Meeting with a client yesterday to start mapping out a strategic initiative, I was struck afresh by how many decisions are made in “reactive” mode in sales training departments. Many of the programs, systems, and suppliers in place are there only because a certain need had to be met at the time. What this often leads to, over time, is a patchwork landscape that has no real strategic design.
Why does this occur? I can think of several reasons:
- Many sales training departments are running at 100 miles per hour and almost never have the time to step back and think of the big picture
- The majority of folks in sales training are in a “developmental” role, and aren’t going to be there for the long haul. Therefore, they can only focus on immediate problems, not long-term.
- Virtually everyone in sales training has come out of the field – and often, a sales person is neither naturally inclined toward, nor trained in, long-term strategic planning.
- Since there is a fair amount of vendor-dependence in pharma sales training, with many decisions made based on relationships and short-term demand, naturally suppliers will steer a client toward a solution that is optimal for…the supplier, who is not necessarily interested in or well-versed in the entire strategic picture.
What you want to strive for is unified direction and leadership, around a single strategic vision, with a clear pathway on how to get from A to B. Otherwise, things will tend to spin around in multiple directions based on reactions to whatever comes down the pike (I wrote this paragraph because my brother just forwarded me a picture of a two-headed turtle. Had to get that image in here somehow…!)
A good consultant (hopefully, that would be me) can help clients step back, take an objective look at what exists and what the gaps are, and sketch out the vision of what ought to be, along with a blueprint on how to get there. Many times, consultants are viewed as money drains (and some have richly earned the reputation). But a good consultant, who knows best practices from multiple companies, will end up multiplying the effectiveness of the department, and more than pay for him/herself by recommending wise and practical strategic direction.