As an industry, pharmaceuticals is undergoing a major transformation, owing to new technology, changes in both the behaviour and expectations of customers, and a variety of additional factors. The result of this is that pharmaceutical organisations are increasingly investing in change and understanding the importance of business optimisation.

In part one of this feature, I discussed the need to be a value engineer, going beyond competing based on products, services and price. In particular, pharmaceutical companies need to provide insight and expertise, and connect this expertise to customers’ own concepts, so that the insight being offered is relevant and useful to them.

Additionally, I looked at the role of digital sales enablement, which encompasses a huge range of different ideas, including digital sales tools, digital content services, artificial intelligence and behavioural data collection, as well as the use of this data to inform training and coaching activities, making them more tailored.

These two key areas are the first two of the four steps towards pharmaceutical companies achieving optimisation and you can read part one by clicking here. In this second part, we look at the final two steps in this journey: the acquisition and management of next generation sales talent, and achieving sales process maturity.

3. Next Generation Talent

During my recent presentation at the Eye for Pharma event, I made the point that within modern sales organisations, including those within the pharmaceutical industry, it is no longer enough for salespeople to have good ‘people skills’. As sales has evolved, so too have the ideal attributes for a salesperson to possess.

Achieving success within a modern, tech-enabled sales force, which focuses on delivering value throughout the customer journey, requires problem solving skills, an analytical mindset and genuine business acumen. As a result, these qualities need to be prioritised during the recruitment process.

Of course, some of the more specific sales skills can be developed. In fact, one of the key findings of the CSO Insights 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Study was the impact coaching can have on performance. When a formal or dynamic coaching programme is in place, win rates can be improved by more than 10 percent.

Nevertheless, the core qualities and characteristics needed in the first place have changed and this evolution can be broadly seen as a shift from influential traits being the most important, towards analytical traits becoming more significant. This is because, in today’s world, sales is more science than art form.

Interpersonal and influential traits, such as genuine emotional intelligence, empathy and the ability to persuade were once seen as the Holy Grails for sales rep recruitment and they remain highly valuable. However, the balance is increasingly shifting toward analytical traits, such as the ability to reason, process information and provide insights.

Therefore, any pharmaceutical business attempting to optimise their organisation needs to place a priority on recruiting this kind of next-gen talent. Moreover, they need to invest in efforts to develop those with the desired attributes who are already in the organisation, as they are best placed to thrive in the modern, digital age.

4. Process Maturity

Finally, pharmaceutical companies looking to achieve the goal of true business optimisation must also achieve process maturity. This means establishing a consistent, effective sales methodology, taking the time to formalise specific sales processes, providing managers with transparency and adopting sales best practices.

Research from CSO Insights shows that when sales reps are largely left to their own devices, with inconsistent sales processes and little transparency into those processes, the percentage of salespeople achieving or exceeding quota stands at 48 percent, while revenue attainment stands at 73 percent.

Yet, among organisations with a dynamic sales process – where there is consistency to processes, where managers have access to key performance indicators, and where best practices are adopted – these figures improve dramatically. In fact, quota attainment increases to 71 percent, while revenue attainment reaches 90 percent.

One way to think about mature sales processes and methodologies is that they share the following traits: they are repeatable, they are scalable, and they are predictable. It is crucial that pharmaceutical companies spend time establishing core principles, creating rules, regulating processes and continually analysing performance.

In terms of methodologies that work, I recommend Strategic Selling. This provides organisations with a Blue Sheet, which aims to offer sales departments more visibility into sales opportunities. It also provides them with common processes, language and criteria for pursuing opportunities and knowing when to walk away.

Additionally, I would suggest embracing Conceptual Selling. This helps salespeople to consistently prepare for sales meetings and adopt a more customer-focused approach, resulting in more purposeful interactions, a reduction in the number of non-productive meetings and a greater number of win-win outcomes.

Crucially, mature sales processes ensure that opportunities are prioritised in a consistent way, that salespeople adopt clear best practices, and that performance is measured and analysed by sales leaders.


The challenges of this new age for the sales and pharmaceutical industries require modern solutions and the acquisition and effective management of next generation talent is a vital component of that. In particular, you need to focus on acquiring talent with analytical skills and business acumen in addition to ‘people skills’.

Moreover, pharmaceutical businesses need to achieve process maturity and implement consistent, standardised approaches to sales opportunities. This means formalising methodologies and ensuring that the methodologies in place are all repeatable, scalable and predictable, rather than leaving reps to their own devices.

The Final Word

Over the course of this two-part feature, we have examined the change that pharmaceuticals is going through at the moment and the reasons for it. We have also looked at the importance of sales enablement and of investing in modern technology-driven approaches towards it.

The crucial lessons to take away are as follows: It is no longer sufficient to compete based on offering the best product, or the lowest price. Instead, you need to provide genuine value through insight, interactions and assistance. You also need to utilise digital technology to enhance coaching and improve relationships with customers.

As sales has become more technology-driven and scientific in its nature, problem solving and analytical skills have increased in importance, making these priorities when deciding on new hires and employee development issues. Moreover, there is an increased need for consistent processes, approaches, language and methodologies.

The pharmaceutical companies best equipped for success are those that have embraced technology, understand the importance of a customer-first approach, focus on delivering additional value beyond what they are selling, and have the ability to measure performance, predict outcomes and prioritise the right opportunities.


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