February 2003 —Newsletter Focus: Realizing Change - The Real Work Begins

"It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory." -W. Edwards Deming

Last month’s HIPS newsletter continued our series on improving Sales Force Effectiveness (SFE) by focusing on developing solutions to opportunities identified during the SFE assessment step. 

Now, we transition to getting results.  This month's issue focuses on making change happen and the next issue will conclude our series with a focus on SFE metrics, and monitoring performance.

Remember the childhood game "telephone"?  The first child whispers a message to the child sitting next to her, who in turn whispers the message to the child sitting next to him - and so  on until the message has been whispered to the last child in the group. When the final child is asked to tell the group what the message is, giggles typically abound, as the message has usually undergone significant change.


We see similar outcomes almost every day we spend time in the field with sales reps.  Well conceived programs, processes and tools change significantly by the time they reach the sales rep or the customer.  This results in poor implementation, one of the most significant gaps in Sales Force Effectiveness.

Build the Vision

"This one step -- choosing a goal and sticking to it -- changes everything." -Scott Reed


In today’s selling environment change is not optional.  There is so much change occurring in the industry -- technologies, company strategies, regulations, products and customers -- that sales reps' jobs change constantly.  Top performers thrive in this fluid environment. 


The top performing sales forces are the organizations that adapt to change best – effectively implementing plans and strategies.


These high performing sales forcing use a process that we at RMCI refer to as "TRACK" to achieve change.  TRACK is our acronym for the five factors most important in effecting change with a sales force.  These are:

  • Team,

  • Recognize emotional impact,

  • Accelerate,

  • Communicate and coach,

  • Keep focused


In the last two issues, we discussed the importance of a strong cross-functional team.  This Team remains critical in implementing change.  There is one important difference for this phase –- the team must be powerful enough to guide change.  A common frustration for teams is that they do an outstanding job of diagnosing the situation and identifying necessary change, but lack the organizational power required to drive changes. The initiative falls short of achieving it's objective and the team members are demoralized.


The second key success factor is to Recognize that change is not achieved through logic.  Changing behavior is an emotional decision, challenging the team to identify and develop messages that promote an emotional commitment to change.  For example: It seems logical that all sales calls be entered into a call reporting system daily.  However, simply explaining how this daily task balances workload and ensures highest quality data, isn't powerful enough.  It doesn't offer a sales rep enough motivation to change their call reporting from weekly to daily.  Appealing to a rep's emotions -- either by informing them of special bonuses available or making them aware of severe consequences of not entering calls daily -- will have more impact.


Building on the emotional nature of change, Accelerating change gets more action.  Product recalls and competitive launches are outstanding examples of how urgency and accelerated demands  can rapidly change representatives’ behavior.  Not every “change” justifies this high level of urgency, but when considerable change is required, accelerate implementation and create urgency.  Don't let anyone delay until tomorrow what can be done today.  Every day delayed decreases the perceived importance of the activity.

Focus on Change Every Day

“You’ve got to talk about change every second of the day.” – Jack Welch


The fourth success factor centers on Communicating and Coaching.  The goal here is to promote a deep understanding and commitment to the change.  Remember the "telephone game".  Communicate what needs to be done using many channels and with high frequency to ensure understanding.  Remember how you think about external customers:


Actions speak louder than words. 

Symbols help communicate and reinforce the message.  Frequency is key. 


Apply these same concepts to getting your sales force to take action.


The District Sales Manager (DSM) is your greatest resource in delivering and reinforcing the change message to reps.  The DSM should support and reinforce each day during field travel and each week during district teleconferences and rep updates.


Finally, Keep focused and drive to 100% implementation.  Antibiotics are losing effectiveness as bacteria are developing resistance.  This happens because patients quit taking the antibiotic before it is 100% effective.  If you shift your focus to a new initiative before achieving full implementation, you risk development of  "organizational resistance".  Each future change will be more difficult to implement as  the  "resistant strains" grow.  Achieving full implementation of your current initiative is the best thing you can do to ensure success of your next initiative.


Three "Features" Next Issue

Our next issue is planned.  We look forward to expanding our content with three articles:

1. The final installment of our SFE series,"SFE Metrics and Monitoring".

2. An article focused on getting the most out of field travel, "A Great Day in the Field".

3. Physician and patient level prescription data has lead to more complex targeting methods.   We are going to devote an article to targeting processes for markets without all this data.

Let us know if you have any other suggestions for upcoming issues (info@rmcionline.com) 


Please click here to complete your subscriber profile.  This will allows us to focus future issues on the topics of greatest interest to you.


Upcoming Events

Look for “Collision Course: What Happens When Your Best Customers are Entrusted to Your Least Experienced Employees” in the April supplement of Pharmaceutical Rep.


Additionally, there are several upcoming meetings related to sales force effectiveness.



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:


· Metrics and Monitoring Performance

· Sales Force Strategy: Insights from Europe and Asia

·  Developing and Sharing Best Practices

· A Good Day in the Field

· Is SFA Meeting Your Needs?

· District Manager Effectiveness


Copyright 2003, RM Consulting International. All rights reserved.

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