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The Best in Class?

Posted on: 15 Jan 03


Is GSK a thrusting new pharma co or an ageing dinosaur? Pfast Forward went to the UK HQ to find out.
HAVING BEEN INVITED to the UK Pharma headquarters for GlaxoSmithKline, Pfast Forward thought it appropriate to gather the industry’s general perceptions about the new organisation. Taking the scientific approach of asking the opinion of friends and colleagues, two distinct camps formed. On one side I listened to views, which likened the new company to the thoughts a parent may have over their two-year-old child, namely a mixture of excitement, pride and with most of the teething problems over, rewarding. The alternative opinion painted the company as too large, dependent upon patent expiring crutches and only capable of paying lip service to modernising. To be honest I was in camp two but keen to keep an open mind! Our host for the day, Graham Franklin, Sales Director, Primary Care, has been with the company for over thirteen years and is clearly passionate about what he does. Graham, How do you think GSK has developed over the last 18 months? “Since we started, we have thought very hard about what type of company we want to be. In building the new company, we have a real opportunity to change our approach to the pharmaceutical business. From a UK sales perspective we have initiated the vision of being ‘Best in Class’, driving ourselves to differentiate from the competition, through developing a high performance culture.” This does sound a little like corporatespeak but on further investigation it is clear that GSK mean what they say. As Graham explains, “To be the biggest in a field is a lot easier than to be a leader. We are aiming for the position of industry leader and to achieve this requires a complete change in our approach to sales”. A degree in psychology provides Graham with a natural interest in improving the sales process. The key areas that he believes need to change are access and the quality of customer calls. “The industry’s general ability to get to see customers is getting worse. At present many representatives expect to be turned away from seeing the doctor. This is an area we have worked very hard on, not through traditional methods, but by teaching new skills and understanding the customer’s non-clinical needs. Tied in with access is quality of the call. Let me give you an example, sales people frequently believe that it is more important to have a good relationship than really challenge a customer's habits and improve their patients’ treatment. The argument is not logical and at GSK we have set out to challenge such self-limiting beliefs. The result has been to bring together our vision which will help us become ‘Best in Class’.” The ‘Best in Class’ vision concentrates on delivering results through excelling in three key areas:
  • Customers
  • Performance
  • People Can you explain what you mean? “The way in which we need to excel with the customer is to ensure that every call made has a positive outcome for the doctor. The customer needs to feel that the interaction has added value at all levels. To achieve this we have developed ‘Selling in Context’ which allows the representative to fully understand both the clinical and nonclinical aspects of the customer, providing a platform from which existing practice can be challenged. Being ‘Best in Class’ means being second to none in a very competitive marketplace. I believe that the performance of our people is a major differentiator in helping achieve our vision. We have therefore set up a tri-aspect approach to developing performance based on Ownership, Competition and The Perfect Call.” Please tell us more about each part. “The person who knows best about the local business is the representative. Ownership means representatives being fully responsible for their business. Centralised planning has been replaced by localised decision-making. Sales people work flexibly deciding who their customers are, before using national guidance to set the rate at which they need to be seen. In addition, the local sales person selects the right marketing tools to support their activities. It is complete small business management. The area of Competition is vastly overlooked in the industry. It is unusual for companies to focus so much on training their people to be the best they can. The difference mental training makes to sports people is phenomenal and so we have translated this to business. We have trained hard on our mental game and are now stronger. The final part of delivering performance is the ability to continually deliver Perfect Calls. A perfect call is were the customer has a positive outcome on every level, we are aiming to achieve this at every call.” What do People mean to you and GSK? “When I refer to our people, I mean the ability of GSK to attract the top talent and provide an environment in which they can be ‘10/10 Motivated’. Our sales force is made up of a mix of new and very experienced people. The one behaviour that they all have in common is the right attitude. It is now more important than ever that we recruit people with this, rather than those just with existing skills and knowledge. We want people to feel totally committed about what they do and one of my toughest but most enjoyable roles is to ensure I create an environment in which people can achieve this.” You refer to creating an environment in which people can achieve. What kind of culture exists at GSK?“ Although we were built on a strong heritage, we are a very young and ambitious company, with some of the best products in their class and a strong early stage pipeline. It is therefore difficult to say that the culture is anything but stimulating. Because we have such a large and diverse field force you have to capture the culture globally and at GSK UK Pharma we summarise it in one word, PASSION.” P – Pride in the company and our medicines A – Authenticity, having room to be yourself S – Stimulating & supportive S – Simple, being innovative and making it easy for others I – I make the difference O – Outward-looking, GSK do not have all the answers N – Nimble, we need to operate quickly in a changing environment I left GSK at the end of the day with my preconceptions shattered by the reality of the organisation. People at GSK are excited by the new life and ravenous for success. The company’s two leading primary care products are growing at a phenomenal rate in the rapidly expanding marketplaces of diabetes (Avandia) and asthma (Seretide). Although the industry as a whole faces challenges in early stage pipeline development, analysts describe GSK’s as first class and next year sees the launch of two new products for BPH (Avolve) and erectile dysfunction (Levitra). Certainly no patent expiring support here. To ensure the success of these products, the company has truly changed the way in which it sells. There is no doubt that the ‘Best in Class’ vision has already achieved results. Through concentrating on developing the right attitude, the field force has increased access by a staggering 50% and growth in its other very well established products such as Flixonase and Imigran by as much 8%. I haven’t even mentioned Seroxat, still on patent, and maintaining a growth rate of 5% in the UK. People seem happy working for GSK, and with the innovative HR policies available it is a company where work fits in with life. Employees can apply for sabbaticals, flexible working and the option to purchase up to 26 days extra holiday each year. The total reward package is high, with the largest representative’s bonus earned last year exceeding £11,000 and an average payment of £5,000. Field force turnover has dropped to well below the industry average (19%) at 14% – not bad for a company which has recently undergone such major change. I had one last question before I let my hand drop from the door handle. What’s your new corporate advertising campaign ‘Science with a conscience’ all about? “It relates back to being proud about what we do. As a young company we have built and developed a culture we are proud of and we want to communicate this PASSION externally. We are incredibly proud of facts such as last year we invested £2.6 billion in research and development, every 2.5 seconds a GSK vaccine helps to prevent disease in the UK, and in 2002 GSK donated over £75m to the worldwide community. We think these are facts that people should be made aware of. We want to be leaders in this industry and with leadership comes responsibility. Our aim is to communicate our values, it is important for our customers to know who we are and the pride we have in what we do for patients. Besides, don’t you want your family to feel proud of the work you do?” Most impressive, a company and an individual with a conscience as well! This article has been re-produced by kind permission from GSK. To view the original article, visit: Pharmafield
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