5 Reasons Sales Trainers Want to Strangle District Managers

And tips for coming together

Sales Leadership Training Pharmaceuticals

Title too strongly worded?

Probably not.

In last week’s post we covered 5 reasons why pharmaceutical district managers think sales training sucks – so this week we turn the tables and share some perspective from the sales training department.

And to set things up, let’s take a trip down memory lane to Super Bowl 46. In case you don’t remember (or just hate American football and sports analogies entirely…) this game saw the underdog NY Giants defeat the New England Patriots 21-17 back in 2010.

I’m still glowing.  🙂

SLG Beyond the Book: UNTHINK by Erik Wahl

How pharma DMs can break out of the creativity coma

My son Andrew recently got a magic 8 ball toy.

Remember them?

Just ask it a yes/no question, shake it and a little triangle inside floats around in some toxic blue liquid to reveal a “magic” answer to your question in a viewing window.

8 Ball Top

So fun.

In the spirit of full transparency, Andrew spends most of his time asking it if his sister Mollie is stupid or if I will let him eat an entire bag of ginger snap cookies before bed…but I’m going to ask it a much more serious question right now.

Literally – sitting right here at my kitchen table.


Here goes (and I’m asking this about YOU)

“Has your creativity been lulled to sleep by the regulated and repetitive nature of the pharmaceutical sales industry?”

8 Ball Pic Answer

Uh oh.

I know what that means.


If even through the silliness of that lead-in story you answered the question with a YES, then Erik Wahl wrote his book for you:  UNThink:  Rediscover Your Creative Genius.

I can say that with confidence because it wasn’t long ago that I answered that question with a YES.

UNThink provides some incredible perspective directly aimed at folks in the corporate world who have lost their creative genius (or have had it driven from them…) and some practical ways to rediscover it.  In short:  some ways to un-think how we’ve been taught to think.

Much like I did in my last book review, I’ll share some key takeaways here versus a long, narrative recap of the book.  Frankly, I recommend buying it and devouring the content in a weekend like I did to get the full story.  At roughly 200 well written pages, it’s entirely doable.

That said, here are the 8 things I will be taking “Beyond the Book” from UNThink and bringing to life in my own world to continue rediscovering my creative genius.  My hope is that you’ll be inspired to read the book and put into practice a few that resonate with you:

  1. Later means never:  Wahl makes the point that re-engaging with our life as children begins the process of rediscovering creative genius.  As children, we were spontaneous creators and explorers…always embracing the moment.  We lose that as adults, erring on the side of waiting and worrying about process, procedures and what people will think.  Need to embrace the NOW more.
  2. Play is the supreme catalyst:  Wahl cites Roy Williams, founder of the Wizard Academy in Austin, Texas, as saying that “play requires the relaxation of the uptight mind.  We are rejuvenated and revitalized by it.  Children are happy because they play.  Adults are unhappy because they do not.”  Need to PLAY more at work.  unthink
  3. Live with some discomfort:  The process and procedure of pharma can make one quite comfortable, or comatose even.  Wahl suggests that awakening the artist within us “takes an ability to choose ‘right’ over ‘want.'”  And this in turn might require us to be uncomfortable.  This is good.  Must get into appropriately uncomfortable situations.
  4. Make discovery as valuable as data:  In sales it is natural to depend on and reward the numbers…data.  But creativity requires seeing the value in discovery.  Wahl drives this point home by suggesting that “while not every discovery will lead to a breakthrough, every discovery will build your muscles in innovation…”  Find places to reward discovery.
  5. Do the next thing on your heart:  In speaking to the power of conviction to drive creativity, Wahl drives home the importance of following what you believe in today.  He goes as far as to suggest that all of our big picture thinking isn’t nearly as important as the small picture when it comes to living out our convictions.  Follow my heart today.
  6. Refuse to be overwhelmed:  Problems arise daily in the life of a pharma sales leader.  In these moments, it’s natural to think of the worst case scenarios and negative outcomes.  Nothing kills creativity more quickly than that.  Wahl encourages relaxation as a tool to draw out creative flow.  Stay optimistic and relax.
  7. Surrender the recognition:  Wahl makes a case for the surrender of recognition to ignite creativity and build a powerful brand.  He notes that the strongest brands are recognized as such because of “…their determination to be led by their passionate actions rather than by their need for acknowledgement.”  Make it about more than me.  
  8. Work boldly, uniquely and freely:  Near the end of the book, Wahl brings all of his wisdom together in a rallying cry of sorts.  He encourages the reader to be bold in the face of fear and embrace the unique ideas that live within all of us. The world is waiting.  Be bold and take action.

I found UNThink to be a powerful reminder of all the natural creativity and passion we have inside of us, much of which goes hidden behind layers of conformity to corporate norms (some real, some not.)

This is particularly relevant in the world of pharmaceutical sales leadership, which can quickly turn into a Groundhog’s Day cycle of field rides, coaching reports and conference calls.  A creativity coma can easily overtake you.

In reading it, I was inspired to continue exploring and rediscovering my creative genius and pulling it through my work each day.

I hope you’ll do the same.

Until next time,


10 Podcasts Every Pharma Sales Leader Should Be Listening To

If you’ve been in pharmaceutical sales for a while, there’s a good chance you remember the Tape Rental Library.trl

Most major pharma companies had a contract with TRL as a way to provide ongoing learning opportunities for sales reps and other field based folks.

Think early Netflix for your commute: order books on cassette tape/CD and they’d arrive in your mailbox a week or so later. Return them when you’re done.

Ah, the memories.  I’m pretty sure I borrowed the Learn Spanish series 3 times and never made it through…

Anyway, while the Tape Rental Library may sound a like a thing of the past – the opportunity to make the most of our windshield time is not.

The average size of a pharmaceutical sales district is expanding like crazy which means plenty of extra time behind the wheel.  We can chalk this up to lost time and complain about it or get purposeful and make the most of it by consuming great content.Untitled design-2

The good news is, the amount of valuable information right at our fingertips today is unprecedented.  Most of it is 100% free and requires no envelopes or scratched up CDs because it sits right on our phone in the form of PODCASTS.

Podcasts are not new, but I’m surprised at the number of pharma sales leaders I talk to who don’t listen to them.

With that in mind, I thought I’d update a list I started back in September 2015 with 10 podcasts that every pharma leader should check out and consider adding to their drive time.  This blog post also describes HOW to listen to podcasts on your smartphone if you don’t already know.

PLEASE leave a comment at the end of this post if you’d add any to the list – I’d love to make this an ongoing project with lots of great options.

Here you go!

  1. This is Your Life – Michael Hyatt:  a once weekly podcast dedicated to intentional leadership. He draws from both his experience in the corporate world and as an entrepreneur to deliver great insight.  Great production value and always a ton of actionable stuff to work on.  (iTunes link)hyatt
  2. Pharma Marketing Talk:  features interviews with leaders and innovators in pharmaceutical marketing.  Not as regularly published as some of the others on this list but solid content to consume focused exclusively on pharma marketing.  Worth a follow on Twitter, too!  (iTunes link)pharmatalk
  3. Entrepreneur on Fire:  John Lee Dumas interviews today’s most successful Entrepreneurs 7-days a week.  Each episode details the journey of a successful Entrepreneur who shares their ups, downs and ah-ha moments.  A great challenge for us to be more entrepreneurial in our thinking!  (iTunes link)eofire
  4. The TOP:  another show that publishes daily and focuses on the worlds TOP entrepreneurs.  The host Nathan Latka gets into the weeds on how much they sold last month, how they are selling it, and pulls out lots of interesting insights that can be applied to daily business.  (iTunes link)  TheTop
  5. Fierce Biotech Radio: this show features interviews and analysis from around the biotech, pharma and medical device industries.  They publish once per week but there can be gaps.  If you already receive and enjoy any of the “Fierce” newsletters via e-mail, you’ll love hearing the discussion on this podcast!  (iTunes link)fbiotech
  6. Advanced Selling Podcast:  hosts Bill Caskey and Bryan Neale have been B2B sales trainers for the past twenty years.  They share their strategies, frameworks, tips and tricks to help create your own sales success.  They do a nice job of keeping things light, fun and action oriented.  (iTunes link)advancedselling
  7. The Ziglar Show:  usually published 2x/week, hosts Kevin Miller and Tom Ziglar break down the most powerful messages from Zig Ziglar and today’s top world changers.  The discussion breaks them down into ways that they can be applied today for growth and development.  (iTunes link)ziglar
  8. The EntreLeadership Podcast:  a weekly show from the great Dave Ramsey and hosted by Ken Coleman, the EntreLeadership Podcast features discussions & tips on leadership and business by some of the top minds in the business, like Mark Cuban, Seth Godin, Jim Collins and Simon Sinek.  High quality.  (iTunes link)entre
  9. The Salesman Podcast:  A former medical device rep, Will Barron interviews the world’s leading influence, body language, psychology and sales experts to give you the information YOU need to close more deals and make more money.  Sounds good to me, right? (iTunes link)salesman
  10. TBD:  there are literally thousands of podcasts out there on every topic imaginable.  If you’re into fly fishing, sports, painting, travel, politics or cooking – there is no doubt a program for you to subscribe to.  In addition to these business focused programs, feed your mind great content on topics you love!  (iTunes link)podcasts

You’ve Become a Creativity Vampire and Don’t Even Know It

6 Ways Sales Leaders Can Stop Killing Creativity

“Creativity now is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”  – Sir Ken Robinson

Do you agree with this bold statement by Sir Ken Robinson from his insanely popular TED Talk?

I do.

He goes on to suggest that schools, and companies, have destroyed creativity because we teach, educate and train in ways that stigmatize mistakes.

People are afraid to be wrong.Oh good...-2

And when people are afraid to be wrong, nothing original bubbles to the surface.  You get the same stuff recycled and regurgitated.



Looking specifically at pharmaceutical sales, there are areas where encouraging creativity and making mistakes is unacceptable.  There is an important obligation to healthcare providers and patients to get things right.  And legally, I get what’s at stake.

And let’s face it, the education and training environment we provide predictably follows suit:

  • High stakes tests
  • Certifications
  • Verbatim responses
  • Coaching checklists
  • Legal attestations

The process of learning is built around making sure that an accurate and fair balanced message is delivered.

Not always exciting – but understandable.

Add to this list the responsibility that leaders have to ensure expense reports are done correctly, that sales calls are entered the right way and performance metrics are in line with expectations.

You can quickly see how a culture lacking creativity takes shape and where trying new things isn’t exactly embraced.


BORING-2“Ok, Dave…but I thought you said that I’M killing creativity?  Sounds to me like the system and nature of the business is the culprit.”

And that’s the problem.

The general acceptance that being wrong and taking chances has no place in our little pharmaceutical world can permeate everything we do and literally become part of who we are as leaders.

We stop challenging our teams to come at problems from new angles because they might not work.  We stop tapping into the unique qualities that we all have as leaders because they don’t fit neatly into the prescribed game plan.

That’s what kills creativity.

And we own that.


As sales leaders, we have an opportunity an obligation to our teams to find appropriate places for them to try new things and risk being wrong.

To possibly fail.

To break away even briefly from the standard way of doing things.

That’s where the magic of creativity happens.

While there is no clear, uniform path for making this happen (given how unique we all are as individuals and leaders) here are a few ideas for re-kindling the creative fire on your teams this year:

  • Measure Failure: If you’re asking someone on your team to work on a particular selling skill (say, opening calls more effectively…) between your field visits – have them report back to you on what didn’t work instead of what did work.   In doing this, you set the expectation that they should be trying new things and that failure is simply part of the process.  If you’re not failing your not trying.
  • Break-Away Role Play:  Break away from stale habits and safe behaviors by having your team practice selling something totally unrelated to your product(s.)  You can simply use a product from the diner your sitting at or plan ahead and assign something fun from skymall.com.  This creates a safe environment to fail in and a fun laboratory to test new ideas.FullSizeRender (1)
  • Blue Sky Panel:  As a group or individually, encourage people to share how they would move their business assuming no restrictions or barriers.  Truly blue sky.  Creatively set it up as if everyone is “pitching” th
    eir ideas to a Shark Tank panel if you want.  Lots of ideas will fail but the debrief involves a discussion of what CAN be done (or some version thereof) from the list generated!
  • Ideal Day Design:  Similar to the Blue Sky Panel, have your team design their ideal, maximally productive day for you – individually or as a group.  Assume everything is possible.  What would it look like?   What could they get done?  Debrief as a team around the items that CAN be done (or at least some compliant version thereof) from the list!
  • Regional Reporter:  Create a list of things you feel your team has stopped thinking creatively about.  These could be anything from asking good questions to call plan routing.  Have everyone on your team reach out to someone else in your region and ask them to share how they approach that topic.  Have everyone share back what they learned and see if any new, creative ideas can be applied.
  • Book Club:  Find a great book to read as a team and run a book club meeting.  Avoid the temptation to use a boring business book.  Pick something interesting or fun that that gets people to think about how they are operating in the field and possibly in their personal lives. Debrief as a team on what ideas were generated from the reading and how they can be applied in the field.

This is just a partial list.

The opportunities are everywhere if we’d simply elevate the importance of creativity to it’s rightful place.

How about you?

What are some ways that you’ve encouraged creativity with your sales team and made failure an acceptable outcome?

Leave a comment below and consider trying one of the ideas above – would love to hear how it goes!

Until next time,



Beyond the Book: Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo


Everyone has an idea worth sharing.


If you’re in sales leadership – sharing ideas, information and direction is basically what you do for a living, right?

That is why I was so excited to read Carmine Gallo’s WSJ Best Seller, Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds.

Even if we’re not formally “on stage” – we are routinely in situations that require strong communication of an idea or message:

  • Customer sales calls
  • Coaching conversations
  • POA meetings
  • Conference calls
  • Sales training events

Talk Like TED delivers amazing insights, gleaned from analysis of the most viewed TED Talks of all time, that are as applicable in these situations as they are on the big stage.

Rather than provide a play-by-play review of Talk Like TED (…there have been many of those already written, all better than I could ever do), I’ll share what I’m going to change after having read thUnknowne book.  Taking things “BEYOND THE BOOK.”

(See what I did there? :))

After all, that’s the goal of investing time in reading great

From there, you can decide if any of the information is useful for you or if you’d like to read it for yourself!


Gallo’s research is broken down into 3 main sections in the book and powerfully demonstrates that effective presentations are…

I.  EMOTIONAL: They touch my heart

The 3 secrets revealed in this section of the book revolve around the premise that ideas have real impact when delivered at an emotional level using expert passion, stories and a conversational tone.

Sound like the last conference call you were on?


MY CHANGE: Use more stories. Gallo dissects numerous TED Talks where the presenters used 3 kinds of stories: personal stories, stories about other people and stories about brands that captured the audience at a truly emotional level.

COOL INSIGHT: Researchers have discovered that hearing stories activates language, sensory, visual and motor areas of the brain and can create a “sync-up” or “brain-to-brain coupling” between the speaker and listener.

That’s how ideas spread.

EXAMPLE: Check out this TED Talk by Bryan Stevenson who spent 65% of his 18 minutes telling stories.

II.  NOVEL: They teach me something new

The 3 secrets revealed in this section of the book suggest that ideas have real impact when they teach the audience something new, deliver a jaw-dropping moment and are lightened with humor.

MY CHANGE: Look for and deliver jaw-dropping moments.  OK, that might sound a little over zealous for a sales guy, but opportunities exist to “wow” any audience. Examples from book show that the best presentations contain some kind “emotionally charged event” that the audience remembers long after the interaction is over.

COOL INSIGHT: Molecular scientist John Medina is quoted in the book as saying that “emotionally charged events persist longer in our memories and are recalled with greater accuracy than neutral memories.”

Sounds like the primary goal of all we do in communicating ideas!

EXAMPLE: Check out this TED Talk by Bill Gates from 2009 whose use of an emotionally charged event – releasing “a swarm” of mosquitos – had incredible power.

III.  MEMORABLE: They present content in ways that I’ll never forget

The last 3 secrets shared in the book include data on the ideal length of presentations, taking a multi-sensory approach and the power of authenticity.

MY CHANGE: Always take a multi-sensory approach. It’s so easy to pull a bunch of slides together with data and bullet points and assume that’s enough to communicate an idea – but Gallo’s analysis suggests it’s not. Pictures, videos, props, demonstrations, text – and mixtures of them all – is what gains attention and has power.

COOL INSIGHT: Dr. Richard Mayer, professor of psychology at UC Santa Barbara, shares research insight in the book suggesting that students exposed to multisensory experiences ALWAYS (not sometimes…) have better recall of information than those who only read or hear it.

Finding ways to have an audience hear, see, smell, touch, move is a MUST if you want your idea to stick.

EXAMPLE: Check out this TED Talk by Michael Pritchard, which has been viewed over 3 million times, who uses a masterful multisensory approach to communicate his message.


Talk Like TED was a great read and just filled with highly actionable ideas – the mark of a great book for me.  I recommend it highly and you can grab a copy just about anywhere…I snagged mine off Amazon.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so leave a comment here.

Or if you’ve already read the book, what did you think?

Now…go spread your ideas.  (And if you liked this post – please spread the word by sharing it!)


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?



I hope you fail this week (seriously)

I hope you

I hope you fail this week.  Seriously.

Think about it, when was the last time you failed as a manager?  And I don’t mean forgetting to submit an expense report or missing a “coachable moment” with someone on your team.  I’m talking about a good, old fashioned belly flop.

If you’re having trouble thinking of something, that’s probably not a good thing.

Like many highly regulated industries, pharmaceutical sales leadership is an easy place to:  find a safe speed, throw the car into cruise control and just roll on for extended periods of time.

Maybe forever.

This can be a pretty comfortable place to hang out, too.  The magical metric generator spits out reports that say you’re doing great, you’re “off the radar” and your performance is right there in the fat part of the bell curve.

Comfy, right?   Everything is awesome… (Check out this quick clip of Emmet from The Lego Movie “following the instructions” and I think you’ll get the idea!)

Emmett follows directions

But let’s face it, that’s not where the special moments happen.

That’s NOT where we truly motivate, inspire and lead our teams to accomplish incredible things in their professional and personal lives.

The magic of leadership happens when we decide to try something new that just might fail.  Fall flat on its face.  Might even expose us to a little criticism or chuckling in the back of the room.

In fact, if we’re doing it right, we WILL fail.


People will think we’re weird, crazy or at least wonder why the heck we’ve left the cozy confines of the easy way.  It’s worth it.

  • Deciding NOT to do the same old field ride, the same old way
  • Giving that presentation the way you REALLY want to and leaving the slide whipping to someone else
  • Having the courage to try that new sales initiative that’s a little off the grid

Our teams are counting on us to do this because when we’re willing to FAIL – we’re willing to WIN.  To help them WIN.  Because out of the pile of misses will come a huge hit – the kind of transformational effort that will really make a difference.

When we don’t take chances, we might not lose but we certainly won’t win.  That goes for sales performance, your next POA meeting and the development of the folks you work with.

So…where will you fail this week?

Until next time,



15 Habits to Supercharge your Field Coaching Days (Part III: Habits 11-15)

Part III Title Graphic

While we find ourselves at the beginning of yet another school year, we are coming to the end of our 3-part series around 15 habits to help supercharge pharmaceutical field coaching days (insert sarcastic “awwwww” and #sadface here.) 🙁

I truly hope you’ve picked up something useful from each post – I know it’s given me a lot to reflect on.

We’ll finish up our discussion starting at #11 this week and work our way to the end of the list.   As a reminder, these practical habits come directly from some of the best pharmaceutical district managers I know, taken right from the field and delivered in this post.

Some of my thoughts are sprinkled in as well.

For a refresh of habits 1-5, simply click here and for habits 6-10, click here.

Let’s get right to it.

  1. Get up early with purpose
  2. Morning workouts
  3. New meeting spot
  4. Wipe the slate clean
  5. Tailor the day
  6. Review prior coaching reports/e-mails:
  7. Set Clear Goals
  8. Slow Down
  9. Learn on the commute
  10. Put your phone down (Be present)

Habit 11 headerIt might not be tagged as the most fun part of a field coaching day (for either party…), but the habit of practicing relevant skills with the folks on your team is without question a powerful way to generate results.

The concept of “deliberate practice” from the book Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin was brought to my attention by a friend and DM in New England as support for developing this habit.  It makes total sense and the most successful people in their field are relentless in their practice.  We should be no different here in pharmaceutical sales land.

Drop the formality and unrealistic stiffness of traditional “role playing” and just take the time to practice with your team!

Habit 12 HeaderThere could probably be some healthy discussion on this one but I’m a firm believer that DMs should actively (but appropriately) participate in the sales conversation with customers during a field coaching day.

Being the dude holding an invisible clipboard, staring silently over the shoulder of a sales representative makes everyone uncomfortable, drains energy from the day and brings little value to the table.

I accept that there are times when taking a backseat is necessary for coaching purposes but a truly energized day unfolds when the DM and representative feel like a TEAM working toward the mutual goal of serving the customer.

And it’s less creepy. 🙂

Habit 13 headerThis one is very much related to habit #8 from last week (Slow Down) shared by Tony Ramy from New Hampshire.

I remind my team regularly that my goal is to help them succeed in business and in life…NOT check the box on having done a field ride so I can write a coaching report.

That said, intentionally carving time into each field ride for a discussion of personal and professional development is a habit that can supercharge a field coaching day.  It keeps the focus squarely on the person you’re with and ensures that they have every opportunity to achieve their goals.

Not to mention, it makes for a much easier mid-year and year-end evaluation process…for everyone.

Habit 14 headerSales leadership doesn’t need to be all sunshine and rainbows, but DMs who have a habit of staying positive, building up and encouraging the folks on their team create supercharged field coaching days.

Tom Rath, in his book How Full is Your Bucket?, uses this analogy to describe this idea beautifully, “Each of us has an invisible bucket. It is constantly emptied or filled, depending on what others say or do to us. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it’s empty, we feel awful.”

A full bucket means a great day in the field.

So fill it.

Habit 15 header OK – debate me on whether or not this is an actual habit but it is SO worth including to wrap-up this list either way.

The most sure-fire strategy for creating supercharged field coaching days?  Make sure the right people are on your team.

A DM from Massachusetts shared this one with me and it really makes sense.  Invest the time in hiring positive, hungry  and hard-working folks and awesome days in the field are sure to follow.

For more insights into the ideal healthcare sales candidate, check out this post from my friend John Crowley and be sure to follow his work – he’s on point.

So there you have it…15 Habits to Supercharge your Field Coaching Days!

I hope there was at least 1 idea included in this series that challenged you to think (and ultimately act) differently in order to make the most of the time you have in the field with your team.

I’m also hopeful that this isn’t the END of a discussion, but rather the BEGINNING of an on-going dialogue in which we can all continue to learn from each other.

Please leave a comment with your thoughts!  What habits have you decided to implement in your field coaching process?  What OTHER habits do you think supercharge days in the field?

Special thanks are in order for Tony Ramy, Steve Soderlund, Amy Parillo, Alan Bundy, Kevin Holtz, Brian Mastrianni, Lisa Angwin, Wendy Keppy and Ian Aisenberg…all excellent DMs whose ideas and insights were used in this series.  I’ve learned a ton from you all and appreciate the help!  The same can be said for many other great leaders who have influenced me over the years…keep up the inspiring work!

Until next time,


15 Habits to Supercharge your Field Coaching Days (Part II: Habits 6-10)

Habits Part 2 Title Graphic

Welcome back!  If you thought Moe (our family’s English Bulldog, first introduced in this video) didn’t care for going outside, just image how thrilled he is when it’s time to take a bath.  That’s him in the tub pictured above.  Not amused.

This week we pick up our discussion of 15 habits that can supercharge pharmaceutical sales field coaching days at #6.

As a reminder, these practical habits come directly from some of the best pharmaceutical district managers I know, taken right from the field and delivered in this post.  Some of my thoughts are sprinkled in as well.

If you’d like a refresh of habits 1-5, simply click here to check out last week’s post.

Let’s get right to it.  My hope is that you’ll find just ONE habit from this list that will inspire an adjustment to your approach and help you create a wildly successful team.

  1. Get up early with purpose
  2. Morning workouts
  3. New meeting spot
  4. Wipe the slate clean
  5. Tailor the day

Habit 6 header

While this one seems obvious, I think we can all check our ego at the door and admit to times when we’ve arrived for a ride day less than optimally prepared.

A DM from New York pointed out to me that his habit of reviewing at least the last 2-3 field coaching reports, and even scanning through recent e-mail communications, has helped him stay focused on his team’s needs and create true progress / continuity in his travel days.

What caught me on this one was the word “review.”

We all have a system that captures ride along information – and we might even LOOK at it – but are we really reviewing it and carrying actions forward?

I can do better on this one.

PS:  a cool new technology built for pharmaceutical DMs to capture, track and measure their field coaching interactions recently hit he market.  Slick iPad app with an awesome visual interface and loads of useful tools – check it out here if you geek out on that stuff!

Habit 7 header

This is another core habit that can easily slip away in the craziness of day-to-day life but was mentioned by several excellent DMs.

Imagine just how supercharged a field ride can be if you’re working together with your team, getting things done and achieving real goals!

This a great place to get creative because you can develop fun, interesting and useful goals in the most difficult part of any territory – but, you have to develop the habit of DOING IT.

A DM in Connecticut put it this way,

“Having a common goal that you are working on together alongside the rep you’re working with tends to make the days more productive and fun.”

That’s the idea, right?

Habit 8 header

This habit comes from a DM in New Hampshire and could easily apply to life in general but is an excellent reminder for field coaching days.

“I was driving 75 MPH down Interstate 89 just wanting to get home.  At some point my attention was drawn to the right and the beautiful, snow-capped Green Mountains.  I had driven on this stretch of road dozens of times but had never really taken note of the beauty that was around me.  This is when the thought came over me:  ‘Am I asking my team to drive 75 MPH? And what are they missing because of it?’”

He has since created the habit of carving time out of EVERY FIELD RIDE, at least 60 minutes, to slow down and simply focus on what is important to the person he’s working with.

Literally anything.  Period.

He calls it “Coffee with the Coach.”

Make mine a Venti, please 🙂

Habit 9 header

This one comes from me and stems from a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago that you can check out here.

The bottom line for me is this:  when I spend my commute listening to and learning from motivational content I am ALWAYS in a great mood and ready to have an awesome field ride.

My creativity level rises and I’m engaged in the coaching process more than ever.  So, I’ve developed the habit of turning off the sports radio (…tough during football season, not going to lie) and listening to a podcast or audio book playlist that supercharges my day.

Click here to download an overview of what I’m listening to right now.

Habit 10 header

This habit from a DM in New Jersey punched me right in the gut because I have BAD habits here.   Here is how she describes her habit of handling the phone during a field coaching day:

“I set times throughout the day to make phone calls to the team either in the morning or afternoon and also set up time in the day to check emails or text messages.  I make the team or representative aware of those times.”

This process of chunking or scheduling time with the phone for communication is so powerful and can help increase engagement and energy.

I’m guilty of snagging my phone between sales calls and firing off a message or two – and in those moments I am not present.

Not fair.

Our teams deserve our attention on field rides and the habit of scheduling time with our phones can help that big time!

So there you have it – 5 more field-tested habits from district managers out there who are making it happen each day.

Any of these smack you around the way #10 did for me personally?  Have you given thought to putting any of habits 1-5 into practice?  Have any other habits you’d contribute to the list?

If so – please let me know in the comments section.  I’m eager to learn from you.

Until next week,


15 Habits to Supercharge your Field Coaching Days (Part I: Habits 1-5)

15 Habits Picture - Part 1

In last week’s blog, the topic of identifying and cultivating habits for powerful field coaching days was addressed with the help of my family’s bulldog Moe, who provided a useful (and funny…) example in this video.

Today, we’ll take a natural and important next step in this discussion and look at some the SPECIFIC HABITS that successful pharmaceutical sales leaders have in place to set the stage for supercharged field rides with the folks on their team.

How do I know what some of these habits are?  Well…I asked.

What follows are the first 5 (of 15) habits that were shared with me by successful sales managers out there in the field today along with a few thoughts of my own.  Not academic or philosophical ideas, either.  This is actual stuff that DM’s are doing before, during and after jumping into the passenger seat of a freshly washed and vacuumed fleet vehicle and having an awesome, productive day.

Is the idea that someone might try and implement ALL of these to be successful?  No way.  Hopefully, there will be just ONE habit that jumps from this list over the next few weeks that you can implement into your daily life to fire up your field rides.  Refer back to last week’s blog for some ideas on how to implement a habit successfully, too – since that’s where the magic really happens.

Let’s get started:

Habit 1 header

This one has some managers cringing right out of the gate, but a purposeful early morning ritual was mentioned as a killer habit by more than one person I talked to.  It has the power to set the tone for an entire day of coaching through increased levels of energy, focus and attitude .  Hal Elrod’s book The Miracle Morning had a profound impact on me personally and since reading it I have built my own 60 minute morning routine around: hydration, exercise, journaling and writing.  (And coffee.  Just saying.)  While I’m certainly not perfect in my application, I have formed a consistent habit and the results have been amazing.  Give it some thought, get up early and be sure to read Hal’s book.

Habit 2 header

The habit of exercise in the morning was mentioned by several managers as key to a supercharged ride day and is a natural fit into the early morning ritual mentioned in habit #1.  The type and duration of exercise varied but the result was highly consistent.  One leader I spoke to described his early morning running this way, “That alone time among the trees and along the water allows me to organize my thoughts and make better decisions. Ultimately I feel it puts me in a better place both physically and mentally to have a successful coaching session.”  Sign me up!

Habit 3 header

OK…this one is mine.  Simply meeting in a new location the morning of a field coaching day can have a powerful impact.  Nothing against that Panera Bread or Starbucks that you love to meet at (yes, I know… the parking is great) but the habit of switching things up can change the entire tone of your day.  Pick a local place with cool artwork on the walls, an interesting coffee menu or some kind of weird history.  Use your iPhone (the YELP app is excellent if you’re not already using it) or a simple Google search for ideas or delegate the selection your team…the results will surprise you!

Habit 4 header

A manager in New England shared his personal success with a habit of starting every field day with an emotional clean slate – wiping clear any negative carryover from a prior field coaching visit or anything challenging from his own personal life.  This DOESN’T mean forgetting important coaching content that must carryover to each travel day – but rather lose the negative baggage that can get in the way of progress.  “It’s hard to do every day but I make a conscious effort each day to ‘clear my lens’ and put myself in a positive frame of mind.”  Imagine how this level of self-awareness and mindset management might impact the quality of your next field ride.

Habit 5 header

When discussing habits we often focus on rituals that can be done same way over time – and for good reason.  But how about a habit of purposefully changing up the structure of field ride days to meet the needs of the person you’re working with?  Like, literally doing the day completely different based on who you’re working with.  A DM I spoke with put it this way, “each of my representatives has different strengths and areas of opportunity to work on so I tailor each field day to the individual rather than a set structure.”  Just like a good suit,  a field coaching visit feels better when it fits right.  One size does not fit all.

So, what do YOU think?

Are you already doing some of these things?  If so – share some experiences in the comments section below!

What other habits have you identified and developed that help drive the success of the field rides with your team?  Share below!

Stay tuned until next week when Habits 6-10 will hit the blog with some further food for thought.

Until next time,