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Rethinking Sales Capabilities


Rethinking Sales Capabilities

SELLING SKILLS – By Noël Theodosiou

There isn’t a commercial team on the planet that isn’t asking, “How will we sell – and grow – in this new environment?”

While much has changed, sales objectives remain the same: increase penetration, drive market share, win new customers. But to succeed, sales professionals need to work differently, reskill and adopt a new mindset. (See Table 1.)

When it comes to sales, the healthcare industry has traditionally taken a relationship-based, consultative approach. While each company has its own metrics, a successful day in the life of a rep is ultimately measured in handshakes.

To meet sales objectives in this environment however, selling skills need to adapt to a new buying process that is customer-initiated. Customers are increasingly able to opt-in, self-serve and use a variety of resources to make decisions efficiently, in their own time and conveniently, on their own terms.

As selected steps of the buying process become more transactional (e.g., reimbursement information), they will also be less dependent on reps. There will be opportunities for reps to build relationships and goodwill through personalized, consultative interactions at other critical moments in the buying experience (e.g., patient identification and support).

We call this transultative selling. In transultative selling, reps are facilitators rather than drivers of sales. Relationships provide stickiness and come into play during consultative interactions, while the transactional steps of the buying process are made more efficient with technology. (See Table 2.)

To get their perspective, we surveyed sales professionals across pharma, biotech and medtech. In addition to acknowledging some of the transactional elements of the buying process, reps say their customer relationships are critical to sales success.

So, how will reps build and maintain relationships in transultative selling? To be successful, we believe they need the skills to:

  1. Analyze & Humanize Data: Sales professionals must be able to listen to their customers by reading and interpreting customer engagement data. CRMs and customer experience platforms can provide direct access to data, enabling reps to track and follow the transactional steps of the buying process (e.g., content consumed, samples requested, etc.), including branded and unbranded content.
  2. Focus on the Moments that Matter: Reps need to assess customer progress in decision-making and determine the moments to get involved. Through justin- time personalized interactions, reps can enrich the customer experience, address their needs in the buying process and even find ways to better serve them with additional products and services.
  3. Pull the Customer Along the Journey: Rather than a traditional push approach, reps need to shift their mindsets and adopt a pull approach. In a customer-driven buying process, reps must embrace technology and become commercially insightful facilitators of the customer journey.

With a focus on supporting customers and delivering on their needs, today’s sales teams can build the capabilities to succeed.

Noël Theodosiou is principal & CEO of Luminous. Email Noël at

Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network

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