How to Prepare Your Team for End-of-Year Pharma Sales Force Alignment

Brian Fitzgerald | February 28, 2022

sales rep aligned in meeting Pharma Sales Force Alignment

There's no denying that the right pharma industry is a constantly changing, fluid environment and it's often difficult to find your rightful place within the industry. In fact, employee feelings and motivations can change ever so slightly over the course of each year, and they don't always realize that they feel any different than before.

[Happy pharmacist on phone

However, maintaining a properly aligned sales team is critical to a productive and effective business. Even the slightest changes in the sales force atmosphere and attitude can result in productivity and lost sales. "Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment." - Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, Built to Last Fortunately, if your sales force has been a little sluggish or uninspired lately, the end of the year is a perfect time and opportunity to assess your team and perform a comprehensive pharmaceutical sales force alignment.

So, how do you prepare your team for end-of-year sales force alignments?

Pharma sales force alignment is all about people and ensuring that those people are in the best position for their unique individual skills, knowledge, and motivations. Many major pharmaceutical companies hold scheduled team realignments in regular increments 1 every year to ensure that they can maximize productivity and efficacy and to design a more effective team environment for their overall company goals. In fact, a prime example of team realignment, incoming CEO of Glaxo, Emma Walmsley2, completely reorganized the entire R&D department and shut down many projects to shift the company's drug development focus.
While this is an extreme example of organizational realignments, it is not the only one. Many big names in the industry are considering or already undergoing similar processes to get their heads on straight, so to speak.

[Smiling pharmacist and  happy patient

To further drive this point home, the FDA implemented 3 its own alignment processes for the 2016 fiscal year to ensure higher quality pharmaceuticals. So, when it comes to launching your own end-of-year pharmaceutical sales force alignment, you should begin with the following 4 steps.

1. Assess Your Organizational Strategy

2. Provide the Right Tools for the Job

3. Conduct Regular Performance Reviews

4. Be Transparent About Job Expectations

Although it's optimal that you begin implementing many of these steps early in the year and adhere to them all year long, you can get away with implementation in the fourth quarter; just in time to assess and implement new changes for the new year.

1. Assess Your Sales Force Strategy

With so many moving parts within the pharmaceutical industry, just knowing what your goals are isn't enough. You must have a clear strategy to drive your actions and hold everyone accountable for their actions. "Failure is nothing more than a chance to revise your strategy." - Anonymous If you don't have a sales force strategy in place, take some time and build one. If you already have a strategy in place, but it isn't quite working, it's time to assess and adjust to facilitate a smart realignment. Sometimes you just need to shift your focus a little to make sure that your strategy is playing to everyone's strengths by being both practical and goal-oriented.

Elements of a strong strategy4:

  1. Goals - Where would you like to take the company/department/etc?
  2. Outcomes - What steps will you take to get there?
  3. Accountability - Who will be responsible for those steps?
  4. Performance - How will you measure the goals?

Having a strong pharmaceutical sales force strategy in place will not only help ensure that you have the right people in the right roles but also help you stay on top of compliance issues.

2. Provide the Right Tools to Do the Job

Having the right tools to do the job is nearly as important as knowing what you're supposed to be doing. One of those key tools is proper communication and software to facilitate that communication. "The result of bad communication is a disconnection between strategy and execution." - Chuck Martin, former vice president, IBM To facilitate a smooth realignment, communication and organizational tools should be your top priority. The fact is that many employees will spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out who is doing (or supposed to be doing) the work, rather than doing it themselves. Unfortunately, this often results in the work falling by the wayside or being completed later than expected.

[Members of a medical team  aligned working on a laptop

One of the BEST ways to facilitate smart communication across your organization and put the right tools in the hands of your employees is to adopt a robust sales operations platform. A successful sales operations platform includes all of the tenets of proper alignment:

Alignment Management: Leverage pre-built integrations and automated processes to manage past, present, and future alignments.

Roster Management: Manage your entire team from one convenient dashboard by allocating time, budgets, and assigning tasks across the board.

Communications: Make it easy for your team to communicate internally and externally with a simple dashboard and pre-built templates.

There are tons of great tools out there to help manage and facilitate sales force alignments quickly and efficiently. Just make sure to take your time when vetting and selecting the right platform or suite of tools to help you get the job done right. The wrong tools can actually hinder your progress, rather than help it.

3. Conduct Regular Performance Reviews

No one outwardly likes performance reviews, but they are an integral part of maintaining a healthy and productive team.

[Image of sales reps discussing brainstorming and ideas about pharma

Whether you currently do conduct reviews or not, implementing a regular schedule with transparent processes can go a long way in helping your team:

  • Recognize their strengths (or weaknesses).
  • Better understanding their own motivations and goals.
  • Get a grip on what's expected of them.
  • Maximize individual productivity.
  • Encourage self-development.
  • Identify underperformers and help them grow.
  • Opens up the conversation on both sides of the table.

Start by implementing a regular review schedule; monthly, quarterly, and annually. This keeps the atmosphere casual and inviting. Make sure that your team knows that this process is for their benefit, not just for the bottom line. This is CRITICAL. Many people have a hard time hearing that they're not doing the best job possible. So, keeping it casual, understanding, and regular can help things go smoothly and provide better results.

4. Be Transparent About Performance Expectations

One of the most significant factors of a sluggish team can be the fact that job descriptions are often hazy and performance expectations are either light or non-existent. Don't worry; it's actually a pretty common occurrence in every industry. In fact, many positions, especially new-to-market positions, are often very loosely defined from the onset because the company doesn't quite know what to include until someone has been in the position for a while and worked out the kinks for you. Unfortunately, that paves the way for unhappy employees right out of the gate. If roles are unclear, employees don't always know what they're supposed to be doing and will often languish or spend time in a dozen meetings when they actually only needed one to accomplish the task. Start your sales force alignment right by digging deep to outline job descriptions and the performance expectations for those positions clearly and concisely. During your regular performance reviews, find out what motivates your team members. It won't take long to find the right alignment by having the right conversation and asking better questions.

5. Remember, Alignment Takes Time

There are no one-size-fits-all sales force alignment solutions, and getting it right can take a couple of cycles. The most important thing is to always keep the lines of communication open within your organization and leverage the right tools to get the job done. While much of this is up to you, many of your Pharma Sales Force Alignment problems can be solved with a smart sales operations platform that will both simplify and automate tasks for you.
If you'd like to find out more about how a robust sales operations platform can help keep your team ahead of the curve, get in touch with us today here

References:-

1. http://www.pharmexec.com/building-intelligence-sales-force-alignment

2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/stanfleming/2018/05/11/why-pharma-strategic-planning-reduces-productivity-and-how-to-fix-it/#c6d9b0c13bd6

3. https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/fda-organization/fda-program-alignment-pharmaceutical-quality-fy2016-action-plan

4. https://www.executestrategy.net/blog/5-key-elements-strategic-plan