Archive for September, 2013

over capacityPeople sometimes ask me how I determine whether a particular vendor is a good fit for a specific client/project.

One of the factors I consider is capacity – does the vendor have the bandwidth and talent and structure to do this particular project well?

Vendors have a hard time saying “No” to clients even when they know they’re about to overload their capacity – it stems from a fear of both losing face, and losing business. But this is where high-risk-of-failure starts to enter into the equation.

I encourage vendor/partners, particularly those with whom I do a Clarity Therapy session, to target their business development efforts at their capacity sweet spot. For instance, one of my partners is a great choice for niche product launches – but would be overwhelmed by a large launch. So, it doesn’t make sense for them to target those opportunities. Some of my solo consultant partners stand a much better chance at succeeding with emerging biotechs than trying to compete on a very un-level playing field with bigger providers for the business of Top 5 Pharma companies.

Here are some capacity questions to consider:

1. How much of this work will need to be outsourced to others? Outsourcing isn’t always bad – in many cases where specific domains of expertise are needed, it’s unavoidable – but a complex and multi-faceted project may demand a supplier with a higher internal staffing level just to manage the many moving parts. On the other hand, for more limited projects, that may be unnecessary overhead.

2. Does this project require dedicated staff from the vendor (especially dedicated project management)? Some work can be juggled successfully without a more focused team, but some projects require a fixed amount of ongoing bandwidth. Find out in advance if that is the case.

3. Does this vendor have the capacity NOW for this project? Last year’s success with a similar project does not guarantee this year’s success if the vendor is already loaded up with other work.

4. Am I giving this vendor too much work? One client can overload a vendor such that their performance degrades – and, can put that vendor in a dangerous position of being too dependent on a single client for their financial health. I have seen this latter scenario play out time and again – no vendor should have a single client providing more than a third of their revenue.

5. Is this the right KIND of vendor for this project? A marketing agency may not be a great choice for a given training project, because their staffing and processes doesn’t match up to the requirements. A training agency doesn’t always have the bandwidth and expertise to develop software well. A consultant may do a fine job on a curriculum map, but may be the wrong choice for a courseware build-out. Both sides have to be realistic about where the sweet spot is – and isn’t.

What has been your experience (both good and bad) with vendor capacity?

photo credit: 96dpi via photopincc

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AvoidYou remember how, in the schoolyard, certain people were so difficult to be around that you just began to avoid them?

That still happens. In client-vendor relationships. And sometimes, it’s the client company that is poisoning the relationship.

Why do certain vendors begin to have an allergic reaction to specific clients, and start to back away?

Here are the main issues I’ve seen:

  1. Hostile Attitude“We’re the client, we have the money, and you’re our servant.” This disrespectful and arrogant posture is a formula for future failure. It ensures that only the most desperate yes-vendors do work for a client-with-attitude.
  2. Non-Communication – Vendors that don’t get clear instructions and updates during a proposal process – or, that don’t even get a notice or explanation once a bid has been awarded to someone else – often decline the next “opportunity” to be frustrated by the prospective client.
  3. Convoluted Process – This usually occurs when Procurement drives the outsourcing bus. Process moves from being a help to being an entangling and confusing hindrance.
  4. Feeling Used – When a vendor feels like they’ve gone through a time-consuming and expensive process of bidding on a project that basically goes to an incumbent (maybe with a few “borrowed” ideas from other proposals), that vendor concludes that they don’t have a fair shot at gaining the work. Hence – a hesitancy to invest time in future work where they might actually be the best choice.

Not all of these things can be changed by training professionals seeking outsource suppliers, and there isn’t always a bad motive at the core of each difficult client-vendor relationship. But these are some warning signs.

Just as clients choose vendors, vendors also choose clients.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Most of the biopharma sales trainers I’ve come into contact with over the past 17 years have cycled in from a field sales position. Many were on rotation for a period of time (typically 18 months to 3 years); some stayed in T&D, or cycled back in after another rotation in field management.

Also, many have left the industry; willingly, or (for more often lately), through downsizing.

I’ve talked with a number of folks leaving their (once seemingly secure) positions in biopharma companies, who are contemplating the world of work “out there” and wondering if their prior dedication to this industry leaves them at a disadvantage.

I don’t think so, especially if you’ve had a successful time learning the skills to become a good trainer. Here’s why:

  • Communication skills that you learn in training will be universally applicable in every career choice you make.
  • Facilitation skills will set you apart from the run-of-the-mill employee who has never been trained in how to run a meeting.
  • Leadership skills that are embedded in the training function will rise to the surface in every future role.
  • Management skills (including horizontal, matrix-style management) that develop through being in a HQ position are hugely important no matter what industry or role you land in.
  • Training enforces orderly, systematic thinking. Guess how many woolly-headed business people are out there who cannot connect dots logically?
  • Confidence that comes from playing the role of instructor will seep into your DNA and make you more effective in every realm.
  • Being in a training department will expose you to the Strategic/Tactical tension (and merge) that any developing leader needs to grasp.

In short, if you’ve been a contributor in a training department, you’ve gained a wealth of valuable experience that you may vastly underestimate, simply because you don’t live and breathe next to a bunch of your peers in other industries who have had far more limited development opportunities.

It’s a privilege for me to work regularly with so many smart, personable, and teachable folks. Realize that you are developing a host of skills and disciplines that completely transcend this industry. And that often transcend the slip-shod training and development that leaves so many others less capable than you are.

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