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Archive for November, 2016

jsjovallI recently sat down with John Sjovall (past-President of LTEN) to interview him about his transition from heading up T&D at Daiichi-Sankyo, to working with a small startup (Collegium Pharmaceuticals). If you’ve ever been curious about what such a move might be like….well, read on!

Profile of Collegium Pharmaceuticals:

Collegium as a commercial organization is a little over one year old, with approximately 230 total employees. The sales force is about 160 sales reps and managers, broken out into three different teams: Therapeutic, Institutional, and LTC.

Collegium is focused on developing and launching products that use a proprietary DETERx manufacturing process. DETERx takes a drug API and makes it extended release (Q12 dosing), and manipulation resistant. In late June of 2016 the company launched its first product: Xtampza ER is an oxycodone opioid indicated for the treatment of chronic pain requiring around the clock treatment.

What has been Collegium’s biggest challenge launching this new drug for pain? 

Launching a new product and new commercial entity at the same time, particularly with a product in the opioid pain space, has been a very interesting and challenging opportunity. Besides healthcare organizations that are stricter than ever in controlling their formularies, we have found that access to the prescriptions in pharmacies is a real challenge due to the nature of the product. Pharmacy chains are now less inclined to auto-ship new products at launch, especially for opioids. In addition CII opioids require vault space (which is limited) at local pharmacies, and they have monthly opioid quotas for CII’s as well; it is a very intensive “hands-on process” where sales representatives must walk HCP offices and local pharmacies through the steps to make sure that prescriptions are available when they are written. An account management approach to sales is a mandatory mindset for the sales representative in an opioid market.

Lots of people who have been in larger pharmaceutical companies dream of moving over to a startup. The perception is lots of freedom and excitement. What’s the reality?

Joining a start-up has been very exciting, enjoyable…and a challenge as well. I describe it as building a rocket ship after it has already taken off from the launch pad. You are building internal processes and systems at the same time you are fielding sales forces and launching products. The pace is fast, hours are long, and the whole adventure is very fulfilling. One caution I would append is to go into it with your eyes wide open; things are lean, budgets and personnel are tight!

For example, when I was at my last company I had a training team of 30+; teams were focused on new hire training, training development and training technologies. At a startup it was initially a team of three (me, myself and I). Yes, I was doing everything – strategizing, designing and editing training materials and content, while at the same time finding and launching an LMS and other training technologies. I was able to add a second position last spring four months before launch. If you are not willing to work in an environment where you need to roll up your sleeves and be a doer and planner, then a start-up may not be for you.

You joined Collegium Pharmaceuticals as they were preparing for their first launch. What was most surprising to you about the experience?

The biggest surprise was the need to be flexible and build the process when it is needed, because it doesn’t exist. At an established organization, processes and procedures are embedded and are already part of the organizational culture. In a start-up, you have small teams with everybody engaged in building their own rocket ship. For instance, Medical-Legal review may be a brand-new process, so you have to make sure you understand what someone is intending, because they may not be available later when you may need additional clarification.

Of course, there are differences between very small start-ups and more mature companies, but what are the issues that are pretty much the same? 

Interestingly enough, there are many aspects that are quite similar. The same set of priorities drive large and small companies in our industry. Despite the size difference, a SmartCar and a stretch limousine fundamentally work the same way.

The time and cost to build a workshop or a product learning module is the same whether you are building it for 10 or 10,0000. The assumption that we are small and nimble may allow decisions to be made quickly; but the execution/process time is still the same. And effective communication is just as critical; the fact that you are small doesn’t mean teammates will absorb information or know what you are doing. You still need to keep stakeholders informed and check in that your activities are tracking with the organization’s priorities and initiatives.

What have you learned about yourself as a professional through this new role?

The first thing I learned was that I could be more flexible; those who know me understand that I like to follow the process and have a plan in place! In the past I liked to start planning the training for a product launch 18 to 24 months ahead of time; in this new role, I did it in less than 11 months, including the onboarding and training of 142 new sales hires! “You can teach an old dog new tricks!” I have had fun this year dusting off old unused skills and knowledge, and creatively applying all those years of experience into a new and dynamic setting.

More in this series:

Training for the New World of Specialty Pharma

Becoming a Consultant – Should You?

Two Keys to Successful Product Launches

Clinical Training Innovation at Depomed

Impactiviti is devoted to improving the craft of life sciences training, through strategic consulting, vendor recommendations, and network-building.

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d-grazOver the years, I have had countless discussions with training leaders about training for specialty field forces vs. primary care. But my recent conversation with Dave Graziano (AVP, Immunology Sales) was particularly enlightening. Dave has held multiple roles in both sales leadership and sales training with several companies and he has strong views about how companies can – indeed, must – evolve to better equip their specialty sales forces.

Any good discussion begins with clear distinctions, and Dave had a very specific place where he wanted to draw the line between sales forces. For our purposes, “primary care” would consist of Pills/Creams/Prescriptions – the classic model of making enough calls to doctors who would generate enough volume to meet sales goals. This promotional approach involves little or no patient or process assistance, and focuses on the typical tools of influence that we’re all familiar with, including selling models, scripted messages, etc.

And – here’s the thing – it doesn’t necessarily prepare sales reps for success in a specialty market.

By contrast, we have Injections/Infusions/Buy-and-bill, including Biologics, Immunotherapy, and Rare Disease areas. These types of products will often require a company representative to roll up their sleeves and get involved in a process – as Dave put it, “owning the prescription all the way” to actual usage. As we discussed the skill set and activities involved here, it resembled what we might typically think of in a merged role of salesperson, account manager, project manager, and consultant.

Dave uses the analogy of a machine – the complex inter-relationships of the patient journey, the HCP/staff pathway, the specialty pharmacy, and the various other cogs involved in actually bringing together a patient and the specific treatment. Understanding and operating a complex machine (instead of just delivering messages) requires a whole different approach to training, because the nature of the role is more sophisticated and multi-faceted.

In fact, one area of best practices Dave underscored was better, and deeper, training on both the patient journey and the full HCP pathway for the use of these products. Simple sales call simulations cannot adequately cover the breadth of knowledge and situational awareness needed. Multi-stage scenarios which include the range of people and processes that are actually involved will prove to be of far greater value, and specialty training should adjust to those realities instead of mimicking the more basic primary care approach.

Many companies have given lip service to the term “consultative selling” (which may be little more than improved listening and questioning skills), but this part of the marketplace does, in fact, require that company representatives evolve into true consultants and active partners. The competitive advantage of becoming hands-on trusted advisors who understand the complexity of the landscape and who “own the prescription” as it moves all the way down the field should be quite evident.

Hopefully, our training will evolve to include a richer palette of business acumen, including environmental awareness (uncovering of client challenges and pain points), directed communications, and process facilitation. Specialty sales joined to consultative, operational implementation. That’s a real value-add.

One question that this opens up is quite interesting – how will companies alter their hiring practices to reflect the needed skill set for this type of client relationship? And should we be far more hesitant to shift primary care sales reps into specialty roles without a major shift in how we view transitional training?

Food for thought – feel free to add your input in the comments.

Impactiviti is devoted to improving the craft of life sciences training, through strategic consulting, vendor recommendations, and network-building.

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So, you want to be a consultant?

Who hasn’t put in a number of years “on the inside,” and then gazed out longingly at the world of paid consulting, liberated from all corporate restraints? The thought of trading out bureaucracy for free agency entrepreneurship seems irresistible at times.

It turns out that many of your colleagues have done just that.

georgeeOne of those is George Ericsson, whose career has progressed from sales representative (“pre-Revolutionary War era”); through various leadership roles in training (GSK, Wyeth, Pfizer); out into consulting with both small and larger training/consulting services firms; and, yes, working as a freelance consultant and contractor.

In other words, George has done it all. I’ve known George for quite some time, and as fellow entrepreneurs, we’ve brainstormed and commiserated regularly over the years.

I asked George for his input on what he’d want to share with a fellow training colleague thinking about the “greener pastures” of consulting. His advice is on point for anyone looking to launch a new business. Here are 5 main thoughts:

> Defining your area of expertise is critical. You can’t just hang out a shingle that says, “Consultant for hire.” That’s a lot like walking around with a sandwich board that says, “Will Work for Food.” Consultants (and all businesses) need to articulate precisely where they provide value, and exactly how they are going to make a tangible business impact. No-one hires you for simply being smart and experienced. Remember – people are looking for tangible answers to their issues. You have to be able to succinctly describe the pain relief you offer.

> Business Development is a major key to success. Just about every entrepreneur and consultant bemoans the fact that so much of their time has to be devoted to finding new work. Some really talented providers simply don’t have the skills to sell their services. Having a referral network can be a huge help here, but you should not assume that a network of “friends” and former co-workers will generate enough continuing income to pay your bills. This is also one reason why it is such a challenge to know how to price your services in the marketplace – you’re not just earning an hourly rate, you’re seeking to grow a business. Non-billable hours and sales efforts all have to be calculated in the cost of business.

> Finances can be really choppy. In most cases, you’ll be without a predictable paycheck. No annual bonuses. And benefits? That’s an expensive cocoon to replace. Cash flow ends up being an issue for almost every entrepreneur/consultant/contractor, and it’s risky to launch without a 3 to 6-month cushion of savings, and at least one guaranteed major client. If you have a spouse who earns a steady paycheck and has a benefit package covering your family, this can smooth out a lot of the wrinkles. This is probably THE number one concern I hear about, from all sorts of small businesses and consultancies.

> You may or may not be cut out for consultant/contractor life. Some take to it immediately and never turn back – the corporate setting was toxic to their soul. Others, however, wilt, not flourish, when working on their own. They have a high need for social contact, collaboration, and team energy. It can get very lonely on the other side of the fence. You have to avoid the temptations (golf, sleep, TV, Facebook, etc.) of not having to report to an office and boss every day.  I once counseled a solo consultant to get back into a corporate position, because their makeup and skill set really had much more to do with building/leading a team, than providing short bursts of outside expertise.

> Get ready for no (or fewer) support resources. In the cushy corporate world, there are Help Desks, expert fellow employees, and all kinds of other helpful infrastructure resources. Unless you’re working with a pretty large consulting firm, you’re going to have to do a lot of things yourself. Remember all that stuff other people on the payroll did for you? You’re the one making travel reservations, Staples runs and doing computer virus scans all by your lonesome now. Allocation of effort and time can be a lot more challenging when you’re on your own.

Everyone gets tired of the corporate rigmarole (“politics”) and it can seem very appealing to jump ship and sail out on your own. Some succeed in the endeavor, quite admirably. And there are major benefits to being out on your own or with a small consulting outfit. But I’ve seen many of these businesses from the inside, and I’ve lived the life for over 10 years. The word EASY does not come quickly to mind. Do you love/hate your job? Guess what – you’ll love/hate being a consultant! You trade one set of rewards and frustrations for another (sorry to burst that bubble).

I’ll add one item that I know George would affirm as well: if you’re thinking about making the move to being a consultant, get some solid career and business advice first. Over the years counseling many folks on this topic we’ve seen plenty of solo (and small) businesses fail for these and other reasons. It can be expensive launching out on your own, and in some cases, it can prove to be a career-limiting move if you change course and try to get back inside a corporate setting, especially if you assume that you will come in at the same job level and compensation.

One piece of advice that is always in season: build your professional network NOW. Actively cultivate relationships with great people inside and outside your company. They will most likely be your first customers if and when you go out on your own. Don’t forget to (re-)connect with former co-workers who have moved other other companies.

With that said, there are some really great, really smart consultants out there. Experienced consultants can provide their clients with a perspective that is lacking on the inside – they will have been inside a wide range of companies and can use that experience to help their clients build better solutions.

Remember, as a consultant, if you’re good at several things, but great at one thing, you stand a good chance of succeeding if you can promote your unique message to the marketplace.

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