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.  🙂

Anyways, one of the pivotal points in the game came when New England wide receiver Wes Welker dropped a challenging, but very catchable, pass from quarterback Tom Brady late in the contest which could have likely won them the game. Tom Brady got the ball, surveyed the defense, threw the right pass to Welker…and he dropped it.

In the world of pharmaceutical sales, this scenario plays out routinely as well.

Just stay with me here…

The sales training department works to uncover a gap, they build and roll out a training program to address the need and then they hand things over to the district managers for “pull through”…and the learning opportunity is lost.

This “ball dropping” takes many different forms and flavors which are summed up below as 5 reasons why the sales training department wants to strangle district managers (along with some tips on how to get on the same page):


Most DMs struggle with focus and staying the course with any initiative, let alone training pull through. Shocking, I know.  🙂 New data, “urgent” direction from leadership or just the day-to-day needs of their reps are all easy sources of distraction. So using that coaching tool or resource on the first field ride after the POA meeting and never again is REALLY common – and is not going to get the job done.

Leadership Learning TIP:  Solid learning theory tells us that spacing (small chunks of information consumed over an extended period of time…) is key to true knowledge retention and behavior change.  So commit to purposefully reinforcing learning from a POA, product launch or NSM for at least 3-months with your team.  Nothing fancy – just continue to be a source of reinforcement and practice.  Resist the temptation to simply drop it when something else comes along.

Sales Training Sales Leadership Squirrel

Yes, hello? Distractions anyone?

Click – Delete

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone in sales training say “It’s like the managers don’t even read the stuff we send them…”, I’d be a rich man. And the truth is, many DMs don’t. Full transparency: I had way more training materials left in shrink wrap than I did in my briefcase.  This really is a wasted opportunity.

Leadership Learning TIP:  Read everything you get from sales training. I know…you get a lot of stuff sent to you but success in pharmaceutical sales today can hinge on the smallest advantage, so make every resource count. And if you’re getting crap from your training team– use your engagement as a platform to give feedback to sales training on what you DO need!


The average DM today is doing over 100 field rides with their team each year.  Many (most?) of these days are spent reviewing the same data, seeing the same physicians and coaching to the same elements of the sales model.  And yet, even in light of this repetition, sales training pull-through efforts often receive zero priority. This is a huge miss.  It’s time to jump off the hamster wheel and think differently.

Leadership Learning TIP:  Make training a priority!  Instead of doing another “milk run” in Springfield that simply tallies another field contact for the month, plan series of field rides that are built around a sales training initiative.  Work collaboratively with your regional training professional to create a fun, productive way to drive home the skills you’re working on.

Sales Leadership Sales Training Boring

Yay! Another field ride with my DM…

Unsure WHAT to do (and don’t ask for help)

This one goes back to last week’s post and the idea that most DMs are not trainers – and that’s OK.  Listen, over the last 15 years I’ve come to completely own the idea that I can’t fix stuff around my house.  I’m just not handy.  In fact, I’m an embarrassment.  And yet I realize that things need to get done, so I have a system in place to make it all work (known as my father-in-law.)

Leadership Learning TIP:  Ask for help.  If deep down you realize that you need to reinforce a training plan but aren’t sure how  – request support.  Most training teams, and regional training folks in particular, are chomping at the bit to help out.  Take advantage of that!

Not Leveraging Data

We live in a world that is overflowing with data and training teams are increasingly providing access to learning data – both formally and informally.  As a DM, you love data right?  Well, then take advantage of the data available to you from a given training initiative.  It can be a great source of motivation when you can SEE where the learning gaps are for yourself.  Not getting that data?  Ask for it.

Leadership Learning TIP:  Get your hands on data and USE IT.  After a training event – check out the pre-work assessment scores if you have them.  Think about what kinds of questions were being asked by your team at the live meeting – is there a theme?  If you’re using a training tool like FocalPoint, QStream or Axonify – what does the data there reporting tell you about where your team is?  That is YOUR pre-call plan for pull through.

So, there you have it – a look at both sides of the aisle: the Sales Training Team and District Sales Managers.   Two critically important players in the ultimate success of a field sales team with huge opportunities for better alignment.  Hopefully these posts provided fuel for that conversation!

How do YOU weigh in on the topic?  Comment here…

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Until next time,


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

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