Mark Ward, Operations Director at Star, on the key skills that sales representatives need to develop to stay ahead of the curve.
People are the lifeblood of our business at Star. Whether they are candidates looking for Star support to secure roles within pharma, devices or healthcare, or Star employees working with specific clients, we must continue to provide the very best talent to drive desired outcomes. The demands on these people in industry evolves as the landscape and environment changes to meet the needs of an ever-changing patient population.
Chronic disease is increasing – sales representatives of the future will need to keep these patients at the forefront of their minds at all times. Representatives are no longer only tasked with selling Product A versus Product B for the commercial gains of the pharma organisation, but to be the trusted partner to the NHS, to be agile and adaptable and truly speak the language and understand the needs of the customer at-hand.
What does this mean for the representative of the future and the key skills that must be developed and harnessed?
Data-driven – There is a wealth of data and insight readily available that must be digested, understood and utilised in accordance with local, regional and national agendas. The industry provides data as a matter of course, but the most effective individuals will use the freely available data and insight to shape both their own knowledge and thinking linked to the brand value proposition. The closer the individual can get to this data and use it appropriately, the more value they can add both now and in the future.
Digitally-enabled – Customers want to be engaged using their channel preference. Face-to-face calling is only one element. There is a need to ensure representatives of the future can communicate effectively via telephone, email, and screenshare, and further understand which part of this mix to use at the appropriate time. Developing IT skills and capability to maximise the multichannel mix will be a critical development for future success.
Flexible approach – Navigating complexity and demonstrating flexibility are essential skills. Companies want representatives to be able to flex and respond to commercial opportunities more fluidly. The historic model where representatives have a set territory doesn’t always meet company needs over time. Geographic flexibility coupled with the ability to work across different complex customer groups is now essential.
While relationship-building with NHS customers will always be important, the ability to articulate a strong value proposition to diverse stakeholders has become increasingly key. The individuals that are winning out there are those that are comfortable engaging with payers, providers and clinicians on a range of topics. These are individuals that can transition between market access, promotional and service development activities. Identifying and continuing to develop these rare individuals should be a critical part of any company’s sales strategy.
It isn’t just down to the individual to develop these core skills needed. The onus is on the pharmaceutical and CSO industry to provide the tools and environment to build the capability to thrive in the modern environment. Investment in appropriate data sources, technology as well as investment in individuals, will ensure a sales function is ready to meet the demands of 2020 and beyond.
Mark Ward is Operations Director at Star.
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