January 2005


Building Internal Sales Force Strategy Capability

New Desktop Sizing Tool

This article was originally published in the May 2004 issue of High Impact Pharma Selling


Over the last few years, we've noticed two pronounced trends in the life sciences industry.   First, firms are trying to improve sales force productivity – doing more with less.   Second, they want to make better resource allocation decisions across markets.   Many firms are looking to build internal capability on both fronts.   RM Consulting International (RMCI) remains at the forefront of both of these trends.   In this article, we offer our thoughts and experience in developing internal strategic sales force planning capabilities.

For years, pharmaceutical manufacturers have relied on consultants to bolster their internal strategic sales planning functions.  Although some of these companies have had strong in-house capabilities for years in the United States, many have recently begun to develop the internal capabilities required to perform sales force sizing and strategy analysis on a global basis.   As they do so, they face several key hurdles to success:

  • Appropriate tools have not been developed to serve this specialized need;
  • The availability of key vendor data needed to support sales strategy analysis varies widely by country; and
  • Affiliate managers understand local markets well, but may lack a detailed understanding of sales strategy concepts and analysis techniques.

RMCI's Advisor XL® is designed to help companies bring sales strategy analysis and planning capability in-house on a global basis and empowers users with a variety of training and support options to meet the needs of any country sales organization.


Sales organizations use consultants in the strategic planning process for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Analytic sophistication,
  • Independent perspective,
  • Broad perspective across firms and industries,
  • Standard analytic outputs to compare investment opportunities across markets and
  • Lack of internal capability.

On the other hand, local managers prefer in-house strategic planning for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Analysis is more fully understood,
  • Easier to get buy-in,
  • Reflect the unique needs of the local market and
  • Lower costs.

RMCI now offers clients the opportunity to achieve the best of both worlds.   Advisor XL® is built in Microsoft Excel to provide simple navigation through an easy-to-follow process.  The main navigation page, shown below, guides the user through the sales force strategy process.  The underlying analytic tool incorporates years of sophisticated sales force strategy experience and validation checks. Simple input screens assist the user in identifying and collecting the information needed to develop sophisticated analyses.  Because Advisor XL® is built in Microsoft Excel, it leverages most users' familiarity with Excel navigation and features.  Advisor XL® is easy to learn, train, install, and set up.  Additionally, it is contained within a single file that requires no external databases.

Ultra-fast processing speed allows users to evaluate hundreds of scenarios quickly to determine the best sales force strategies. And for management teams that are relatively new to sales force sizing concepts, fast processing speed allows them to learn how those concepts work in action.  They can quickly create multiple scenarios to observe how changes in key inputs affect sales and profit projections.


Advisor XL® is now in use in more than 30 countries worldwide and can help managers in affiliates as small as Taiwan or Vietnam, or as large as Japan, France, or Brazil to answer key sales force strategy questions, such as:

•  How should I size sales teams for maximum …

•  Profitability

•  Market share

•  Sales

•  How does optimal team size change as planned sales promotion plan changes …

•  Customer reach

•  Call frequency

•  Product detail position

•  Team product portfolios

•  Targeting effectiveness

•  How does optimal team size change as assumptions about the market change?

•  Market growth

•  Sales forecasts

•  Specialty productivity

•  How do alternative size and configuration strategies compare on …

•  Profitability

•  Sales

•  Market share

•  Resource requirements

•  What investment is needed to achieve a particular sales or profit threshold?

Advisor XL® creates easy to understand outputs that allow the user to quickly compare any two sales force scenarios on a wide variety of criteria including total profit, total sales and total headcount.  Users can also compare scenarios across a number of more detailed criteria.  Advisor XL® creates easy to read tables that compare projected sales, profits and headcount for each product for each year.

Advisor XL® produces comparable outputs across markets.   Where market data is available, it may be directly entered as inputs into the sizing application.   In many markets, key input data is not available.  To support planning in these markets, RMCI has incorporated lessons from 20 years of experience in more than 50 countries in the Advisor XL®.  Where local input data is not available, the Advisor XL® will prompt managers to choose one of several options from drop down menus.   For example, if physician-level data is not available for a given market, the Advisor XL® prompts the user to choose a concentration curve from a known market that is similar to his or her own market.   Because all affiliates in a firm are using a standard model that produces standard financial outputs, regional management can compare investment opportunities across all relevant markets on an “apples-to-apples” basis.

Advisor XL® is designed to be easy-to-learn and use.  RMCI also provides a wide range of training and support options to meet the needs of each affiliate user. In our experience, companies that want to improve their in-house capabilities require some level of training and support to assist managers in using their new sales force sizing application. This training can take the form of face to face training in individual or group settings, telephone support, video conferencing, or remote web-based assistance. Virtually all users can be trained to effectively use this sales force sizing tool with just 1-2 days of training.  

Data validation is another important issue. For clients that desire some level of independent counsel, RMCI also provides validation services for each affiliate using the sizing tool. Our expertise is based on work in more than 50 countries and all major therapeutic classes of drugs. 

Clients may choose two types of validation services.  RMCI provides an independent and historical perspective on the assumptions used to build each sales force sizing model.  Validation helps to determine the “reasonableness” of critical data inputs, such as:

•  Sales and market share relative to historical trends in this market;

•  Specialty productivity relative to similar therapeutic classes and national markets;

•  Sales growth relative to sales effort;

•  Carryover;

•  Targeting effectiveness;

•  Incremental sales and incremental sales per rep and

•  Planned customer reach and frequency.

Secondly, RMCI will review local analysis to provide an independent perspective on the quality of the sales strategy analysis and conclusions that local managers draw from that analysis.  As with any analysis, managers must apply good judgment in interpreting the outputs.  RMCI provides both training and validation services to support and manage the development of these abilities.

As with any consulting or software purchase, it is important to select a vendor that will allow you to choose the exact level of training, validation and support that you desire for each affiliate.

One key difficulty firms have faced in rolling out standard sales force sizing applications is the availability of the data needed to develop sound sales force sizing models.   Because data availability varies so widely across markets, firms have generally not been able to develop internal models that produce comparable results across markets.  Often, they use different models in different markets, based on the data available.  

Using Advisor XL®, managers, for the first time, can combine a level of analytic sophistication with process buy-in and real-time analysis.   When the regional headquarters wants to know what kind of sales the local affiliate can commit to with an increase of 15 sales reps, local managers can provide the answer in a matter of minutes, without having to check in with the consultant (see tables above).   If a country manager wants to know the best options for managing a headcount reduction, he or she can evaluate multiple scenarios within the hour.   When the president of the company wants to understand whether Brazil or Germany is the better investment opportunity, managers in both countries can provide analyses with standard financial, investment and effort outputs to simplify decision making.   And when the market changes, managers can respond with real-time analysis to adjust sales force deployment.

If you are interested in enhancing your in-house sales force sizing capability, please contact us at +1-847-251-2146 or info@rmcionline.com for a demonstration of the Advisor XL®.



If you have questions or would like to discuss the contents of this article, please send us an e-mail and a senior consultant will respond to you.


Other Newsletter Articles This Quarter

Case Study Update: Increasing Sales by Improving Sales Effectiveness

We believe that improving long-term sales force effectiveness (SFE) is both critical to sales success and very difficult to achieve and sustain. Our May newsletter highlighted the efforts of a European client that generated $15 MM in sales attributable to
improvements in target customer frequency.

In this article, we provide an update on the client's progress after a full year of implementation and some of the difficulties it has encountered in sustaining sales gains.

Best in Class Performance: Improving Sales Effectiveness through Superior Change Management

To improve sales effectiveness, sales management must diagnose key barriers to progress, develop the right plan to overcome those barriers, and determine the best ways to leverage their sales forces' strengths. But without excellent implementation of
change management techniques, most improvement efforts will fail.

This article highlights how one firm implemented a proven change management framework to drive more productive sales rep activity.


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Copyright 2004, RM Consulting International. All rights reserved. 

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RM Consulting International
2717 Iroquois Road
Wilmette, IL 60091
Phone:(847) 251-2146
Fax:(847) 251-2292