Cover Story – By Matt Krasnowiecki
Developing skills and behaviors that drive performance
The National Field Training (NFT) program at Kowa Pharmaceuticals America has evolved to produce both individually fulfilling opportunities and tangible results for the company. Over the years, the program has advanced to bring clarity of scope and purpose, candidate requirements and a strong training solution to the Kowa NFT program.
Now focused nationally instead of regionally, the NFT program at Kowa is exceeding expectations.
Clarity of Purpose and Candidate Requirements
The team at Kowa ensured that their NFT program would develop skills and provide management development. Further, the program would serve the sales force by assisting and training sales representatives to develop specific skills and behaviors that would enhance sales performance.
For many years, candidates were chosen regionally by selecting the best sales representatives in each district and region. They were then promoted to NFT without any further evaluation.
Our current program utilizes a very different model that includes an interview process to evaluate both motivational and positional fit, career discussions, a formal development pathway and a transparent monetary channel to compensate NFTs for time spent out of their territory. The NFT appointment is considered an honor and is a significant investment in one’s professional career.
It was important to the Kowa team that these highly skilled salespeople had a motivational focus to help their peers be more productive and confident through learning. For example, if the interview process indicated that a passion for helping others succeed was not present, the candidate would not proceed. Additionally, the company wanted to drive more consistent use of the Kowa sales model and wanted these strong sales representatives and NFTs to magnify the model throughout the organization.
Strong Training Solution
The NFT role provides an important service to the organization: to support the continued development of their colleagues. The program itself also needs to provide an environment that fosters professional growth and learning experiences for the NFTs during their assignment.
The team at Kowa partnered with CMR Institute to develop, implement and support a robust program for the NFTs. Highlighted in Figure 1, the program includes pre- and post-assessments to measure and compare the learners’ knowledge and behaviors over the course of the program.
Learners also complete a cadence of self-directed elearning resources to advance their knowledge and build their leadership skills. Each quarter the content focuses on a specific topic: Overview of leadership, self-development/management, leading employees and leading effective teams.
The content was well received by our NFT participants, with one stating, “I really enjoyed completing the NFT monthly courses and I feel like I learned a lot lot regarding management versus leadership.”
Accompanying the monthly coursework is a learner workbook to track assignments, record notes and answer reflection and application questions. Additionally, the program includes a monthly cohort call facilitated by a team member to promote accountability, discussion and application.
NFTs further support continuous learning at Kowa by acting as cohort leaders motivating and leading representatives in our career pathways program. Acting as cohort leaders for representatives has proven to be mutually beneficial, as one of our NFT participants states:
“To be honest, this was much more rewarding than I had anticipated. The opportunity for one-on-one training of the new hires really helped to sharpen my selling skills and really forces oneself to deepen their knowledge of all things pharmaceutical and Kowa.”
Toward the end of the program year, we conduct a three-day summit, bringing together all the NFTs to participate in focused workshops on key skills that have been identified as crucial for the role. In previous years, we have held sessions on situational leadership, targeted selection, influencing without authority, writing the field contact report and more.
Additionally, every year we utilize our partnership with Brody Pro to facilitate a presentations skills session to help better prepare the trainers for their time in front of new hires at the home office, or in workshops at our national or regional POA meetings.
Regional sales directors and the national sales director attend this summit and assist with the facilitation of certain sessions. This additional visibility for the NFTs supports their career goals to potentially move up through the organization.
In addition to the learning and development opportunities, this summit provides team building and idea sharing to form long standing relationships.
By combining the rigorous NFT selection process – focusing on the motivational drivers of the candidate, the extensive education provided by our partner and the hands-on learning at our annual summit – we have been able to make great strides in personal and professional development for the NFTs and their colleagues. The Kowa Selling Skills model has also been widely promoted and has become the foundation of our coaching reports; NFTs serve as subject matter experts at all our meetings.
This enhanced approach to NFT training has led to well-developed NFTs, more consistent field coaching and further representative development.
Through pre- and post-program assessments, Kowa has received feedback from the NFTs to support evaluation and continued improvement of the program. Figure2 highlights key findings from program participants demonstrating the benefit of the program.
As the NFTs selflessly continue to help develop the future sales team of Kowa Pharmaceuticals America, our team can demonstrate the success of the NFT development program. At our most recent national sales meeting, we were able to celebrate 11 current or previous NFTs as they walked the stage for the prestigious Presidents Achievement and Circle of Excellence Awards.
We have seen four internal promotions to district manager, and one to the home office role of sales training manager. Upon completing the NFT program, the sales training manager, Michael Cauley, shared, “I learned so much through my time as an NFT and look forward to learning much more.”
Michael now assists with current NFT classes and oversees new-hire training. We just launched our fourth year and look forward to the continued success and impact of this program. This development program has helped the organization achieve important goals, as it helps the NFTs continue to impact and influence others in the field and home office.
Matt Krasnowiecki is director, sales training and development, for Kowa Pharmaceuticals America. Email Matt at email@example.com.
Michael Cauley and Matt Krasnowiecki photos courtesy of William Morton, Morton Visuals.