5 Ways to Adapt to the New Normal
FEATURE STORY – By Ted Power
Sales teams cannot go back to business as usual: They must pivot and shift strategies.
The innovations and workarounds of the past year will leave an indelible mark on how life sciences sales teams sell. Virtual work is here to stay, and other changes brought by the pandemic will affect how healthcare providers (HCPs) and sales representatives interact for years to come.
A recent McKinsey survey of HCPs reported that the frequency of their interactions with pharma reps — including remote interactions — dropped by an average of 65% since the pandemic. Remote interactions with pharma in the United States have doubled, yet those calls only partially offset the abrupt decline in sales interactions. This is in part due to HCPs’ pandemic response, as they shift to telemedicine, increase safety protocols and even closed their facilities to “non-patient” visitors.
Sales teams cannot go back to business as usual. They must pivot and shift strategies — relying more on virtual selling and cloud-based sales management tools — and modifying their approach to be responsive to HCPs’ most pressing concerns.
How can you adapt your team and processes to survive and thrive under the new normal?
Here are five things to consider focusing on:
Lean Into Digital Solutions:
Many life sciences sales organizations have moved to a virtual/in-person hybrid selling model, and this will likely not revert once pandemic restrictions are lifted. Many field visits are remote, with managers now participating in three-way customer calls, conducting virtual “one-on-ones” with their team members and/or connecting with sales representatives post-customer interactions to debrief around what worked and what didn’t. There are upsides to this, as it frees up travel time and helps leaders provide more efficient and consistent advice and support. Sales teams should consider adapting any outdated field coaching models to optimize for current conditions — including more frequent check-ins to remain closer to what’s happening in the field.
Emphasize Safety and Support:
The pandemic has emphasized the human side of our professional relationships, both with HCPs and with our own teams. As we were forced to evolve and adapt how we work, we reached out and worked together with clients to make them feel supported and reassured. You can expect relationships to continue to play a prominent role in how sales representatives sell to customers, even when the pandemic is over. Helping sales teams feel safe and supported is also a priority for managers right now. Many families and individuals are still feeling challenged by the ongoing crisis. Sales organizations that view the constraints of quarantine as an opportunity to do things differently – meeting team members where they are using a variety of tools through technology – are most likely to see success.
Be Proactive and Aware:
Sales organizations that reacted quickly to 2020’s challenges probably did OK. But sales managers who actually saw it coming — and were having proactive communication with team members — were best equipped to address issues quickly and completely. The standard coaching cadence alone is not enough to spot and address challenges before they are upon us, even with a veteran team. In the future, managers should adopt an “always-on” coaching mentality (think agile performance management) that allows them to regularly connect with their people in both traditional and innovative ways, so they can be aware of microshifts that might turn into major roadblocks.
Accentuate the Positive:
The pandemic causes fear, anger, confusion and a raft of other negative emotions. The past year has been particularly stressful for your healthcare customers. As most great managers know, keeping morale high and passing that positivity on to customers is one of the keys to sales success. Positive reinforcement — often in the form of encouraging feedback and recognition — can be the pivotal difference in keeping your sales team motivated and performing well. Managers must have the tools to provide reassurance and encouragement to their teams. Creating a culture of “catching people doing something right” with real-time feedback will enable your team to pay that positivity forward to HCPs, winning their trust and their business.
Cultivate Resilience Through Change:
Many tried-and-true sales management practices have been with us for decades. Before 2020 they had not changed much. Some sales teams gave a nod to coaching with rudimentary coaching components in their customer relationship management system, but hadn’t fully evolved to take advantage of an integrated coaching solution. COVID-19 dramatically highlighted the importance of flexibility for sales teams. Those who could not pivot quickly fell behind. The pandemic has also raised our expectations for fastacting messaging and resilient responses. Sales leaders should continue to consider adaptable technology solutions that will help them meet an uncertain and evolving healthcare landscape, including purpose-built coaching platforms that:
- Support different types of coaching interactions (formal and informal, virtual and in-person, etc.).
- Connect coaching and training more seamlessly for on-demand, needs based development.
- Offer a variety of dynamic tools managers can pull from to continually connect with and grow team members.
- Provide coach-the-coach features so managers are developed and remain highly engaged (you cannot have engaged reps without engaged managers).
- Provide robust analytics for more strategic decision-making.
The combination of the right mindset, skill sets and technology can help your sales organization manage through and mitigate significant challenges. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we must put in place a more agile, resilient sales infrastructure that allows our sales teams to be ready to meet the unexpected.
Ted Power is chief customer officer for iCoachFirst. Email Ted at email@example.com.
Fall 2020 – Virtual Training