances, geopolitical uncertainty, the urbanisation of emerging economies and changes in consumer behaviour and expectations. In this modern sales era, it’s no longer sufficient for sales teams to simply learn about customer needs or issues, and then provide them with solutions through products or services. While those practices do remain at the core of sales, success now depends on organisations providing additional value during the sales process.
- Author Company: brands2life.com
- Author Name: Jessie.Adams@brands2life.com
- Author Email: Jessie.Adams@brands2life.com
Richard Hilton, Managing Director EMEA at Miller Heiman Group, talks about how pharmaceutical businesses can maximise their workforces through targeted apprenticeship levy funding
The pharma industry is in the midst of a significant transformation, driven by technological advances, geopolitical uncertainty, the urbanisation of emerging economies and changes in consumer behaviour and expectations. In this modern sales era, it’s no longer sufficient for sales teams to simply learn about customer needs or issues, and then provide them with solutions through products or services. While those practices do remain at the core of sales, success now depends on organisations providing additional value during the sales process.
So, how can pharma businesses generate genuine, long-term loyalty and drive sales success?
Generating sales is about more than just price and product
Buying dynamics have fundamentally changed. Pharma customers are much more informed than in the past, largely thanks to the internet and social media, which allows them to consume much more targeted, relevant content and provides access to a global marketplace. This means that pharma companies are having to compete based on more than simply product and price. Sales teams are being tasked with upskilling themselves in new processes, tech and knowledge to become more agile and focused within their increasingly niche markets. This is the only way to ensure they meet customers’ increasing expectations and can drive successful results.
However, research from CSO Insights, the research arm of Miller Heiman Group, shows that just 43% of sales organisations in the healthcare industry say their salespeople consistently and effectively communicate appropriate value messages, which are aligned to customer needs. Such research highlights the importance in delivering real value and by this, we mean providing new perspectives for the customer during the various different stages of the sales process.
In the pharma industry, sales teams must learn about a customer and their situation, serving as an expert in their particular field, and connecting expertise to their concepts, so that the insight provided is relevant. This may require a complete sales transformation and a re-vamp of sales training and coaching strategy.
Using the Apprenticeship Levy to upskill and revamp sales teams
While the word ‘apprenticeship’ suggests a programme aimed at school leavers, the UK government’s Apprenticeship Levy is actually far more wide-ranging than this. It can be used to fund employees as they undertake courses up to degree-level while they are working, vastly improving their value to the business while widening their own career prospects.
To ensure a steady stream of skilled and knowledgeable workers, pharma companies have already been turning their attention to apprenticeships, with The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry reporting a 31 % increase in higher-level apprenticeships between 2015 and 2017. While most of these apprenticeships went towards developing R&D, engineering and IT functions, pharma companies can also use the levy to deliver training to their sales teams too.
The sales function should not be neglected when it comes to training. Indeed, CSO Insights’ research found that that when sales reps are largely left to their own devices with inconsistent sales processes, the percentage of salespeople achieving or exceeding quota stands at 48%, while revenue attainment stands at 73%. These figures improve dramatically for organisations with dynamic sales processes – where processes are consistent, managers can access key performance indicators, and where best practices are adopted. Studies show quota attainment increases to 71%, while revenue attainment reaches 90%.
The Apprenticeship Levy is simple for levy-paying employers to use. By creating an account, they can gain access to up to £6,000 per employee to be used with accredited training providers. For a pharma company, this means courses on digital sales and marketing that are bespoke to B2B medical and life sciences industries, resulting in a more targeted sales approach. Not only this, but the staff that are then trained will be improving business performance from within, rather than seeking opportunities elsewhere – so employers do profit from targeting this training.
Optimising the sales organisation further
While the levy is an excellent way for pharma businesses to optimise their sales teams, it is by no means the only consideration they should be investigating. For maximum business impact, the industry will need to invest in change more widely as well. There are three other main areas organisations should also be looking into. Firstly, digital sales enablement: using digital tools and technology to reduce the amount of repetitive or tedious tasks that need to be performed, to facilitate greater flexibility, and to provide analytical support throughout the sales process.
Secondly, they must invest in next generation talent: it is no longer enough for salespeople to have good people skills. Achieving success within a modern, tech-enabled sales force, which focuses on delivering value throughout the customer journey, requires problem-solving skills, an analytical mindset and genuine business acumen. And lastly, to achieve the goal of true business optimisation, organisations must also achieve process maturity. This means establishing a consistent, effective sales methodology, taking the time to formalise specific sales processes, providing managers with transparency and adopting sales best practices.
The pharma industry is undergoing a period of significant transformation and organisations must move with the times if they wish to optimise results. Those best equipped for success will have embraced technology, understand the importance of a customer-first approach, focus on delivering additional value beyond what they are selling, and have the ability to measure performance, predict outcomes and prioritise the right opportunities.
Miller Heiman Group is the leader in sales training, technology, consulting and research