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Posts Tagged ‘pharmaceutical sales’

Well, that was fun.

DFDidn’t I tell you Nashville was a pretty awesome city? And, judging from the smiles on many faces during last week’s LTEN Conference, I think we all had a good time.

In fact, I’ll be selfish here and put in my vote that we do this conference every year in Music City!

As David Fortanbary put it in his brief tutorial on southern-speak, hopefully we all got “afar” (a fire) lit under us to fuel the rest of this year’s training activities.

OLandThe venue, Gaylord Opryland (more a self-contained city than a hotel!), was quite a source of amazement, and I heard regular references to people “getting their steps in” each day without really trying. Not that the exercise was going to reduce any waistlines, because the eating in Nashville – well, if you were there, you know.

There was music, of course – lots of it. And, there was the largest attendance in LTEN history. So all the ingredients were in place for a fantastic conference experience.

S and A

This year, we had three inspirational keynotes – each of them moving in their own way. Melissa Stockwell (Army veteran, Paralympian, and unabashed patriot) told her story about overcoming disability – actually, pushing forward to exceptional victories – after losing a leg to an IED attack in Iraq.

MelissaS

Filmmaker and funnyman Eric Saperston gave a fascinating account of his shoestring voyage across the U.S. in an old VW bus, interviewing successful people and sharing lessons along the way. My favorite quote from him, about his schooling achievements: “I was in the half of the class that made the top half possible.” :>)

EricS

Personally, I was most fascinated by the thought-provoking message of Frank Barrett, who shared vital life lessons that can be extracted from the world of jazz music. As someone who tends to stick to the sheet music, his perspective on learning to improvise, and allow our competency to rise to the surface in a free-flowing environment, was refreshing and challenging.

F barr

This year, I want to far fewer workshop sessions than usual – much of my time was spent in one-on-one interactions with both clients and vendor/partners. But I thoroughly enjoyed what the group from Merck (Jennifer Iannetta, Carla Buono, Tyrus Barker, Alina Tudor) presented about their evolving trainer on-boarding program – a topic that is a deep concern of my own.

Merck

(in fact, it’s such a concern that I released this video just before the conference. Take 90 seconds and let’s see if we can eliminate Training Project Malpractice!)

There were a number of sessions on global training, a topic of growing concern that I’m glad is being addressed:

GlobalPanel

(pictured here: Chris Platanos of Alexion; Lindsay Kirsch; Alison Quinn of BMS; Trey Morton of J&J; Jamie Capistrant of Smiths Medical)

A JusticeOn the last day of the conference the popular 15-minute LTEN talks were a great way to wrap up the speaking portion, with excellent and provocative addresses by Will Thalheimer, Rob Toomey, Mark Hood, and Angela Justice (pictured here) who heads up Learning at Biogen.

What about the networking and social events? Excellent, of course. Plenty of good southern food and drink. And lots of time to mingle, including extended times in the exhibit area (aka Learning Village).

There was a great collection of vendor partners in the exhibit hall and, by and large, the feedback I was getting throughout the conference was positive regarding the foot traffic, and the quality of the interactions.

Exhib

The conference mobile app was well-utilized once again this year, and Mary Myers of Bayer (current President of LTEN) was ever present in the social stream, even when trying to catch dollar bills at the Red Nucleus booth:

ConfApp

Congratulations to all those individuals and teams that won LTEN Excellence awards – there was a record-setting number of entries and, here on the LTEN website, is the list of winners and a couple of great pictures.

This was my 21st LTEN conference, and one of my favorite aspects is the face-to-face renewal of ties with so many quality professionals who have been in the industry for years. I love brainstorming (and joking around) with the many deeply-experienced vendors who work so hard to provide quality training for our clients. And getting to introduce people to each other is one of my favorite activities throughout the year, but especially at the conference.

vets LTEN

(pictured: David Purdy, Garry O’Grady, Sue Iannone, Derek Lundsten, Pam Marinko)

Let’s see, what else? Well, the LTEN staff did a marvelous job orchestrating the event once again. The Best Hugs award definitely goes to Miki White, because – well, she gives awesome hugs (and we hug a lot here in Nashville…). Some of the attendees had the opportunity to go downtown and experience Predator madness, as hockey’s Stanley Cup playoffs were occurring alongside our conference dates. I saw plenty of uploaded pictures of people enjoying Nashville’s lively spread of honky-tonks and restaurants, and I heard more than a few amazed expressions about how friendly everybody is around here.

So, I hope all y’all come back soon. Next year we’re in Phoenix again, but let’s not wait so long to do this again here in Music City!

P.S. LTEN has posted a nice 4-minute video summary of the conference on YouTube – don’t miss it!


Impactiviti helps fix all levels of “malpractice” between life sciences trainers and outsource vendors. From providing targeted vendor recommendations, to the unique on-demand Best Practices in Project and Vendor Management workshop, Impactiviti has been the go-to resource in this industry for over 11 years. Steve Woodruff is known as the unofficial Mayor of LTEN.

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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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ID-10087536I know, I know – we’ve seen lots of articles with titles like this in past. For many years, the imminent death of the pharmaceutical salesperson has been forecast.

And, for good reason – taking into account increasing government takeover of healthcare decisions, past shady sales practices, and the unwillingness or inability of many doctors to even see reps anymore, these are not great times for the pharma sales industry. I’ve seen incredible cutbacks in staff over recent years.

But, for now, the role of the sales rep continues. So we come to the question: what does the future hold?

I think the best way to approach this question is to broaden it and link it to the larger movements (I call them trend currents, as opposed to current trends) that are shaping business and culture.

So, let’s consider this question: What is happening to the role of face-to-face information exchange in all of life and business? Especially, what will be the role of person-to-person exchanges of information that can be easily accessed by other means?

If I want to know about a drug, do I have to wait for the right sales rep to drop by? Or can I, with a few clicks on a tablet, find what I need in real-time (without a potentially biased presentation)? How many of us research information on-line now, that we used to discover only through person-to-person interactions?

If I can use a (free) search engine to point out the facets of knowledge I’m seeking, do I need someone to point out those knowledge bits on a glossy piece of paper, or on their company-issued tablet?

If I can get an e-detail whenever I want it, why would I prefer the model of having people interrupt the office flow in the middle of the day to give a pitch?

Take these principles and apply them to every industry outside of pharmaceuticals, and you’ll see that we are undergoing a major change in the way we communicate and do business. It’s called disintermediation (removal of non-value-adding layers between us and what we need). Every time you use Amazon.com, and not a brick-and-mortar store, you are living in this trend current.

It’s not that face-to-face interactions don’t have value (they do), it’s just that the broader trends across the entire landscape of our culture are driving us to real-time connectivity to whatever we need – especially in the realm of knowledge.

Is pharma sales dead? I don’t think so. But I think it’s losing the race of relevance in our current technology and business climate. Which means we’re going to have to re-think the model – fast.

Your two cents?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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We all know that the pharmaceutical sales model is being seriously re-thought. Every business model needs periodic review, to see if it continues to be a value-add, or if, in fact, it is losing effectiveness.

The interrupt-driven model of having drug reps come to doctors’ offices for fewer and fewer minutes of discussion, plus dropping off of samples, is rapidly losing market favor. It’s costly and increasingly inefficient for the drug companies, and it fills offices with non-paying people jockeying for time and attention in a marketplace where both are scarce.

So is there a better way? The industry is experimenting – with things like e-detailing and the like. And healthcare professionals are experimenting – for instance, many of them are simply barring reps from the premises.

Hmmm….

One start-up (contract sales) services company that I’ve been talking to has an interesting model – make the process doctor-driven. The (contract) reps are called in by the doctor’s office when needed for drug sample replenishment, and they are not there to sell, but to drop off samples and acquire an e-signature (tablet). The tablet also has software that the doctor pages through to request more information, set up an appointment with a trained sales rep, schedule and e-detail, contact a Medical Affairs person, etc.

I could see this approach having value for drugs that are near the end of their patent cycle, when promotional efforts are going to be scaled back, but a drug manufacturer still wants to have a presence in the marketplace. There may be other places for a contract services approach like this as well. But the major point is, all contact is driven by the healthcare professional. And there is potentially a big gain in efficiency – highly-trained reps are not idling away time hoping and praying to see 8 docs a day for a few milliseconds each.

What do you think? Does this have value? Serious drawbacks? Let me know your thoughts! (stevew at impactiviti.com)

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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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