Catalent - Asia-Pacific clinical packaging facilities

Todays Line Managers

More of mentors and facilitators and much less of bosses

Srinivasan V, ConsultantAdvisor for Pharma BusinessEnterprise

The role of a Line Manager in Pharma SellingMarketing has been changing that too quite fast under the present highly competitive Pharma marketing environment and the Line Managers are forced to think out of the box to keep the team members motivated and engaged fully to facilitate them to deliver the desired results consistently Some of the out of the box thinkings and their impact on the performance of the team members are discussed in this article

Gone are the days when line managers used to visit once in a while for joint working with their team members for a few days, meet some important doctors, and before leaving, issue stern instructions to the team members that they should meet their targets without fail, failing which they may not be in the team for long. The managers used to be bossing around 80 per cent of the time, and 20 per cent of the time was spent on training and mentoring. Let’s see below some of the important job requirements of line managers under the highly competitive pharma sales and marketing environment of today.

Help the medical representatives find a purpose for the job: This could be buying a property, contribution to sister’s marriage, buy a new bike, funding for higher studies of brother, etc. Once the purpose is ingrained in the field staffs’ mind, it may drive them go all out after the objectives in the job.

Let them be very clear about the implementation of sales and marketing strategies in the field: Such as right doctors for the right products, doctors and chemists call averages, personal order bookings, morning and evening working, etc. Once understood, they will be on the right track at all times.

Remove misconception if any about the job/career:

Some might have joined the profession as a stop gap arrangement till they get a desk job in a government/public sector undertaking. Therefore, they may be less serious in the job and just going through the motions mechanically. They may be availing leave or absenting themselves frequently. To them the line managers may explain that such desk jobs may not be that challenging, and career growth might take a lot of time at every stage, whereas a medical representative job offers a challenging environment at all times, career growth is quite faster for those who consistently perform, besides scope for earning very attractive incentives linked to performance. Once understood, they may apply themselves and involve more in the job, leading to better results.

Some need attractive danglers like ‘incentives’ besides normal salary, to go for the kill:

To them the Line managers may explain the attractiveness of the sales incentives under different headings like Incentives for monthly target achievement, cumulative target achievement, product wise target achievement, new products target achievement, incentives for growth over last year, etc. and may even quote many frontline salesmen preferably within the same team who have earned lakhs and lakhs of incentive amounts in the current year. Once they realise the lucrative incentive earning potential available in the job, they may go all out to reach for the business objectives, thus earn incentives regularly.

Help them overcome weakness in communication:

Field staff, more so from small towns and rural areas, may struggle with communication, i.e. detailing, and hence feel they are not the cut out for the job, reinforced by the less than satisfactory results in the initial few months of working in the field. Their line managers must train them to practice more and more detailing, besides suggesting them to join part-time english speaking classes in their locality, to improve oral communication skill. Once their communicating ability improves, their strike/conversion rate goes up, their confidence to do well in the job also grows.

Some are uncomfortable waiting for long for career growth in the job:

In the pharma industry, line managers have plenty of examples to quote about people who have started their career as a simple representative, and have grown faster to reach senior positions such as national sales managers, group product managers, vice presidents sales & marketing, and even the CEOs or MDs who are into their early forties, through consistent performance at every stage. Once they understand this, they will do every thing in their reach to perform well and grow fast.

Some may still believe in 9 am to 6 pm office job:

Such medical representatives are more likely to skip evening works. The line managers need to explain to them how the job of a representative is different from an office job, and that we work according to the working time of the doctors, hence morning and evening workings are important. Once they understand it clearly, then it may become a part of their working habit.

Help them overcome weakness in communication:

Field staff, more so from small towns and rural areas, may struggle with communication, i.e. detailing, and hence feel they are not the cut out for the job, reinforced by the less than satisfactory results in the initial few months of working in the field. Their line managers must train them to practice more and more detailing, besides suggesting them to join part-time english speaking classes in their locality, to improve oral communication skill. Once their communicating ability improves, their strike/conversion rate goes up, their confidence to do well in the job also grows.

Inflame passion in the job:

Talk high about the industry, about the organisation, and about the job like, such as the industry’s performance in India, growing in double digits year after year, and that many countries, including the advanced ones, source their medicinal requirements from India, the job of a medical representative, besides offering a decent salary, attractive incentives linked to performance, and faster career growth for consistent performers, also offers the opportunity to interact with respected and highly qualified members in the society, i.e. doctors. Through them we offer products to treat the diseases of the public in the country. Thus, spread all the positive vibes, and avoid gossiping of any kind in the team.

Some may lack discipline and organisation:

We all know that being disciplined and organised is the first step towards success. Some habits include getting up early in the morning so that we can be comfortably ready for the early morning work, stuff the working bag with necessary samples, promotional inputs, etc. in tune with the day’s calls, being well groomed, etc. However, some field staff may not have this attitude in them. The line managers need to be persistent with them in explaining the immense benefits that being disciplined and organised offers in achieving the desired goals not only in work, but also in personal life as well, and ensure that they follow such good habits as fast as possible.

The Line managers need to ensure that all their team members get their salary, reimbursements, incentives, promotional inputs, etc. on time, and the consistent performers are recognised, rewarded and their career growth aspirations are taken care of without any delay.

The above topics can be covered well and in detail during the class room training programme, if not, by the line managers during the induction period of representatives in their respective offices. In addition to the above, some of the newly joined representatives may have their own specific issues, which might impact their performance. The line managers need to probe, identify the issue, and offer viable and positive solutions to ensure that the employees offer their wholehearted attention and efforts in their job responsibilities, without worrying much about anything else. Line managers who excel in the above job responsibilities are likely to succeed more than those who simply boss around and work like senior representatives. Their team members may respect them more as their gurus, guides, and mentors, and may stand by them through thick and thin. Attrition may be a rare thing in the teams of such line managers. That’s why we often say field staff may leave their managers, but not the organisations.

--Issue 35--

Author Bio

Srinivasan V

Srinivasan V has headed Sales Administration, HR, Personnel and Training functions in reputed Pharma Companies. He has over 35 years of rich experience in the Industry, with over 500 published articles in India and abroad on Pharma Management to his credit. He has been recognised as The Transformational Leader of the Industry in the year 2013. His training manual for Medical Representatives ‘Reach For the Stars’ is like a bible for newly joined and already working Medical Representatives. He can be reached at shridhar1956@rediffmail.com