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Archive for the ‘Sales training’ Category

I had a call recently from one of my preferred training partners, letting me know that a proposed project which had been put on hold some months ago was suddenly resurrected, and is now about to kick off. Awesome – I love that!

Sometimes client needs end up on uncomfortably longer-than-expected timetables, right? So, once a vendor-partner has had a helpful conversation to scope out a potential project, and they’ve submitted a proposal, how should they follow up?

50 shades follow up

I am asked this regularly by my partner companies, and here is my standard advice:

  1. Don’t panic. Initiatives, and even responses to inquiries, just get delayed.
  2. Don’t pester. By and large, clients dislike that. The follow-up process shouldn’t be punishment for expressing interest.
  3. Gently inquire as to the status on an occasional (and by this I don’t mean twice-weekly!) basis. Make it a very succinct e-mail or VM – not an extended sales pitch.
  4. For all prospects with whom you hope to develop a good relationship, occasionally forward interesting and value-adding resources and news items relevant to them or their company. No pitch – just, “thought you might like to see this.” It’s a valuable way to stay top-of-mind.
  5. If you’re going to be in the area geographically, offer to meet for coffee or lunch. Not a capabilities presentation. Just talk. And see if you can make connections and introductions for your client within your network.

follow up 2

I was on the vendor side for years, and carried plenty of sales responsibilities over the past 3 decades, so I know the pressure. But you have to take the long view. I cultivated a friendship with one individual whom I got to know a long time ago (2 or 3 companies ago for him!), and with whom I stayed in touch even though there was little or no immediate business. And then, a referral door opened up into a very large new business opportunity. Had I been a high-pressure pest, that likely would never had happened.

Add value. Not pressure.

Here was one client’s take recently: I hate being oversold and told that they can do everything. Trying to hard to get the business. I also don’t want to get 100 calls and emails; my time is precious.”

That’s my take – now, what about yours, training professionals? What do you prefer, or dislike, as far as a follow-up procedure from a vendor? Add your input in the comments so that your vendor-partners can benefit from your advice!

(P.S. From the vendor side of the equation, this input): One helpful piece of feedback from a vendor perspective to clients:  Please respond to the inquiry or follow-up. It is sometimes the case that a vendor puts in a tremendous amount of effort in developing a proposed solution to a stated need. In follow-up the client goes totally silent. The courtesy of a short email, such as “thanks for the follow-up and the proposal it is much appreciated. Priorities have changed slightly I will be back in touch in a few days/weeks/months” would be extremely helpful. Right now we’re seeing a trend toward shorter response cycles for more complex requirements, accompanied by very poor client feedback (or none at all).

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What is the Impactiviti network? It is where Steve Woodruff helps life sciences training professionals get clear on their outsource needs, and get connected to optimal vendor-partners.

This unique “matchmaking” network works so well because Steve also helps training vendors get clear on their message, and get connected to new training clients.

Steve is the eHarmony of the Life Sciences Training community, saving everyone from wasted time and effort.

Working on new training initiatives? Whatever you need, ask Steve!

Our training consultations are free – just ask Steve at steve@stevewoodruff.com.

 

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Since I’m asking the question, you can probably guess my answer: Yes. Here’s why I think so…

With some exceptions, commercial training departments in biopharma companies tend to be thought of as “order-takers” for the more high-profile Sales and Marketing departments. “We need this done – toss it over the fence to training.” Ever seen that sort of approach to the training department before?

Deservedly or not, training tends to be viewed as a place for tactical execution. Add to this fact that many of the roles in commercial training tend to be rotational (successful sales people moving through the training department toward roles in marketing or sales leadership) and it’s easy to see why the default identity for training might devolve to “merely” a support function.

Hence the need to pro-actively create and reinforce a clear value-adding identity for the training department – a “brand,” if you will.

One of my most interesting assignments last year was to work with one training department on establishing a brand identity, including key principles and practices demonstrating the value (to the organization) of the training group. In an upcoming LTEN webinar, Jason Zeman (Director of Sales L&D of Valeant) and I will outline how we developed a brand identity with the department, and how that brand shapes the vision, leadership, and practices of the training staff.

The key question we worked with during our brand session was, “How does the Learning and Development group uniquely add value to our organization?” You’ll discover how “Developing Value” became a key mantra in the Valeant training brand.

Developing Value

Join us on Friday, March 4th (12:30 ET) as we discuss with you how branding goes beyond just a logo and a catch phrase, and explain the practical impact of a department identity that demonstrates ongoing value. Register for the webinar here.

 

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There are lots of coaching programs and approaches, though I suspect that many of them overlap quite a bit. But when I hear that a coaching program “isn’t working,” I generally wonder if it really has anything to do with the quality of the program itself.

I suspect we’re dealing with implementation and pull-through issues, leading inevitably to a lack of coaching quality where the rubber meets the road (out in the field).

Quality pic

Improving coaching practices involves changing habits, not giving out more information or enforcing new acronyms. A half-day coaching training session won’t automatically translate to productive behaviors in the field.

It seems to me that a combination of two things will best lead to an increase in coaching quality:

  1. A data-driven analysis to diagnose the current state of practice, and to define “what good looks like” – along with a prescription to move from A to B (one of my consultant-partners specializes in this).
  2. A structured and realistic roll-out/reinforcement plan that ensures peer-reinforced improvement as the coaching approach is implemented.

I had a chance to interact deeply with one of my established Selling/Coaching partners about this crucial element of reinforcement – they feel that it really is the key to success with any coaching (or selling!) program.

How has your company been doing with improving coaching quality? Do you have some ideas or best practices to share? Send me an e-mail at AskSteve@impactiviti.com and let’s compare notes.

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So, what’s it like to run a professional network to share resources and recommendations in a business vertical?

Well, it’s immensely rewarding, for one thing. What could be more gratifying that connecting clients with outsource partners, job opportunities, and each other?

Let me describe 4 recent opportunities here at Impactiviti – just so you know what goes on behind the curtain here at our middle Tennessee HQ. All of these interactions revolve around the commercial life sciences industry:

  1. A client e-mailed with a need for a vendor that would do a creative job with some product learning modules. This client did a great job describing what he was and wasn’t looking for, so I knew immediately which vendor he needed to contact for a discussion. Connection made – done! Of course, it’s not always that easy….
  2. Another client described a need for some live role-play training at an upcoming sales meeting. Since I’ve had less demand for this type of supplier, I only knew of one such company – so I turned to my client network for input and recommendations. This led me to new relationships with two dynamite, well-established suppliers that had been quite under the radar. I love finding these niche companies!
  3. A high-level training professional in career transition had gone through some clarity coaching, and now had a solid direction – but how to expand exposure? What about recruiters? That question led me to turn to my network for recommended recruiters (why I hadn’t done this before, I simply don’t know…duh!) to better understand how they can help with job transitions and openings. This led to productive collaborations with three outfits that I can now recommend*, with potential to work with them on promoting THEIR open opportunities to my network. A fruitful network expansion that I didn’t see coming…
  4. A very small pharma company had an obscure need, not in training, but in marketing. I barely grasped the nature of the need (getting drugs listed in on-line platforms), and had no knowledge of potential suppliers, but I reached into one corner of my network – pharma marketing folks – and asked for input. I confess that I had very little anticipation of results. Within a couple hours, I had multiple helpful responses that I was able to pass along – turns out those marketing folks are quite happy to share their knowledge, too.

valueadd

Here’s the point: Impactiviti succeeds because of YOU.

A network of great people is a huge value-add to my business (and my clients). Not only do I get to make recommendations, my clients and partners give input and make connections for me, and everyone benefits in the process. Yes, it’s labor-intensive to build and maintain these relationships over time, but the reward is exponential.

I tell people that I certainly don’t know everyone or everything, but my network pretty much does – so let me reach out and find what you need (email: AskSteve@impactiviti.com).

And that, friends, is why I love my job!

*if you’re a pharma/biotech/med device training professional, let me know if you’d like to have the list of recommended recruiters and I’ll forward it to you.

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You want to hire the right provider for the job. Some mis-matches are obvious – you don’t hire a plumber to represent you in court; nor do you contract with a fast-food trainee to fly a jumbo jet.

(those aren’t decisions so much as DUH-cisions!)

But when considering a training vendor, it’s often not so clear-cut. What I’ve seen over the years is that there are several distinct types of projects, which require different kinds of vendors (though with some overlap). I’ll make an attempt to classify these different types of projects with one of my patented Ugly Graphics

Project4

That sea of boxes is about as clear as mud, so let me explain. Let’s start with the bottom level, Short-term/Single-focus projects:

Project1

Most training departments undertake a number of smaller, more focused projects each year. Examples include:

  • Smaller training modules
  • Selling workshops
  • Compliance courses
  • Facilitation training

Many boutique vendors specialize in such areas and do a great job with these more limited-scope/limited-focus endeavors. Choosing among them can be a challenge because there are so many providers, and some of them overlap.

These point solutions definitely play an important role in the outsourcing of training. These projects can range from a few thousand dollars on up to six figures, but they typically retain a fairly narrow focus and, often, a short timeline.

It’s important to bear in mind, however, that not all boutique vendors have the scale to tackle the next level of project, the Major Initiative.

Project2

Some training projects take a number of months to execute, with lots of moving parts, and a more complex rollout. This will require a vendor with a more diverse set of in-house (and contract) resources and solid expertise in customer-focused project management. Examples include:

  • Product launch meetings (and full learning systems)
  • Technology rollouts
  • Curriculum re-design
  • Major eLearning conversions

These vendors may still be “boutique” in their focus, but they’re well beyond the two-people-in-a-garage phase of business growth. Most of these projects will be budgeted at the upper five figures (at the low end), into six figures.

Often, these vendor partners may also do short-term projects for you; however, their sweet spot is handling your larger, multi-faceted headaches. When successful, these can become productive long-term partnerships involving multiple initiatives over the long haul.

There is one higher-level provider – that rare breed of Consulting/business process/organizational design partner. These larger entities specialize in multi-year change management blueprints (and execution), helping a training organization to properly configure itself for present and projected future needs. They may also provide staffing services and major project outsourcing:

Project3

These types of organization-wide efforts are generally not initiated at the department level – they are typically spearheaded by executives who oversee the entire commercial training function. And the vendor/partners that provide this level of service are not boutique providers – they undertake 6 and 7-figure projects that touch every aspect of the training function.

(Let me note here that Impactiviti, as a client-vendor matchmaking service, has best-in-class partners hand-selected for you at all of these levels).

OK, now let’s remove, for the time being, that final rarefied strata of organizational design because those projects are less common. There are still a couple of other types of vendor/providers we want to consider whose services flow into, and out of, the other types of projects:

Partner4

On the one side – what we might call “setting the compass” – are those firms that provide high-level strategic direction for the department. These services can include:

  • Benchmarking studies
  • Process design
  • Curriculum design
  • Branding and identity for the department*

The main offering here is high-level expertise to help training directors map out plans and structures that others (internal and external resources) will typically implement. These boutique providers range in size from individual consultants to larger life sciences consulting firms.

*(this, by the way, is a niche consulting service Impactiviti provides directly)

A growing emphasis on outcomes leads to a growing emphasis on metrics and measurement, so one emerging area is the more technical area of assessment and analytics. Some providers of other services will provide some level of outcome-analytics, as will some of the consulting firms. This will certainly be woven into any organizational-design level initiative. Expect this practice to increase in importance, as it is becoming more central in all of healthcare.

I hope that this classification helps – over many years, I’ve seen projects fall roughly into these categories, and it helps greatly when selecting the proper vendor to keep in mind what is the scale and nature of the project. You can contact Impactiviti at any time (AskSteve@impactiviti.com) for targeted vendor recommendations for any of your projects.

What do you think – did I miss anything with these diagrams?

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What do you do when you have a mandate to increase sales – AND make your selling approach more patient-centric? Isn’t that mutually exclusive? (answer: no!)

That was the challenge for one organization – and, happily, one of Impactiviti’s valued partners had a solution.

Read about it here: Patient Centered Growth case study

patient-centric selling

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