Archive for May, 2008

Last week, I attended the annual SPBT (Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers) conference in Orlando. This event is always a great opportunity to network, and I did a LOT of that! It was wonderful seeing many long-standing professional colleagues again. But I left the conference with ambivalent feelings, like I was seeing a good friend suffering from a progressive illness or something.

Why? Well, attendance was way down compared to prior years, for one thing. Yes, I know that there are tough times in the industry right now, but some major pharma companies were basically no-shows. Others had only a token presence among the attendees. And I had to wonder: is it just circumstances? Or are some beginning to question the value of the conference as it is currently “configured”?

Also, traffic in the exhibit area was very light, continuing a trend that has been increasingly manifest in recent years. Some vendors are becoming disenchanted with the ROI of the conference, and I can’t blame them – I remember years when the exhibit hall really buzzed with activity. Part of the problem this year, I’m convinced, was the very inconvenient room setup of the conference – the exhibit area was almost in a separate time zone, and I didn’t once visit the hotel gym, since there was plenty of exercise hoofing it between rooms. This isn’t the first time there has been a less-than-convenient placement of the exhibit area, and I believe that’s a big drawback.

In the exhibit area, there was a lot of “same-old same-old” in the vendor offerings – this is symptomatic of a larger problem in pharma training, which I’ll have to tackle in a subsequent rant. I have to wonder if the relative stagnation in the vendor/partner offerings makes it less of a draw for the attendees. I’m just sayin’…

The keynote by Chip Heath was quite good – I’ve been a big fan of his book (Made to Stick) and have unabashedly recommended it here and elsewhere. Chip isn’t the most dynamic speaker ever, but the content of the talk (and the book) is highly valuable and practical.

The Mike Pucci keynote was full of interesting statistics and perspectives, regarding the value of medicines. In fact, there is a download of the presentation here. I decided to immediately apply his exhortation to educate those around us by live-blogging some of the stats out to my extended network (via iPhone and the Twitter platform), which was an interesting experience. Live-blogging, by the way, is a growing trend in more progressive/tech conferences, and I think there’s a lot of room for some of these new approaches at an event like the SPBT annual meeting.

Workshops – sigh. As usual, it was a real mix. Some were quite good. I drank my own Kool-Aid and had back-up choices lined up for the sessions I’d chosen, and it was a good thing – I left 3 sessions early to attend others because they just didn’t keep me engaged. Best one by far – Dance Like Nobody’s Watching, by Jim Smith. Very high energy. The workshop I co-facilitated with Angela Nicoletta (Vendor Selection: Right-Sourcing 101) was well-received, though we ran short on time – too much content/discussion! Not a bad problem, all in all.

On the plus side…some of the best networking interactions were during the breakfast hour, as is usually the case. Jennifer Zinn takes over as President of the organization – great choice. Bob Holliday finally has a goatee. Lynn Bartholomew gets my “Most Fun Table-mate in Crazy Workshops” Award. David Neal won an awesome camera that can tell when a picture is blurry. Matt Siegel and a handful of others got Impactiviti hats. MJM is dabbling in Second Life. Plexus Learning Designs once again handed out the earphones that I use almost daily in the gym. And the nearby Hyatt Grande Cypress resort was a nice place for a couple days of downtime with my better half after the event.

In 12 years, the general format of the event hasn’t changed a whole lot, and that concerns me. On the one hand, there are certain topics/themes that bear repetition year by year, since sales training is often a rotational position, and many new faces show up each year. But is the conference, as currently structured, providing maximum value? Are companies not able to justify sending folks because the professional development experience isn’t as evident as it needs to be in a belt-tightening environment? Are the emphases truly what is needed nowadays, or does it need a thorough, high-level re-assessment as far as focus and structure? I don’t have the answers, but I think we need to ask the question and begin the discussion. I’d hate to see this unique event lose momentum and relevance because we failed to take a hard strategic look, and evolve with the times.

For those in the community – feel free to add your comments and thoughts!

(oh – and congrats to the booth prize drawing winners!)

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I’ve been made aware of a job opportunity for a Project Manager-type (elearning technology) in the mid-Atlantic area. If this sounds interesting to you or someone you know, contact me at: jobboard (at) impactiviti (dot) com.

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After Hours 5_16

Do not view this during lunch! How sword-swallowing looks under fluoroscopy. Ewwww!

Meet the Lingo Kid. A street-selling kid in India peddling peacock feather fans, in more languages than you can shake a stick at. Great lesson in “speaking your customer’s language!”

From my marketing blog Stickyfigure: The Little Spoilers that Kill a Sale. Two cars I haven’t bought because of…seatbelt adjustments.

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As always, it’s tough to decide which workshops to attend at the conference – there are so many good ones in overlapping time slots. Some that are intriguing to me right now:

Workshop Period 1: Accelerating Success through Business Simulations. I think that simulation development is a big deal, and I want to absorb more. If I were a managed care trainer, however, I’d certainly go to the Total Office Call workshop.

Workshop Period 2: Tough call here! I might try the Sustaining the new Selling Model talk, but I know that Glen Drummond and Catherine Baker will be real helpful on Continuous Development – and, if I had anything to do with Global Learning, no question I’d join Jennifer Zinn and Eric Jacobs in their session.

Workshop Period 3: There are four or five here I could easily do. Might tune in to the Licensure for Sales Representatives session, because that’s a hot topic these days. But the Field Mangers as Trainers talk, the Games/Simulations one, and the Fresh Approach to Compliance Training look tempting also.

Workshop Period 4: Well, I kinda have to be in my Right-Sourcing 101 session during this slot, but I wish I could be in several places at once. If you can’t resist another topic, and want to be part of the Right-Sourcing repeat session on Thursday morning, the Measuring Training Effectiveness looks very meaty, as does the Trainer to District Manager panel. As do a couple others. Can we do cloning yet?

Workshop Period 5: I’m definitely leaning toward the Collaboration Technology talk, but if I had responsibility in any way for an assessment strategy, no doubt the Using Assessment Effectively panel would be the way to go. The lineup of speakers in that panel is top-notch and there are lots of important issues to consider when it comes to measuring learning/performance.

Workshop Period 6: Can’t yet decide between the Brody talk on Market your Magic, and the more tech-oriented one on Virtual Environments. I’ll be existential that afternoon.

Workshop Period 7: Not sure if I’ll attend a session, or just network.

Workshop Period 8: Repeat of our Right-Sourcing 101 session (co-facilitated with Angela Nicoletta)

Workshop Period 9-11: A couple days off with my bride of 27 years!

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PharmaVoice has some articles you can download for free – nice stuff:

Making it Stick: How to Maximize Knowledge Retention (written by John Bye of Campbell Alliance – John’s a good guy, by the way, as are a number of the Campbell folks I’ve interacted with).

Time for a new Educational Standard (from Jim Dutton of CMR Institute. The CMR people are great to work with).

Sustaining the Pharmaceutical Industry’s new Selling Model (maybe I’ll meet these folks at SPBT)

Membership at PharmaVoice is free, and it’s well worth being on the mailing list for their monthly magazine.


You can download a planning form for the SPBT exhibit hall here.


Name change news: MedSN is now Indegene Pharmaceutical Solutions, Inc.

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There’s a ton of stuff going on this week, plus we’re in pre-ASCO mode (so lots of oncology news – scroll down for those headlines). Here we go:

What’s a vaptan? Maybe something pretty exciting – A new class of drugs called vaptans may be able to treat a wide variety of conditions including painful periods, brain hemorrhage, psychotic disorders and glaucoma, Belgian researchers report…more

One less tree in that Forest – Forest Laboratories Inc has ended its agreement with Daiichi Sankyo Co Ltd to co-promote Daiichi’s blood-pressure drug Azor, as Forest shifts resources to support other products, the companies said on Monday…more

Viagra: good for MD? – Researchers found the way the drug works to combat impotence may also help ward off heart failure in muscular dystrophy patients…more

OK, it’s not pharma per se, but it’s way too cool: Nanohealing – A startup based in Cambridge, MA, says that it plans to soon begin clinical trials of a nanostructured material that stops bleeding almost instantly…more

Here’s a switch: the FDA downgrading a warning – The FDA has eased restrictions on drugs used to enhance ultrasound images of the heart…more

Abbott’s new stent looking very good: interesting backstory – Abbott said this morning that its Xience stent outperformed Boston Scientific’s Taxus on several measures in a two-year study. The results mean the stent is likely to get the green light from the FDA soon…more

Merck and Ranbaxy: let’s develop something together – Merck signed a deal on Monday with Indian generics giant Ranbaxy to codevelop a new line of anti-infectives. As part of the agreement, Ranbaxy stands to receive more than $100 million for each drug that passes a certain milestone. That’s on top of an undisclosed upfront payment…more

Takeda’s financial results hiccup: no surprise when you’re buying another company!Japan’s largest drug manufacturer, Takeda Pharmaceutical, reported on Friday its first operating profit decline in 16 years and warned that the net profit in fiscal 2009 would diminish by more than a half as a result of its recent $8.8 billion deal to buy Millennium Pharmaceuticals in the United States…more

Daiichi Sankyo: the ups and downs of growth – Daiichi Sankyo Co., Japan’s third- largest drugmaker, had a 44 percent jump in quarterly net income, led by higher sales of its blood pressure treatments. The company predicts profit will drop this year…more

Trasylol bows out – Bayer AG is removing remaining supplies of its heart-surgery drug Trasylol from the U.S. market after a long-awaited study found it raised the risk of death compared to two alternatives, U.S. regulators said on Wednesday…more

Diabetes beating cholesterol on spending – Diabetes treatments are now the leading driver of prescription drug spending growth, displacing lipid-lowering drugs which fell precipitously after a decade of reigning in the top position, as generic drugs cut the cost of treating high cholesterol…more

The heartbreak of psoriasis to be lessened soon? – A top Johnson & Johnson research official said on Wednesday the company’s experimental drug ustekinumab could become the “gold standard” for treating psoriasis, in part because it would require only four injections a year…more

J&J gets crossed off in court – Remember that truth-is-stranger-than-fiction drama that featured Johnson & Johnson suing the American Red Cross over the use of the red cross logo? Turns out it’s not going so well for J&J. A judge today threw out most of what was left of the case, the Associated Press reportsmore

On the Oncology/pre-ASCO front:

Cancer drugs: the big growth area? – Sales of cancer drugs will grow at nearly double the rate of the global pharmaceutical market and could reach $80 billion by 2012, according to IMS Health, which tracks prescription drug sales…more

Can cancer cure Pfizer?

Novartis’ experimental RAD001 making strides with kidney cancer – Nearly two-thirds of kidney cancer patients taking Novartis AG’s RAD001 had progression of their disease delayed by a year, a significantly better result than in those taking placebo, investigators said…more

Novartis’ Zometa may slow cancer progression: A drug prescribed to prevent fractures in breast cancer patients whose tumors have spread may actually help slow the cancer itself, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday…more

Pharmalot has links to some other early ASCO news, including Avastin, Herceptin, Vectibix, Denosumab, and Alimta.

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Call me an idealist, but I think true professionals yearn to add value. There is no fulfillment in collecting a paycheck while being unproductive (except for the chronically pathetic “worker,” but that’s another post).

So, in your current role, what is your value-add? How are you making life better for customers? How is your company benefiting from your contributions?

One of the key indicators that it’s time to “move on” is that you begin to conclude – over the long-haul, not just during a bad week – that you are no longer adding significant value. Either you have changed, your company has changed, the business environment has changed, or some combination thereof…whatever the reason, you are not in an optimal role any longer.

Or, perhaps, the role was a mismatch to begin with. You read “First, Break all the Rules,” and “Now, Discover your Strengths” and you realize that your strongest abilities are not really being leveraged in your current role.

What to do? Find a way to move on. No-one wins when you’re not adding the kind of value that you could/should. Determine where your “gold” is – where you are most productive, gifted, and fulfilled; and then find the place that needs you.

I walked away from two professional positions (each after ~10 years) when I concluded that things had changed sufficiently that I could no longer provide optimal value. Amicably, with forethought and planning, I fired myself and embraced new opportunities that were a better fit. Had I become less capable or knowledgeable? To the contrary. It was just a matter of recognizing that I could no longer add value that way I needed to. And that’s OK.

Business conditions will continue to change rapidly. We needn’t assume that we’re going to be in one place forever, or that our contributions will be the same over time. One of my philosophical and practical goals in all areas of life is to create and build, get it established, then move on to new challenges. That’s how I add value – not by a lather-rinse-repeat cycle of repetitive tasks.

How do you add value? Are you prepared to take a clear-eyed look at your current role, ask yourself and others what your greatest strengths are, and look into new opportunities?

( Related post: Be Prepared – like right now! [networking] )

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After Hours 5_12

Some gorgeous photos from National Geographic. Superb.

I have always had a secret desire to be a DJ, or at least a voice-over artist. Probably will never happen. But I do find voice-over humor to be funny – like this one, just discovered on YouTube

(hat tip: Presurfer blog)

And here’s on oldie-but-goodie:

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Merck the latest to make major cuts to its sales force – The unwinding of the Big Pharma sales armies continues apace, with Merck saying late today that it’s cutting its U.S. sales force by 1,200 positions, or about 14% from 8,500 reps at the start of 2007…more (and, in a strange twist, it appears that certain other layoffs were made public via Powerpoint!)

Device industry not immune either: Medtronic to make major cuts – Medtronic Inc on Tuesday said it would eliminate about 1,100 jobs this year, or almost 3 percent of its work force, in businesses whose growth has slowed, including its flagship heart rhythm device unit…more

Cephalon’s Fentora denied wider use – U.S. health officials should reject expanded use of Cephalon Inc’s Fentora pain drug beyond cancer patients because of the potential for abuse of the powerful narcotic, an advisory panel of outside experts said on Tuesday…more

King Pharma’s profitability falls as generic Altace competition ramps up – King Pharmaceuticals Inc posted a 24 percent drop in first-quarter profit on Thursday as sales of its Altace blood-pressure drug plunged due to competition from generics…more

Abbott putting focus on ADHD market – Pay attention! Abbott Laboratories wants you to get excited about its new ADHD drug, but don’t worry, it won’t keep you up all night…more

New version of Novo Seven cleared – Denmark’s Novo Nordisk won U.S. approval to sell a new formulation of a genetically engineered protein therapy that helps the blood clot, regulators said on Friday…more

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For those pharma sales training folks gearing up for this year’s SPBT Conference, here is a quick video with a few tips on how to maximize your time. You may wish to forward this especially to first-time attendees.

Also, click here for a free tool to help your planning. This single-sheet .pdf file can help you make your time in the exhibit hall as valuable as possible.

Having worked on the “industry partner” side for over 10 years, I know that one of the biggest challenges in the conference exhibit hall is establishing clear communications and expectations between clients and vendors. And as a client, you can help yourself and any potential vendors by taking a few minutes, using this simple tool, to outline your upcoming training needs.

While it will only take you a few moments (in your office, on the plane, in the hotel…or during a less-than-engaging workshop!), this quick exercise will help you have very clear and focused communications on the exhibit floor.

And if you want to go over your upcoming needs in more detail, I can be reached via cell phone during the entire conference to set up a quick meeting – don’t hesitate to call for advice and recommendations (my contact info is on the form). If you need a quick overview of how Impactiviti can help you with your sales training needs, here’s the elevator speech.

P.S. – The conference is a great opportunity for networking. Here is why that’s important.

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