Archive for the ‘Sales training’ Category

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.


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


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:


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.


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:


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:


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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It was over a year in the making. The re-branding/re-naming of SPBT (the Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers) has finally come to pass!

Though the decision was made on the new identity 6 months ago, the annual conference in Dallas last week was the format for “the big reveal.”

Welcome LTEN – the Life Sciences Trainers and Educators Network. A more inclusive name for the more diverse population of learning professionals (including pharma, biotech, medical devices, and diagnostics) that now make up the organization.

As a branding guy, I like it. The name has flexibility. The acronym is simple. The new look is modern. This was a major win (kudos to the LTEN staff and board for the successful re-launch)!


LTEN sjovallAnd, it was only slightly disconcerting to have LTEN President John Sjovall march out on stage in a Roman gladiator get-up…!

Over 18 years, I have seen the organization evolve, from its roots as NSPST (National Society of Pharmaceutical Sales Trainers), to the present day as LTEN. And every year, the annual gathering is a highlight of my spring schedule.

The conference this year was held at the Gaylord Texan, a mega-hotel/destination in Grapevine, TX. The vast Gaylord properties can be a little overwhelming, but the facility and the LTEN staff did an excellent job with signage and traffic flow. It was a good choice of venue – especially because there was BBQ (more on that later). Next year’s event will be in the Phoenix area – the first time there in recent memory.

LTEN Gaylord

There was an interesting mix of keynotes. Amy Cuddy opened up the conference with a talk on, for lack of a better term, “power posing” – how the way we carry ourselves physically impacts, not only how others perceive ourselves, but how we feel internally. This was an OK session, though I didn’t feel the theme was uniquely targeted to our particular audience (there was a lot of power-posing going on during the week, however!) On the other hand, double-amputee model and athlete Aimee Mullins had a pretty inspirational story about not viewing disabilities as disabilities at all. Many seemed moved by her message and example. She’s a good public speaker, though with room for improvement on liveliness.

LTEN power

(feeling the Power!)

When Dr. David Rock got up to speak, about Neuroleadership (aspects of brain science on how we learn and lead), one of the people at my table confessed that she was a David Rock groupie after hearing him previously (confession: I tend to snort at becoming groupies of anyone or anything). I then proceeded to become a David Rock groupie after an hour of mind-expanding neuro-psych-analysis. I’ll bet some others were less enamored, but as a college psych major and highly analytical thinker, I was totally energized! The conference keynotes closed with my friend Dr. Karl Kapp (a professor of Instructional Technology) not only talking about gamification, but delivering a thoroughly gamified session – really well done. Karl’s a smart guy.

One interesting twist this year was a series of 3 EdTalks – 18-minute sessions on more limited topics. Other innovations included a much more robust conference app (including a photo game called Play Click), learning stations in the exhibit hall, Dine Arounds (and other networking activities), and early morning fitness opportunties. The fresh thinking that Executive Director Kevin Kruse and his talented staff have been putting into the conference over the past few years really bore fruit in 2014 – I had the sense that we have finally attained a major re-boot in the conference and the organization.

I had the pleasure of co-leading a workshop on Career Choices with the engaging and deeply-experienced Jerry Clor – there is always plenty of professional introspection occuring about staying within pharma, or going out to the “dark side” (vendor community) – we tried to provide some advice and pros/cons about the various options. There were many good workshops – quality is always variable – with occasional photobombers present (thanks, Sue!).

LTEN photobomb

The feedback I was getting from exhibitors was actually quite positive this year, especially regarding the quality of interactions with attendees. The ongoing tweaks to workshop scheduling has led to some very nice, extended times in the exhibit hall. I was disappointed to see that the size and number of booths continues to shrink somewhat, and LTEN has some work ahead to convince past, present, and new exhibitors that setting up a booth at this annual conference is a good return on investment.

One of my favorite aspects of the conference, not surprisingly, is the networking – over meals, after sessions, in the exhibit hall, and during evening events. Getting caught up with folks I’ve known for many years – and always meeting new people -is the chief reason I attend. Many attendees who knew that my family is about to move from NJ to Nashville expressed incredible support and gladness for us – maybe even a bit of jealousy – and this really lifted my heart. My Impactiviti services (consulting and workshop facilitation and client-vendor matchmaking and clarity therapy) won’t change at all; but now, when you make trips to Nashville for business or pleasure, you’ll have someone you can turn to for coffee, or advice. Or BBQ.

Which brings me to the last point. BBQ. Specifically, Bill Lycett‘s suggestion that we try out Hard Eight barbecue pit a few miles away. Bob Holliday, Bill, and I waddled out of there stuffed to the gills with some top-shelf Texas BBQ. I wanted to bottle the aromatic smoky air and take it home with me as a souvenir of a very enjoyable LTEN conference experience (let’s hope Phoenix has something comparable…)!


All in all, a very enjoyable week. The LTEN staff and volunteers were a pleasure to interact with, as always. Looking forward to years of steady progress ahead with this re-energized organization!

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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)


Related post: The Pharma Roller-coaster

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Many consulting groups will gladly trade a 100-slide Powerpoint deck of strategy for a bunch of your money.

And, many outsource training companies will offer you various point solutions for this and that piece of your training needs.

But what about that messy middle? What about the implementation space between the Deck and the Done? It’s awfully difficult to find the bandwidth to take on (and complete) large-scale projects.


The pull-it-all-together aspect of bringing order out of chaos is where one of our Impactiviti partners specializes. Not only can this group do the more limited training projects, they have the resources (designers, project managers, strategists, technologists, etc.) to be an outsource partner for your 3-12 month “major” initiatives.

If that’s the kind of provider you’re looking for, let us know here at Impactiviti (stevew at impactiviti dot com). We’ll make the connection.

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