January 2003 Newsletter Focus: From Diagnosis to Solutions

The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." - Albert Einstein

Last months HIPS newsletter outlined a cross-functional process to diagnose and create sales and marketing alignment on opportunities to improve sales force effectiveness (SFE). Through our work weve identified three keys to successfully addressing these SFE opportunities:

Forming effective teams

Identifying the root causes of problems

Developing detailed action plans to implement solutions


Forming Effective Teams

The most effective teams are cross-functional, including leaders from sales, marketing, and training. If any one functional area develops solutions in isolation, one of two things might occur:

1. The solutions may not truly meet the desired objectives,

2. Implementation will be difficult as those impacted didn't 'buy in' to the proposed solutions


While SFE solution teams typically operate on a part-time basis, there are significant advantages to having a full-time coordinator. Many sales organizations have field operations or sales force effectiveness managers who can play this role very well. We've worked with numerous organizations that have driven continuous improvement by utilizing SFE managers as change agents.


The team needs clarity of purpose. Great teams take time to gain a specific understanding of their task - before they get started. For example, a team may be formed to look at the issue of improving interaction between marketing and sales. Deeper down in the issue, the specific problem definition might be, communication between sales and marketing breaks down, leading to poorly communicated strategies and ultimately weak sales force execution.


One possible deliverable might be to, develop specific action items geared toward improving the timeliness and thoroughness of communication between sales and marketing. Taking time up front to properly frame the tasks will make the team more effective and efficient in the solutions phase.

Dig to the Roots

It is very important for the team to confirm the root causes of the problem to avoid solving the wrong problem. The source of the problem may seem obvious, but this is usually not the case.


We recently worked with a sales force on the need to increase frequency on key physicians. Our work with the team showed that the root causes of the issue were not really understood. Several team members believed that it was simply a reflection of reps not making enough calls each day, but as we dug to the roots, we found several possible causes, including:

Reps focus on calls per day, leading them to call on non-targets to achieve daily call goal

There are too many target physicians - the desired frequency cant be achieved

Frequent target churn causes reps to invest time building new relationships

There are an excessive number of days for training, medical conventions and corporate initiatives


The team subsequently focused on solving some of these problems. The solutions proved much more effective than if the team had charged off to address their initial hypothesis and simply raised the daily call goal.


Getting to the root causes of an issue isnt easy, especially for teams that dont do this activity often. Once again, the use of resources such as operations managers and external facilitators can help to add value.


Success In the Details

Once root causes are understood, the team can begin developing solutions to the right problem. In the solutions development step, our experience suggests one specific key to success - solutions must be sufficiently detailed.


We commonly see solutions that are well thought out at a conceptual level, but not well implemented. Most often, it's because the solution doesn't contain enough specific detailsIt can't be implemented in a consistent fashion across the sales force.


Early in our SFE experience, we believed we were successful when a team developed the following detailed plan: The team working on improving physician targeting agreed on the following:

Each territory will have between 100-115 target physicians

Physicians will be re-targeted based on total potential

Target lists are locked for six months

Reps will have authority to eliminate difficult to see targets


While this solution may seem specific, many questions arose upon implementation:

What defines total potential - value in a key class, value across all classes, lifetime value of the physician? What is value? Total prescribing? New initiations? Total Rxs that are vulnerable to switching?

How many high potential doctors can a rep drop due to low access? 2%? 20%? And what constitutes low access?

What determines if a territory has 100 or 115 physicians?


It isn't possible to anticipate all questions or decisions raised during implementation, but teams that focus on building the most detailed solutions achieve the best results.


In order to make the most progress in fixing sales execution gaps identified in the diagnosis phase, firms must carefully form teams, identify root causes, and develop sufficiently detailed solutions. Next month well discuss the keys to ensuring successful implementation of these changes.



European Assessment Specialists are still the best investment"


Two recent industry-wide studies examined the return on investment (ROI) for alternative pharmaceutical promotion tools in the US. (www.rappstudy.org)



We applied a similar analytical approach to a European dataset consisting of data from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and UK.  The most compelling conclusion from our analysis reaffirmed a long-standing belief: Across companies and across countries, the ROI on product promotion to specialists is substantially higher than promotional efforts directed at primary care physicians.



For information about this analysis or how this methodology can help you make more profitable promotion decisions, please contact us.





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Upcoming Events

Look for several upcoming meetings related to sales force effectiveness.


Eyeforpharma Barcelona

PMSA Orlando

SPBT Orlando


If you're planning to attend one of these meetings, we would be delighted to meet you.


RM Consulting International
Iroquois Road
Wilmette, IL 60091

Phone:(847) 251-2146
Fax:(847) 251-2292

Coming Attractions
Future issues of HIPS will cover:


    Managing Change

    Metrics and Monitoring Performance

    Sales Force Strategy Insights from Europe and Asia

    Developing and Sharing Best Practices

    Effective Field Travel

    Is SFA Meeting Your Needs?

    District Manager Effectiveness


Copyright 2003, RM Consulting International. All rights reserved.

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