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Archive for the ‘Right-sourcing’ Category

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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When you put the Sales Training and Development Dept. side-by-side with Brand Marketing in most pharmaceutical companies, there is a curious divergence in approach that has always made me scratch my head.

Brands have an agency of record. Training groups have vendors. Lots of them.

Each model has its strengths and weaknesses, but based on the inefficiencies and inconsistencies I’ve seen throughout the years working with training departments, I have to wonder if more of them are now going to experiment with outsourcing larger chunks of training work to a much smaller circle of partners.

Here’s why I think this approach has a lot to commend it:

  1. Across the industry, there have been major cutbacks in sales forces and training groups. Smaller headcount = fewer internal resources to manage projects, leading to a need to have vendor/partners that can (like marketing agencies) take the ball and run with it, or take over entire functional areas.
  2. Much training development work is now becoming commoditized. The next frontier is scalable process and efficiency – a business discipline woven into a learning approach.
  3. Procurement processes are playing a more prominent role. Fragmented vendor selection methods will give way to more efficient, bottom-line-driven long-term partnerships.
  4. Technology keeps moving at a rapid pace. It makes sense to outsource all technical development to a single source that can bring consistency, integration, and big-picture strategy.
  5. Relatively rapid turnover of training personnel (it is usually a developmental position) will, as with brand marketing, make it sensible to ensure continuity by having an agency of record.

I see a day coming when more companies will have one or two primary Training Agencies of Record (TAOR) – perhaps one focused more on content, the other on technology – accompanied by a more limited suite of specialized providers (Managed Market expertise, Coaching programs, etc.). Outsourced training departments (not just sales forces) are already emerging for companies just entering the commercial realm with their first product. We’ll see more of these creative outsource models emerging.

I’m already talking to my Impactiviti clients – and partners – about this evolution toward a consolidated partnering approach. Not only do I recommend vendor/partners for specific needs and solutions, I’m also recommending that Training Directors take a hard look at the TAOR approach (and, yes, I have partners who can serve in this capacity). Let me know your thoughts about both the current and this (potential) future model – what does your crystal ball say?

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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 for training, eMarketing, social media, and more.

Learn more about us here.

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(Image credit: Richard Schwier on Flickr)

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I’ve been on both sides of them. Trying to win immediate or future new business by impressing a prospective client, or evaluating vendors who are on the other side of the table.

This week one of my (pharma) clients asked a great couple of questions about these presentations. Because my response will be a bit involved, and because I’d like your input as well, I thought I’d just turn it into a blog post.

What has been your experience with vendor capability presentations? I am really interested in your perspective about the “standard”. Do you see this as a pure review of competencies or should there be an element of “sales and salesmanship” associated?

What I have seen is that, quite often, expectations are not clearly spelled out – so vendors are left to guess (a bit too much, usually) about what they should be presenting. I’m going to put the onus to improve this situation mainly on the client side; but vendors should not be shy about trying to lay the groundwork upfront as well.

Here are the questions I think you should answer for yourself, before reaching out to vendors for a presentation:

    1. Is this presentation for a specific near-term definable project, or are we looking (in general) to add to our suite of potential providers for future projects?
    2. What are the top three things we are looking for in a short-term or down-the-road provider? What are the next three things that matter most?
    3. What are “showstoppers” that would eliminate a potential provider from contention? Can we find out that information up-front, before everyone invests a lot of time and effort into a face-to-face presentation that is a lost cause?
    4. Can we screen for a smaller pool of potential providers by having a series of on-line presentations that will cover the basics?
    5. If there is a specific project on the table, and you are looking for a short-term provider for that project;
    – have you created an RFP to clearly spell out the parameters for the project? (see this tab on the Impactiviti site for resources on RFP creation)

    – is the capabilities presentation a follow-on to a submitted proposal?

    – in the presentation, what are you mainly looking for? General company overview? Re-cap and explanation of proposal? Creativity of provider? Consultative discussion? Price negotiations? Company culture/chemistry? New ideas? Interaction with a full development team? Song and dance and balloons? Actually TELL the prospective providers what you want to see and do in the meeting, and structure an agenda that maps to your plan.

    – consider creating a “scorecard” for your (client) team so that everyone is evaluating similar specific capabilities, as well as giving more general, subjective opinions.

I do recognize that there are different “standards” in different industries or divisions. In pharma, for instance, capabilities presentations for Training tend to be more cerebral and factual, while in Marketing there is generally more flash and glitter. I’d like to see training providers amp up the creativity a bit, frankly – some of the capabilities I’ve had to sit through were snoozefests. All of it is a form of “selling”, of course – but I find that the consultative approach, by and large, is far more effective than the hard sell when doing these types of presentations (ask me sometime about the unorthodox consultative “capabilities presentation” I decided to do one day!)

Be aware that it is quite costly, in time and dollars, for vendors to come on-site for capabilities presentations; and it is an investment of your (client) time as well. Take every step possible to make sure that only well-matched vendors are brought in for live presentations, with clear expectations and directions given up front. Marching a bunch of vendors through a room who don’t have a clear grasp of the goals of the meeting is a frustrating experience for all involved. The more pro-actively you map out what you’re looking for, the better-targeted the presentations will be.

What have I missed? Add your input in the comments – both client-side and vendor-side!

And, yes, I do consult with pharma/biotech clients on vendor selection strategies and RFP design, if you want to improve your vendor relationship practices!

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You have a day job, which is developing and deploying the most effective training possible. That means finding good vendor/partners – but who has time to know that entire provider landscape?

That’s my “day job” (and I’m STILL finding great new suppliers, month after month!). I thought it might be helpful to provide you with a grid of all the areas of training where I have built up a partner network, so that as needs come up, you can better know where I can help.

Here’s the file, suitable for posting in your cubicle and/or passing along to your colleagues.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive, because I go out and find suppliers for my clients when they toss me needs outside of these categories! Which is one way that I keep expanding the network of great providers for the next time that need comes up.

The one area where I’m not likely to be able to help much is commodity-level, off-the-shelf programs (training on MS Office applications, for instance), or general, non-pharma specific themes such as generic leadership programs provided by big training companies. Impactiviti specializes in pharma-specific partners who provide focused programs (sometimes off-the-shelf, but usually custom or partially customized). So, if you need Fleet training or How-to-use-Excel, we’re not your resource. Pretty much anything else, give us a call and we’ll try to help!

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What happened to the August “lull”? I’ve never seen so many incoming calls for vendor recommendations – not that I’m complaining, mind you!

In the last few weeks, a lot of concentration on Account Manager (and other personnel) training for Managed Markets. Finding some great resources, with the help of my “inner circle” of clients and suppliers. Also in recent days, requests for specialty field force training, sales-meeting-in-a-box providers, marketing agencies, and training audios.

It is my goal to continue gradually expanding my network of providers, finding the best vendors who focus on specific needs and niches. And those of you on the client side are a big help, providing your recommendations of those that have served you best. When you help me identify your best-in-class providers, you not only strengthen their business so that they can grow and better serve you, you help your pharma training colleagues and make the entire marketplace healthier. I call it “accelerated natural selection”!

(by the way, if you’re working with software development vendors, please be nice to them. This amusing little video clip explains why!)

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I just received, from the SPBT folks, the consolidated feedback from the Vendor Selection workshop (“Right-Sourcing” 101) co-facilitated by Angela Nicoletta and me at the Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers conference in late spring.

There were no Russian judges, no perfect “10”s awarded, and we didn’t get to ascend the trainer’s podium for a gold medal. But it looks like we scored all right with the audience, and that’s what matters.

Is it OK to share this? I guess probably so; but if not, then I’ll ask forgiveness later!

Session: Vendor Selection: “Right-Sourcing” 101

    Presenter’s Expertise: 3.74 (average for all sessions was 3.49)
    Presenter’s Delivery: 3.58 (average for all sessions was 3.40)
    Presenter’s Preparedness: 3.68 (average for all sessions was 3.53)
    Overall Content: 3.53 (average for all sessions was 3.27)
    Quality/Usefulness of Handouts: 3.58 (average for all sessions was 3.14)
    Overall Value of the Workshop: 3.68 (average for all sessions was 3.25)

Note: The scale is: 1-poor  2-good  3-very good  4-excellent

Some of the positive comments were:

    – As an industry partner, I enjoyed getting the information/mindset of the ‘inside the walls’ person
    – Class participation on best practices
    – Excellent 10 steps
    – Good thought starters
    – I have no experience as a lead manager so this was very helpful spelling out the RFP/RFI process
    – Real-life examples were provided
    – Sample RFP outline; points to make sure to include
    – I am new to vendor sourcing and needed this
    – Thorough and logical; good real world examples included

On the constructive criticism side, the input focused on “not enough time.” That was definitely the case – we had a lot of material and could not shoehorn it all into 1.5 hours. But I guess that’s OK compared to the opposite problem!

I don’t have written reviews from those who attended the lunch-and-learn version that I’ve subsequently delivered to specific training departments, but I know the sessions were very well received. Contact us here (stevew(at)impactiviti.com) if you’d like to schedule a session for your team on Vendor Selection.

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You have a training or marketing project. Maybe it’s a workshop, or a product module; maybe it’s a selling skills program, or an eLearning initiative. Or perhaps you’re considering social media or other forms of eMarketing.

Choosing a vendor/partner should be pretty easy, right? Just find the right fit.

You look at a list of companies currently used by your department. Check their websites. They all seem to claim to do everything. Hmmm…that narrows it down to about ten!

Next, you go through all the business cards you’ve accumulated, and the phone messages by various sales people who’ve been afflicting your phone. You go on-line to find lists of potential providers. You talk to your colleagues, call a few friends in other companies, get some new names, people rave about one company, rage about another. Now you only have about…20! And who knows if any of those are really right, or if the best one isn’t even on your list?

Sound familiar? That’s the business problem Impactiviti was founded to solve. And in the 3 years of providing this Recommendation Service, I’ve seen that this issue afflicts pharma professionals in every size organization, even more than I thought at first. Who can really know the whole vendor landscape, when you’ve got a day job as a training or brand manager/director?

Through knowledgeable networking in both the client and vendor community, we help you accurately and quickly find the best vendor partners. You have enough to do in your day job. This important niche area of expertise is our day job!

What types of providers are in the Impactiviti Preferred Partner network? Check out this list: Recommendations by Impactiviti. If you have a project/need in any of these areas, just give us a call. And even if your area need isn’t listed, we can quickly reach out into our network and find just the provider you need.

Vendor selection is both an art and a science. Some vendors may be skilled in one area, but really aren’t the optimal choice in another. Your goal is to have the best “fit” for your need(s), and our goal is to provide you a match with a best-in-class provider – saving you the time and hassle of trying to sort through pitches and claims by dozens of providers. And the wrong fit can be disastrous – lost time, lost money, and a blow to your reputation.

The Impactiviti Recommendation Service is free to clients. (Impactiviti’s preferred partners pay a referral fee when a new business match is created). And, gauging from our Testimonials, we’re providing significant value. Let us know what your upcoming needs are, and let’s see if we can quickly provide you with the “best fit” for a supplier!

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