Archive for the ‘Sales training’ Category

Many consulting groups will gladly trade a 100-slide Powerpoint deck of strategy for a bunch of your money.

And, many outsource training companies will offer you various point solutions for this and that piece of your training needs.

But what about that messy middle? What about the implementation space between the Deck and the Done? It’s awfully difficult to find the bandwidth to take on (and complete) large-scale projects.


The pull-it-all-together aspect of bringing order out of chaos is where one of our Impactiviti partners specializes. Not only can this group do the more limited training projects, they have the resources (designers, project managers, strategists, technologists, etc.) to be an outsource partner for your 3-12 month “major” initiatives.

If that’s the kind of provider you’re looking for, let us know here at Impactiviti (stevew at impactiviti dot com). We’ll make the connection.

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In a word: Operations.

I was speaking with a Sales Training Director in a major biotech company recently, and he put me in contact with someone in the department who is heading up things like project management, vendor management, instructional design, internal processes, and the like.

We hit it off immediately. Because we could speak each others’ language.

There are a relatively few of my life sciences clients who have hired someone with operations experience to “run” the nuts and bolts of the department. When this position is put in place, it makes a world of difference.


Here’s why: most people in the training department come out of field sales. Sales is a very different world from operations, and many training managers struggle with newly-assigned project management responsibilities. Operational thinking may not be in their personal wiring, and the skills required are often not trained during on-boarding.

Result: floundering. Inefficiency. And then, since many of these training positions are rotational, a solid and consistent base of operations experience never truly develops in the department.

This is why I’ve advised many clients to create a permanent (not rotational) position to head up project and vendor management, contract negotiation, RFP process, and instructional design/technical standards. Typically, this is not going to be someone from the sales force – there’s a different knowledge base and skill set required.

I would contend that the money saved by more effective processes will probably be at least double or triple the salary expended in the first year alone.

And when new training managers are given project tasks, they now have experienced help to shepherd them through the unfamiliar responsibilities, instead of just floundering in the deep end of the pool.

Look, I really enjoy my work here at Impactiviti doing vendor/project management workshops and providing related advisory services. But some of what I do really needs to be transitioned to an internal resource – a go-to operations person in the department. I’d be happy to talk further with any of my pharma/biotech clients about how to build a stronger internal system for training operations.

Related Post: Doing Digital Learning – The TWO People You Need


Image courtesy of jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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workshopThis year, I’ve had a growing number of requests for workshop recommendations. As 2014 approaches, I expect that to grow – we’re all making plans, right?

So, here’s a short list of workshops Impactiviti can help connect you up with. And, yes, this is just a sample – whatever kind of workshop providers you’re looking for, give Steve Woodruff a call at 973-947-7429.

(the first two listed are ones that I facilitate; the others are by various hand-selected Impactiviti partners):

  • Vendor and Project Management
  • Building Your Professional Network
  • The Digital Future in Pharma (including mobile and smart technologies)
  • Managed Markets Landscape (and ACA update)
  • Critical Thinking/Business Acumen
  • Own Your Room (Effective Facilitation)
  • Communicating and Training via On-line Video
  • Effective Presentations (Executive and Management levels)
  • Effective Business Writing
  • Growing Employee Engagement
  • Questioning Skills
  • Negotiation Skills
  • Hospital Selling
  • Sharpening Specialty Selling Skills
  • Total Office Call/How to Think like a Physician
  • Coaching the Millennial Employee
  • Deploying Your Strengths to Prevent Conflict
  • Delivering the NEW Elevator Pitch

…and many more!

ALSO – if you’re looking for great keynote speakers, I’m connected to some top-notch folks – let’s talk over your needs! Impactiviti is here to brainstorm with you, and connect you with the optimal providers.

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ID-10087536I know, I know – we’ve seen lots of articles with titles like this in past. For many years, the imminent death of the pharmaceutical salesperson has been forecast.

And, for good reason – taking into account increasing government takeover of healthcare decisions, past shady sales practices, and the unwillingness or inability of many doctors to even see reps anymore, these are not great times for the pharma sales industry. I’ve seen incredible cutbacks in staff over recent years.

But, for now, the role of the sales rep continues. So we come to the question: what does the future hold?

I think the best way to approach this question is to broaden it and link it to the larger movements (I call them trend currents, as opposed to current trends) that are shaping business and culture.

So, let’s consider this question: What is happening to the role of face-to-face information exchange in all of life and business? Especially, what will be the role of person-to-person exchanges of information that can be easily accessed by other means?

If I want to know about a drug, do I have to wait for the right sales rep to drop by? Or can I, with a few clicks on a tablet, find what I need in real-time (without a potentially biased presentation)? How many of us research information on-line now, that we used to discover only through person-to-person interactions?

If I can use a (free) search engine to point out the facets of knowledge I’m seeking, do I need someone to point out those knowledge bits on a glossy piece of paper, or on their company-issued tablet?

If I can get an e-detail whenever I want it, why would I prefer the model of having people interrupt the office flow in the middle of the day to give a pitch?

Take these principles and apply them to every industry outside of pharmaceuticals, and you’ll see that we are undergoing a major change in the way we communicate and do business. It’s called disintermediation (removal of non-value-adding layers between us and what we need). Every time you use Amazon.com, and not a brick-and-mortar store, you are living in this trend current.

It’s not that face-to-face interactions don’t have value (they do), it’s just that the broader trends across the entire landscape of our culture are driving us to real-time connectivity to whatever we need – especially in the realm of knowledge.

Is pharma sales dead? I don’t think so. But I think it’s losing the race of relevance in our current technology and business climate. Which means we’re going to have to re-think the model – fast.

Your two cents?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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During recent Vendor/Project Success workshops for clients, I’ve been describing a process that can help alleviate a constant issue that pops up – not having the right vendors properly categorized and lined up when a specific need arises.

In other words, a project comes up, and the question is raised, “To whom can we send this RFP (request for proposal)?” Then suggestions are hastily sought as to potentially workable vendors.

Unfortunately, that means that some vendors are walking in the door for the first time, in the midst of a high-stakes process, AND they may not already be in your paperwork system as a supplier. This creates headaches getting a project off the ground; or, in some cases, simply disqualifies the best candidate because the time crunch is too short – so the project goes to a sub-optimal incumbent vendor.

Here is how to fix that. I call it the 3P Vendor Funnel.


At one point in time, every department needs to create its pool of potential preferred suppliers (I recommend that this pool be refreshed annually, as new vendors and needs appear, and as current suppliers decline in favor). This can be done through a RFI (Request For Information) process, whereby you seek out possible vendors that you may want to consider for the year ahead, and have them present themselves in a general, non-volatile format (that is, a big project is not on the line). The goal here is to gain familiarity with the vendor, and especially to narrow down to one or two areas of core strength. All vendors in the pool can then be placed in your Vendor Map (see this blog post), according to capability, therapeutic experience, project scope, etc.

Potentially desirable vendors at this point commence the paperwork (Master Services Agreement or equivalent) process so that they are already in the administrative system when it is time to choose vendors and allocate work.

Once the Vendor Map is established/refreshed, and a project needs to be resourced, you have already established a short-list of suitable vendors by core capability, so that the number of RFPs issued can be limited and well-targeted. This saves everyone – especially vendors – a lot of time, trouble, and angst. You really only want proposals from optimal potential providers anyway – it wastes everybody’s time to have a Request for Proposal filled out, to sit through a solution presentation – and then to conclude that the vendor really isn’t even in the ballpark. Or, worse, if time is very short, that a desirable new vendor has to now grind through the entire MSA system.

I recommend that a Decision Grid be used to evaluate vendor presentations (I have a sample – feel free to ask and I’ll forward). This helps make any kind of team evaluation of presentations more systematic and objective.

Finally, the process to Pick a supplier is far more efficiently reached, and the movement to contracting is not delayed because the vendor is already part of the pool.


Make sense? Having been on the vendor side of the fence for many years, and having experienced many….shall we say….sub-optimal RFP processes, I can assure you that an approach like this is better for EVERYone involved. It just takes some proactive planning. I can provide a brief consulting engagement for clients that would like assistance setting up their vendor map and filling their vendor pool with recommended partners. Just call 973-947-7429 and let’s talk….

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- I attended a mid-NJ ASTD session this week on Compliance (kindly hosted by the folks at J&J) – interestingly enough, a discussion I’ve had recently with several involves the role of communications/writing training and compliance. How important is it for people to be trained in what to write/say/present (even just internally)? Well, I heard about a massive, multi-million $$ fine that mainly hinged on a very poorly worded e-mail about some study results. We’ve all read the embarrassing revelations of written stuff (all discoverable in a lawsuit) that really puts a company in a bad light. Lesson: you can pay a little now to train – or pay a lot later to implement a consent decree.

- Making a vendor map – this idea was sparked by a couple of my clients, who have more systematically assembled a list of current vendors, and asked for recommendations of new vendors. This made it immensely easy for me to know precisely which new suppliers would be optimal, AND it was a great way for the department to map out an overview of their current suppliers for discussion and evaluation. So I adapted the idea into a new form which is available by free download: Training Vendor Map Impactiviti. Feel free to adapt and use it, and if you’d like to have a visit (live or by phone) to discuss your upcoming needs, just contact me and we’ll set it up (stevew at impactiviti dot com)

- A couple new job postings, in PA (Manager, Sales Training) and NJ (Associate Sales Training Manager).

- What’s the great un-equalizer when it comes to creating success? Initiative.

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I read a provocative article this week, and it has generated quite an interesting set of reactions* from others with whom I’ve shared it:

Sales Training – Avoiding the Unfixable Fix

What are your thoughts on the points brought up here?

One of our professional colleagues in pharma training even put it this way: “You can always tell a bad hire within the first week of training.” Do you agree?

I’d love to know what steps companies are taking to ensure better “matches” for hiring practices so that trainers are not left trying to fix what cannot be fixed… If you’d like to discuss, but don’t feel comfortable leaving your thoughts in the comments, always feel free to contact me directly (stevew at impactiviti dot com, 973-947-7429).

*A selection of reactions that have come in via e-mail:

I agree training and coaching are linked through the value of manager direction and support. And hiring right is more valuable than training right.

No, you can’t fix a bad or unmotivated sales person (occasionally it happens when you have an excellent manager). But that’s not Training’s job. Training (and sales management) should focus on identifying the skills and behaviors of the top performers (and seek ways to engage and grow this group) as well as spreading those behaviors to the middle 60-70% to raise their game.

In my experience, the best reps (and best trained) have all the attributes mentioned in point #3. It is this breadth of knowledge (and these days, especially the business and financial drivers of medical practices or hospitals), and productivity that justifies the investment, and the time  out of the field to acquire it. In pharma, I’ve had MD’s pull me or the rep aside to thank them for literally saving a patient’s life (oncology drugs) with the information they provided, or created access to. THAT is when the rep is regarded as a partner and ally, NOT a “rep”, and is valued still by MD’s.

I am finding I have to break a lot of habits in new hire training to get our sales teams think and acting differently because of they way they were trained at other pharma companies. Detailing is still alive and well. From there, it becomes a process of time and investment matched with the individual desire to be successful or not. As you know we can’t train passion, but we can hire to it and then nurture it fervently!

While we can argue the merits of what to train, how to train it, etc. I would make the argument that more investment should be made in selecting the right people for the job, as described in the article. The reason there is an 80/20 rule in sales is because 80% of people in sales shouldn’t be!


Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors through our unique trusted referral network. Need something? Ask Steve.

Learn more about us here.

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I was recently asked by a consulting client to explain the value of making site visits to suppliers of digital platforms. I believe in the value, but until I started spelling it out in more detail, I didn’t realize just how important I know it to be!

While it may be appropriate to make vendor decisions for smaller projects based on a proposal and a client-site presentation, that approach is probably inadequate for larger-scale (and long-term) digital platforms. Over the years, I’ve seen some sub-optimal digital learning/communication platform decisions. The results are not pretty.

I thought I’d share my reasoning with you, in case you’re thinking about adopting a major platform (especially for use with iPad deployment – many are now looking beyond individual apps to multi-functional systems for meetings, comms, training, etc.). Your comments and insights are most welcome in the comments:


Evaluating digital solutions providers can be complex. Generally speaking, for a smaller-scale point solution (say, a specific app), it is not necessary to perform a site visit. However, for a large-scale solution that will be a strategic and growing communications platform, it is often worth a deeper look under the hood at the technology, and the solution provider (who will become a long-term partner).

Site visits: Better solution/company evaluation process

The four aspects of the platform that need to be analyzed more deeply are:

  1. Technology framework of the solution – specifically, how the underlying software is designed, and what interface capabilities it has (and will have) at the middleware and database level to work within a larger enterprise structure. This typically involves direct discussion with people in a software engineering role.
  2. Roadmap of the platform – it is vital to have a detailed discussion of how and why the solution evolved into its current state, and what the development plan is for the next 3-5 years. A snapshot of a solution at one moment in time is less revealing than a view of its developmental context. Digital provider and platform direction need to align with anticipated client needs.
  3. Current functionality – general group presentations often gloss over details of what actually works (and how it works). A more meticulous advance examination can reveal platform strengths and weaknesses. It’s also important to determine what is currently rolled-out to living clients, and what is still in an earlier development phase.
  4. User experience – many solutions seem great on static slides, or with brief, scripted demonstrations, but the overall user experience (for end users, administrators, and managers) needs to be carefully examined in-depth. The quality of the interface design will make or break the adoption of any system.

In addition, deeper interaction with multiple personnel at a potential supplier site can give a clearer sense of the corporate culture and talent pool, which often cannot be accurately detected at a client-site presentation with a few representatives. In most cases, this type of decision is just as much about the partner company as it is the specific technology solution.

Site visits: Better decision-making process

A visit on-site by an expert makes the entire platform evaluation process more efficient by allowing in-depth assessment with a range of technical and strategic personnel – many of whom cannot be uprooted to be part of a client sales presentation. Also, potential suppliers that don’t make the cut can be eliminated in advance instead of creating a waste of client (& supplier) time and money going through an entire sales presentation/proposal cycle, only to be found unsuitable later. In addition, client-site presentations can be made much more efficient as a variety of detailed questions can be pre-answered through the prior provider-site visit.

Site visits: Summary


-More in-depth look at the “guts” of select platforms

-More complete evaluation of user experience

-Deeper assessment of leading potential provider partners

-Potential elimination (or escalation) of particular providers earlier in the process

-More efficient use of client and provider personnel resources during process


-Up-front time/travel investment (1 person) for site visits

What do you think? Does your company do site visits for these larger-scale platform decisions? And do you employ consulting expertise in the process?


Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors through our unique trusted referral network. Need something? Ask Steve.

Learn more about us here.

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That’s how I feel after every SPBT (Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers) conference, and this year was no exception. It is the most intense networking week of the year for me.

Now, after a weekend to recover and reflect, it’s time to recap. In no particular order, here is what struck me:

1. The venue, Hyatt Regency New Orleans (next to the Superdome downtown), has been beautifully re-done after Katrina. The layout of the three main floors we used was as confusing as could be (one of the employees called it, “our beautiful labyrinth”), but the exhibit areas and workshop/keynote rooms were all close together. That’s a big plus.

2. All three keynotes this year were excellent, each with a different, challenging focus. Michael Gelb was thought-provoking on how to think like Leonardo DaVinci – emphasizing the need for creativity (and attendees were given the opportunity to receive signed books by the author). Michael Abrashoff has a very impressive story about the role of leadership in turning around an under-performing Navy crew – rich lessons that could be immediately applied (and, signed books given away). Daniel Kraft did a NJ-speaking-speed fast-paced overview of where healthcare technology is heading – this fascinating topic should be covered at least once every year, because we all need to know where the puck is going. I would say that Gelb was the most skilled and entertaining presenter; Kraft was trying to cover too much at his lightning pace; and Abrashoff’s pacing and transitions weren’t quite up to the level of the quality of his story. But each session was high-impact and seemed very well-received by the audience.

3. Whoever thought of bringing on song-a-day-guy Jonathan Mann to compose a fresh song each day, performed before the keynotes, is a genius. His nutty songs (and visuals) about compliance and iPads got the audience rollicking. Great use of humor and creativity. Weird red shoes, but hey, that’s part of his shtick!

4. The SPBT organizers are in the midst of a 2-3 year transition bringing the organization and its events into the new era, and I saw significant progress in that regard this year. I loved the fact that the board members had advance-invite breakfast discussion sessions with various stakeholders. The iPhone/iPad conference app was a cool and well-executed addition. The SPBT booth area was spacious and designed for stand-up or sit-down meetings in a relaxed, New Orleans-themed setting. New growth and services ideas are on the table, and having had many discussions with SPBT leaders of the past years, I am confident that things are heading in some very productive directions, which will be even more evident next year. Kudos to Kevin Kruse and the entire team.

5. Exhibit traffic – sigh. This is a perpetual concern, and having been a vendor in the hall for 10 years (and a free-range consultant for six), I know that there are major ROI concerns when traffic seems light, as it did this year. Most (though not all) of the vendors I talked to were lamenting the downtimes, and the less-than-stellar traffic during the breaks. I wish I had an easy answer to this dilemma. I did provide some “guided tours” for clients who wanted targeted introductions to specific vendors and I’ll probably ramp that up more next year.

6. Food – this was New Orleans, where flavor and calories reign supreme! I don’t think anyone was going hungry. I was actually fearful about getting back on the scale when I got home. One small complaint – coffee and snack availability wasn’t as easy as I’ve experienced in past years.

7. Networking, for me, was exceptional this year. I enjoyed rich discussions with: Ceci Zak and her Sanofi colleagues; Paul Silverman; Bonnie Luizza; Mike Capaldi; Bob Holliday and the B-I crew; a number of folks from Genentech (including the engaging Carrie Schaal); Deborah Reid; a slew of friends from Merck (thanks for allowing me to scatter you during the Networking workshop); the Ferring crew (whose office is maybe 10 minutes from where I live); Vicki Colman; Dawn Brehm and Carol Wells; Debi Limones; John Sjovall and all the fine DSI folks; Chuck DeBruyn and Dawn Sidgwick; Dennis Merlo and Jim Trunick (true industry veterans!); and many more. On the vendor side, it was old-home week again, getting updated with so many friends made over the years, and seeing what new offerings are coming into play. I also got to lead a workshop session on Building Your Own Professional Opportunity Network, and that seemed to go rather well. We could have easily used another hour, I bet – especially with the in-room networking we sought to apply immediately!

8. Technology – well, there were iPads. Oh, and iPads. Plus, a lot of talk about iPads. Here’s the thing: just about every pharma sales force seems to be using or heading toward iPads, and hardly ANY companies really had a cohesive and comprehensive strategy (let alone digital infrastructure) in place before starting to roll them out. So, it’s time to backfill all this neat stuff with clearer vision and strategy. That will be an Impactiviti focus over the coming year.

9. There was a broader variety of workshop sessions this year, although I attended fewer of them than usual (preferring to spend additional time in the exhibit hall and in private meetings). The ones that caught my interest demonstrated the use of iPads for transforming live meeting events – essentially, replacing all paper. Some pretty cool stuff out there. A lot of the iPad apps rolling out are still first-generation level, but looking into the future, it’s quite fascinating.

It’s a tough time for pharmaceutical sales forces, and training & development departments. There have been a lot of cuts, both in personnel and in budgets. But this is a resilient group, and it’s good to see that SPBT is evolving into a more nimble and entrepreneurial organization. We’re going to need that mindset as we move further into this decade of change.

Oh, and here’s my blogevator pitch: if you’re bewildered by the plethora of potential vendors (and technology solutions), call Impactiviti (973-947-7429). You have plenty to do for your day job. My job is to find you the resources you need.


Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors through trusted referrals.

Learn more about us here.

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Welcome back! First, a couple of links of interest to kick off the new year:

:: Are Walnuts now Drugs? Ask the FDA! (Nanny state alert)

:: Made-up Disease (YouTube)

UPDATE: Some more jobs that have been posted in the past week or so, in addition to the original list!

Director, Global Training and Development, Customer Management, J&J (NJ)

Sales Trainer, Stryker, NJ

Manager, Sales Training and Development, Eisai (NJ)

Manager, Sales Training, Aptalis (NJ)

Director/Sr Director, Commercial Training and Development, Regeneron (NY)

Dir, Global Sales Training and Development, Alexion (CT)

Sales Training and Program MgrBecton, Dickinson (Baltimore)

Assistant Skills Development, Sales and Marketing Director, Astellas (Chicago)

Dir, Sr Global Quality and Compliance Training, Allergan (CA)

It’s been a rough year for trainers, but it seems like the job opening spigot is beginning to open as we approach the end of 2011.

Here’s a list of some fresh opening for you to explore (Impactiviti has no further information or “inside track” on these listings – they’re posted here as a service to the Impactiviti network):

Training Manager, Specialty Products, Eisai (NJ)

Sales Training Specialist, Otsuka (NJ)

Associate Sales Training Director, Shire (PA)

Associate Director, Managed Markets Training, B-I (CT)

Assistant Director, Oncology Sales Training, Astellas (Chicago)

Corporate Medical Sales Trainer, Recruiter (Chicago)

National Sales Training Manager, Allergan (CA)

Director, Sales Training and Development, Somaxon (CA)

Brand Trainer, Genentech (CA)

Sales Training Consultant, Avanir (CA)


Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors for training, eMarketing, social media, and more.

Learn more about us here.


Sign up for the Impactiviti Connection semi-weekly e-newsletter (see sample), chock full of news and resources for pharmaceutical professionals

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