4 Mistakes Sales Leaders Make Measuring Performance

4 Mistakes

“How do they KNOW that?”

My 9-year old son asked me this question recently as the color commentator for an NFL football game on TV shared some crazy statistic about how the team had a losing record playing on Thursday nights, on real grass fields, against left-handed quarterbacks whose last names have more than 2 syllables.

Or something like that.

It was a moment of awareness for him (and an important reminder for me…) that we live in an age of measurement and data.

This is certainly true for folks leading and coaching teams in pharmaceutical sales.

Having spent time seeing this develop and play out from multiple angles over the last 15 years, here are 4 common mistakes that pharma leaders (myself very much included…) make when measuring the performance of their sales teams:

  1. They don’t

Wait, what? Even with the flood of tools, technology and opportunity out there, some leaders simply aren’t measuring the performance of their sales teams in response to coaching efforts.

It’s easy to let happen.

I’ve written my share of “action items” on field coaching reports and performance reviews which have had zero chance of success because there was no effort made to structure them in a way that could be measured.

That’s a miss.

  1. Use Sales Results Only

This one might get me in a little bit of trouble, but I’m willing to go there. Measuring the impact of coaching solely on the basis of sales results in most pharma markets is impossible to do.

Most individuals operate as part of a geographic pod team and share responsibility for product sales.

And unlike other industries, sales data is derived in part (because it has to be…) from algorithmic projection and with difficult to track influences such as mail order fulfillment and other managed care dynamics fogging the mirror.

So yes, it’s sales and delivering on goals is critical – but the reality is, behaviors and skills drive this success and THEY need to be measured first.

  1. Measure The Wrong Things

Every representative is different and should be coached according to their individual needs.

[“Wow – how insightful, Dave” :)]

Most leaders get that and try to employ some form of situational coaching or leadership. The issue arises when it comes to measurement.

Everyone is getting coached on a situational or behavioral basis – and yet we measure the same stuff across the whole team (test scores, call metrics, activity)…so we end up looking at data on the wrong things.

Well intended, but a mistake.

  1. Don’t Do Anything With It

OK, so lets assume some data has actually been collected…and maybe it’s even the RIGHT data.

The most damaging mistake a leader can make is to do nothing with the insights we have.

Maybe the data is in a difficult format to understand. Maybe there’s too much of it. Maybe your body simply freezes up when Excel app opens up. Maybe you’re just really stinkin’ busy. Every one of those has paralyzed me at some point.

No matter what the challenge is – not DOING something with the data you have is a missed opportunity to help your team get better.

The reality is, it takes courage and a degree of creativity or know-how to measure the performance of a sales team.

Courage because you might not like what you learn from your analysis and you’ll have to respond accordingly with your coaching efforts.

And creativity / know-how because measuring coaching efforts around certain competencies and behaviors can be difficult to do.

But it’s worth the effort.

Curious where you might fall relative to some of these mistakes and where a place to start improving might be? Try a quick exercise in the week ahead as the year winds down:

Go back to your last 2-3 field ride-along reports, check out your coaching action items and ask these 3 simple questions:

  • Is there any kind of measurement approach in place for the prescribed coaching plan?
  • If there is, does it actually attempt to measure the behaviors you’re looking to impact?
  • If you’ve collected data from that plan, how have you followed up and what will you do next to help your representative improve?

Would love to hear any comments you have on this topic!

What are your thoughts on measuring coaching efforts with a sales team? What has worked for you?



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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