Are you wasting opportunities to coach your reps to excellence?

My kids are pretty smart.

Totally bragging a little.  But it’s true.  🙂

Anyway, report cards came home a couple of weeks ago and they both did really well – better than I ever did at their age.

So, I heaped on the generalized praise for the A’s and then there was some discussion about ways they might improve the couple of classes that fell a little short.

Yawn. Pretty standard parenting and coaching right?

Standard for sure – and such a waste. I’m realizing it more every day and the implications are huge.

What’s Missing

As leaders (parents, sales managers or otherwise…) we’re often so busy nit-picking or trying to find ways to improve areas of perceived underperformance that we miss the chance to lead someone to EXCELLENCE.

I mean, that’s really the goal, isn’t it?

It should be.

And think about it. Excellence never comes from driving a specific skill from below average to mediocre. It never emerges from a place where there isn’t any love or passion.

It just doesn’t.

Yet we spend so much of our coaching time camped out in that space.  We end up focused on what our teams aren’t good at – at the expense of what they are good at.Untitled design-8

Excellence happens when you make a decision to develop the existing skills, abilities and passions that are at the core of what makes someone unique. When you invest your precious time and energy into something they’re already good at and help them find ways to be great.

Maybe even fan the flames of greatness to become the best.

Author Marcus Buckingham has written extensively in this area and a quote from his book First, Break All The Rules resonates with me:

“You cannot learn very much about excellence from studying failure.” – Marcus Buckingham

To go back to the report card analogy: I wasted a chance to talk with my kids about why they’re doing so well in math and what bigger, better and cooler things they can accomplish as a result. Instead, I focused on the “failure.”

OK…YES, there are going to be critical skill areas that we need to “coach up” in order to help folks reach a certain level of competency. No doubt about it.

But shouldn’t we be spending AT LEAST the same amount of time uncovering those things that members of our teams are already really good at and help them become EXCELLENT? Awesome, even?

I’ve whiffed on this more times than I care to admit.

Questions To Ask

How about you?

Here are a few things to think about in closing.  Specifically, consider the last few coaching reports or performance reviews you’ve written:

  1. WHY:  Simon Sinek is right…start with why!  Are you picking skills to develop and coach on for the right reasons?  Did you choose them as a means to drive toward excellence or out of convenience?
  2. BALANCE:  Does your coaching plan at least have a mixed focus on those skills which need genuine development along with those which are already strong and can be driven higher?
  3. PASSION:  Do you know what your reps are really passionate about?  Are you focusing any of your coaching efforts purposefully in that area?  Can you start today?

The opportunities are all around us as leaders.  Focus more on developing strengths and stop wasting opportunities to coach your reps to excellence.

I’d love to hear from you on this topic!

Do you agree?  What does your experience suggest?

Until next time,


Leadership & Learning INTERVIEW Series: Episode 01

Audio insights from Tom Ori on the intersection of Leadership and Learning

In a departure from the written blog format, today’s value bombs will be dropped via audio in an interview with Tom Ori, the owner of Next Level Performance.

In less than 15 minutes, we cover:

  • WatchA great quote on the interplay of leadership and learning
  • The ideal role a sales leader can play in the ongoing training of their team
  • (GULP…)  Role playing – does it work?  If so, insight into the best way to approach.
  • An immediately actionable facilitation / presentation tip
  • A learning tool / technology / resource Tom’s really fired up about
  • A book recommendation for leaders on the topic of learning
  • AND – a bonus question you’ll want to ask yourself!

Sound good?

Just jump in the car, grab your travel mug of java and PRESS PLAY on the small button below!  The “show notes” are complied below for use later…


After listening, I’d be grateful to hear what you think in the comments section!

Don’t be shy about sharing, either 🙂

Until next time,



Quote:  “Diagnosis and treatment without assessment is malpractice”

Next Level Performance Website:

Check out the Leadership Check-Up

Tom’s article from LinkedIn about Leadership Check-Up

Worthwhile book on learning to check out:  The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning:  How to Turn Training and Development into Business Results

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  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,



WARNING: Are you a Sales Leader or Super Rep? PART II

3 ways to harness your inner super rep for coaching success

In the first blog of this two-part series we kicked things off with a story of how easy it can be to move into super dad (or super mom…) mode in our personal lives.

It was a simple lesson about AWARENESS.  Thanks coach Sue! 🙂

In Part 2, we will explore how DMs can keep their inner super rep from undermining coaching objectives while avoiding the awkwardness of a purely silent observer.


[PS:  Before you dig in, please know that you can click here to subscribe to the Sales Leader Gear blog and download a FREE PDF eBook version of both Parts 1 & 2 together along with a manager self assessment and leadership team discussion guide…check it out!]


Tom and his team at Next Level Performance use movie clips to generate conversations about leadership and coaching. There is a powerful scene in the cold-war thriller The Hunt for Red October that they use in their situational coaching programs.

Please excuse the brief vulgarity at the start.

During the briefing—his “sales pitch”—an eager and otherwise competent Jack Ryan lets his passion get the better of him as he challenges a 4-star General. Notice the silent coaching Admiral Greer provides his ‘sales rep’ at the 1:14 mark of the clip.Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 2.28.25 PM

The coach’s gesture (hand on his arm) together with Ryan’s regretful expression suggests Ryan knows he overstepped.

Yes, it’s Hollywood. But think about it. How many of us as coaches have been in the Admiral’s shoes during a field ride?

Imagine practicing the self-restraint the Admiral showed in the clip! The most enlightened coaches are tempted to channel their inner super rep and interject when they see a sales visit going sideways.


As we referenced in Part 1, as coaches we constantly balance two dynamic objectives: 1) achieve financial results; and 2) develop people.

Let’s be clear: there are a multitude of appropriate situations when a leader needs to vocally contribute during an office visit while pursuing the objectives above. Sometimes, however, an over-emphasis on one comes at the expense of the other.

Focus too much on achieving financial results and we end up doing the heavy lifting during a sales call—justifying our super rep actions with something that sounds like, “If I didn’t say something, we were going to miss the opportunity with the gold-level physician.”

The consequence?

Rescuing the sales rep from learning by doing.


Here are THREE TIPS that we’ve found instrumental in harnessing the inner super rep to achieve strong coaching success. We’d like to hear your additions to our short list below as well, just add a comment!


Determine in advance of an office visit how active you will be during the time when both you and the rep are in front of the physician or Physician Assistant.  Be REALLY specific. Share your intention with your sales rep before walking into the office.

What can guide your decision? Ask yourself: What coaching action—my active contribution, my silence, or a blend—will help the rep move further along the Situational Readiness curve from low competence to high self-reliance?

Just as your successful sales reps pre-call plan, we encourage to think through and plan your contribution to the call.


When you decide that supportive silence is the best way to coach, imagine there is a side-line between you and the rep: she is standing in the field of play; you are on the side-lines. She can play; you can’t.

In athletics it’s a sideline or something similar. In music a conductor leads from the dais. In stage acting, only actors occupy the stage during a performance. What if sales leaders could imagine a similar sideline during certain office visits?

Sure, during practice or rehearsal the line is nonexistent. In practice coaches are on the field whispering in the players’ ears, sometimes demonstrating specific actions. During the performance, however, this line is strictly enforced. However, they can still see the performance.


Mustering the strength to plan ahead and create a sideline during a sales call is a great first step, but the power and impact ultimately comes from consistent application.

If you don’t create a habit of staying behind the curtain in appropriate situations, the impact on performance will never come. And that hurts the business and the representative’s development!

For more thoughts on consistency and sales success, check out this post.

Let’s return to the Hollywood version of the Pentagon meeting. We can’t be sure if Admiral Greer determined prior to the Joint Chiefs briefing that he was going to remain silent and let his star analyst express his unconventional opinions.

But it’s fun to consider how any of us as coaches—when the situation calls for it—can intentionally remain silent and let our players play. Even if the result is a bump on the nose.

When we do, the learning will be theirs.

What is your favorite method for determining whether to actively contribute or remain silent during joint office visits? Leave us a comment below!

And don’t forget to download your FREE eBook of Parts 1&2 along with a manager self assessment and discussion guide by clicking on the banner below and signing up for the Sales Leader Gear blog!


Until next time,

Dave and Tom

WARNING: Are you a Sales Leader or Super Rep?

5 reasons sales leaders act more like super reps than coaches

It’s my pleasure to share that this post was written collaboratively with leadership coach and trainer Tom Ori, owner of Next Level Performance.  I’m confident you’ll get as much from reading it as I did from working on it with Tom.  Enjoy!

Super Dads

My daughter has been working with a softball pitching coach, Sue, for nearly a year. I quickly learned that the fast-pitch involves a complex set of coordinated mScreen Shot 2016-01-19 at 11.00.11 PMovements and that I’m officially out of my instructional league.

Anyway, Sue kicks off each session by asking my daughter how the week went, looking for feedback on practice time and game action.

She always asks my daughter directly, who often responds like a typical 12-year old: nervous stumbling, no eye contact and lots of “likes.”

So, like all Super Dads – I jump in to set the record straight and get things rolling in the right direction.

Until this happened.

“Thanks Dad, but I asked her. SHE needs to be able to tell me how she’s doing.”


Did I mention that Sue was an excellent coach? 🙂

The District Manager Super Rep

If you’re a pharmaceutical district sales manager (DM) or front line leader (FLL) this scenario might seem familiar to you.

You have audience with a healthcare provider, the representative you’re working with engages in a conversation and the next thing you know you’ve assumed control of the dialogue and CRUSH IT!

After all, you’ve won 3 President’s Club awards, know the PI like you wrote it and can develop rapport in your sleep. That’s how you rose to the ranks of DM! And it’s great for the folks on the team to see what good (well…great, maybe) looks like – right?

Right. Wrong. Maybe both. This begins the debate of the District Manager Super Rep.

Let’s start with a clear acknowledgment: in certain situations it is entirely desirable for a DM to show up actively during a sales call with a representative. It can be downright weird at times when you don’t. However, the decision around call participation needs to be ultimately driven by two concepts:

  • AWARENESS: DMs need to be highly conscious of where, when and how they get involved in customer conversations
  • INTENTIONALITY: DMs need to use time in front of customers intentionally to drive the development of the representative they’re with – including possibly jumping in and participating

Today, we’ll focus on AWARENESS and diagnosis of the super-rep phenomenon. In Part 2 of the blog next week, we will explore some actionable strategies for getting highly INTENTIONAL with our involvement.

The 5 D’s of Awareness

Here are 5 common reasons that may cause you, the DM, to put on your Super Rep cape during a field coaching ride day and some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Don’t even know: Let’s start simple – you might not even know how often you’re jumping in and taking over calls.
    Q:  Are you aware of how frequently you actively sell when standing next to a representative?
  2. Desire: You love to sell and you’re great at it. Something about being in that moment comes over you and jumping in is just primal instinct.
    Q:  Is your desire to develop your sales representative as great as your desire to sell?
  3. Drive Sales: As a manager, you’re ultimately responsible (and financially incentivized) for hitting your goals and every moment in front of a customer is important.
    Q:  Ask yourself at the end of a field ride, ‘How have I contributed to the rep’s task-level confidence / commitment so THEY can better drive the business?’ (Situational LeadershipÔ)
  4. Discomfort: It can be entirely awkward to stand silently next to a representative and act like an observer.
    Q:  How comfortable are you with being an observer and allowing the representative to own the sales call?
  5. Development: Depending on a representative’s level of development, jumping in and modeling a selling skill might be a highly effective coaching strategy.
    Q:  For your >6 month-experience reps, how often do you intentionally create a vacuum for them to fill?

Do any of these questions resonate with you?

I’ve personally had all of them influence my involvement on sales calls at one point or another in my leadership career.

What other influences are at play when it comes to your involvement on sales calls with your team?

Use the comments section below to share your thoughts. We’ll grab some of your insights and address them directly.

In the next article, we’ll pick up this conversation and share some actionable strategies to help make sure that you’re getting the most out of your involvement on sales calls INTENTIONALLY for the benefit of your team and your business.

Until next time,

Tom and Dave


PS:  If you found this useful – we’d be grateful for a share!  Just use the social sharing buttons above to show the love on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…we appreciate it!

The #1 Thing Sales Leaders Need to CRUSH Their Goals

Two weeks into 2016, it’s safe to assume that most pharmaceutical sales leaders have a stack of goals on their desk a mile high:

  • Personal goals
  • Sales Goals
  • Professional development goals
  • Goals for the National Meeting
  • Coaching goals for each person on the team
  • Goals for the goals…

With so much to accomplish, you might even be one of those super organized leaders with a plan in place to attack these goals. Maybe even a fancy spreadsheet with tactics and timelines.

And that’s important.

But the one thing that every sales leader needs to ultimately crush their goals in 2016 is this:



The worst looking PowerPoint deck, outlining the least strategic plan ever, can destroy a 20MB masterpiece if the actions are applied consistently.

Consistently once the buzz has worn off.

Consistently when urgent matters are thrown on your plate.

Consistently when you don’t really feel like it.

John Lee Dumas, on his Entrepreneur on Fire Podcast, regularly shares his F.O.C.U.S acronym as a key driver to the success of most entreprenuers that he interviews:

Follow One Course Until Success


These crazy, passionate and successful business people have the capacity to do the work on a focused plan long after others have quit.


While there is no magic formula for generating consistency in driving toward a goal, here are 4 ways you can increase your chances:

  1. Nail down your WHY: Making sure that your goals, and the plans built around them, are grounded in a strong WHY is critical. Why is the goal important? How will it benefit you, your team, others? Why – not What – keeps you going.
  1. Less is more: It can feel good to load up a plan with tons of cool action steps and tactics but the reality is: less is more. Instead of blowing up a document with lots of stuff, pick just 1 or 2 items and focus on execution.
  1. Block the time: Use your calendar to block time off for the execution of your plan well in advance. Create a recurring event, with a reminder feature, that will keep the action in front of you and make it a priority well into the future.
  1. Partner up: Find someone close to you and ask them to keep you accountable. If they know what you’ve committed to and are willing to call you out – bring it on. Massive goals and plans are never accomplished alone.

At the end of 2016, it will be the sales leaders who stayed consistent to their process and plans who hit their goals. The ones who SHOW UP.

Will you be one of them?

Take a moment and share your thoughts in the comments section. How have you developed consistency over the years? Anything work really well for you?

Would be grateful for a share if you found this useful – just use the social sharing buttons at the top of the post.

If you thought it sucked, tell me that too so I can get better. I’m here to serve YOU. 🙂

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!)


In 2016 STOPPING might be your best START


I love this week leading up to a new year.

Lots of family time, an opportunity to reflect on another year in the books and a chance to map out a fresh start.

A real emphasis on personal leadership.  Deep. 🙂

If you’re anything like me, this process always ends up with lots of things to START doing.

  • Start working out X days a week
  • Start reading more
  • Start that thing I’ve been putting off

This is important because there are ALWAYS worthwhile actions to start implementing in a new year to achieve more.  My plan for 2016 has plenty of “starts” that I’m pretty pumped up about.

But what about STOPPING?

Think about it.

You know you just got a present (or a bunch of presents…) over the Holidays and went to put it in that drawer, closet or garage only to say to yourself – “where the heck am I supposed to put this?!”

You end up with two choices that have vastly different outcomes:

  1. Cram it in so that it (or the other stuff in there) never gets used or
  2. Throw some crap out so you can focus on what you’ll actually use

This idea plays itself out in our goal setting efforts too… and it’s time to throw stuff out.

Time to STOP.

I just went through this really enlightening online tool developed by Michael Hyatt that allows you to map out all 365 days of your year out against a revenue goal to see not only where your STARTS fit…but where you need to STOP doing less important things.

My report?

Once I punched all my actions in, the tool said that I needed an extra 35 days in 2016 to accomplish my goals.  Yikes.

I have some work to do around STOPPING some less important things for the New Year to make sure I focus on the stuff that matters most.

How about you?

As you embark on your own goal setting journey for 2016, or reflect on those goals you’ve already set, think long and hard about what you need to STOP to make it all work.

Best wishes for a truly remarkable 2016,


PS:  If you’re still looking for a proven plan for setting strong goals in 2016, my buddy John Crowley is launching 7 Steps to Master Your Destiny today – a step-by-step guide to help define and achieve your biggest goals…check it out!



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,