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Archive for the ‘Sales training’ Category

It was over a year in the making. The re-branding/re-naming of SPBT (the Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers) has finally come to pass!

Though the decision was made on the new identity 6 months ago, the annual conference in Dallas last week was the format for “the big reveal.”

Welcome LTEN – the Life Sciences Trainers and Educators Network. A more inclusive name for the more diverse population of learning professionals (including pharma, biotech, medical devices, and diagnostics) that now make up the organization.

As a branding guy, I like it. The name has flexibility. The acronym is simple. The new look is modern. This was a major win (kudos to the LTEN staff and board for the successful re-launch)!

LTEN

LTEN sjovallAnd, it was only slightly disconcerting to have LTEN President John Sjovall march out on stage in a Roman gladiator get-up…!

Over 18 years, I have seen the organization evolve, from its roots as NSPST (National Society of Pharmaceutical Sales Trainers), to the present day as LTEN. And every year, the annual gathering is a highlight of my spring schedule.

The conference this year was held at the Gaylord Texan, a mega-hotel/destination in Grapevine, TX. The vast Gaylord properties can be a little overwhelming, but the facility and the LTEN staff did an excellent job with signage and traffic flow. It was a good choice of venue – especially because there was BBQ (more on that later). Next year’s event will be in the Phoenix area – the first time there in recent memory.

LTEN Gaylord

There was an interesting mix of keynotes. Amy Cuddy opened up the conference with a talk on, for lack of a better term, “power posing” – how the way we carry ourselves physically impacts, not only how others perceive ourselves, but how we feel internally. This was an OK session, though I didn’t feel the theme was uniquely targeted to our particular audience (there was a lot of power-posing going on during the week, however!) On the other hand, double-amputee model and athlete Aimee Mullins had a pretty inspirational story about not viewing disabilities as disabilities at all. Many seemed moved by her message and example. She’s a good public speaker, though with room for improvement on liveliness.

LTEN power

(feeling the Power!)

When Dr. David Rock got up to speak, about Neuroleadership (aspects of brain science on how we learn and lead), one of the people at my table confessed that she was a David Rock groupie after hearing him previously (confession: I tend to snort at becoming groupies of anyone or anything). I then proceeded to become a David Rock groupie after an hour of mind-expanding neuro-psych-analysis. I’ll bet some others were less enamored, but as a college psych major and highly analytical thinker, I was totally energized! The conference keynotes closed with my friend Dr. Karl Kapp (a professor of Instructional Technology) not only talking about gamification, but delivering a thoroughly gamified session – really well done. Karl’s a smart guy.

One interesting twist this year was a series of 3 EdTalks – 18-minute sessions on more limited topics. Other innovations included a much more robust conference app (including a photo game called Play Click), learning stations in the exhibit hall, Dine Arounds (and other networking activities), and early morning fitness opportunties. The fresh thinking that Executive Director Kevin Kruse and his talented staff have been putting into the conference over the past few years really bore fruit in 2014 – I had the sense that we have finally attained a major re-boot in the conference and the organization.

I had the pleasure of co-leading a workshop on Career Choices with the engaging and deeply-experienced Jerry Clor – there is always plenty of professional introspection occuring about staying within pharma, or going out to the “dark side” (vendor community) – we tried to provide some advice and pros/cons about the various options. There were many good workshops – quality is always variable – with occasional photobombers present (thanks, Sue!).

LTEN photobomb

The feedback I was getting from exhibitors was actually quite positive this year, especially regarding the quality of interactions with attendees. The ongoing tweaks to workshop scheduling has led to some very nice, extended times in the exhibit hall. I was disappointed to see that the size and number of booths continues to shrink somewhat, and LTEN has some work ahead to convince past, present, and new exhibitors that setting up a booth at this annual conference is a good return on investment.

One of my favorite aspects of the conference, not surprisingly, is the networking – over meals, after sessions, in the exhibit hall, and during evening events. Getting caught up with folks I’ve known for many years - and always meeting new people -is the chief reason I attend. Many attendees who knew that my family is about to move from NJ to Nashville expressed incredible support and gladness for us – maybe even a bit of jealousy – and this really lifted my heart. My Impactiviti services (consulting and workshop facilitation and client-vendor matchmaking and clarity therapy) won’t change at all; but now, when you make trips to Nashville for business or pleasure, you’ll have someone you can turn to for coffee, or advice. Or BBQ.

Which brings me to the last point. BBQ. Specifically, Bill Lycett‘s suggestion that we try out Hard Eight barbecue pit a few miles away. Bob Holliday, Bill, and I waddled out of there stuffed to the gills with some top-shelf Texas BBQ. I wanted to bottle the aromatic smoky air and take it home with me as a souvenir of a very enjoyable LTEN conference experience (let’s hope Phoenix has something comparable…)!

LTEN BBQ

All in all, a very enjoyable week. The LTEN staff and volunteers were a pleasure to interact with, as always. Looking forward to years of steady progress ahead with this re-energized organization!

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Today, I want to pull back the veil a bit on one of the most important parts of my network.

The Impactiviti pharmaceutical network is pretty broad, encompassing a range of professionals in the pharma/biotech/med devices/healthcare sphere.

But then there’s my “Inner Circle,” and that group provides one of the best pools of expertise I can offer you.

The “Inner Circle” is my closer group of industry clients and partners who support each other through recommendations of vendors and other resources.

Inner Circle

How does it work? Here’s a very recent example:

Someone who took on a newly-created training role was looking for a potential vendor(s) who could provide curriculum for a very specialized niche group. I spent time brainstorming the need with this individual and more carefully defining the need. This was a case where I felt I should reach out to my Inner Circle for their advice (these Inner Circle e-mails, which occur about every 2 weeks or so, are anonymous so no identifying client information is shared). In this case, I got back several well-targeted recommendations, including some companies that I was familiar with, but wasn’t sure could extend out to this niche. Today, I’ll make specific recommendations back to my client.

On a regular basis, people in my Inner Circle expose me to previously-unknown companies, some of whom become valued Impactiviti referral partners. In fact, in recent months, Inner Circle recommendations have led me to a great Managed Markets training supplier, a boutique leadership development firm, and a virtual facilitation training company – all of whom I can now bring forward as targeted referrals.

This two-way recommendation network effect makes it so much easier to identify the best resources for specific needs.

When you call on us here at Impactiviti, you get far more than Steve Woodruff. You get unmatched expertise from your peers. So, when it’s time to seek out vendor/partners – contact us. We can provide the best expertise available, without charging you a penny.

(stevew at impactiviti dot com; 973-947-7429)

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Related post: The Pharma Roller-coaster

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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.

Bandwidth

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.

operations

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

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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.

3PVendorFunnel

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.

POOL – PROJECT – PICK.

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!

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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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