Atom Wave News

We believe organisations can significantly enhance their leadership effectiveness through addressing their people at their strengths, through developing relationships of trust, and through building a coaching culture.

Sales Shadowing in Pharma Sales: An Application of Solution Focus

Olympia, we last heard from you about using SF to achieve and measure ROI in working with bank branch managers.

The following project involved working with pharmaceutical sales people in the field, i.e., during client visits.

1. The project role involved shadowing the team. How was that useful to the sales team during visits?

A “shadow” can be useful when it is a “good” shadow, an empowering one. While I was there, I first had to play the role of the little invisible doctor so that I wouldn’t attract the lights and stop being a shadow. My role was to detect what each medical rep was doing well during each visit and tell them what I saw. So after each visit, I would let them know of all the elements of the sales visit that had impressed me. Amongst these were their in-depth know-how of the products, their resilience present despite the limited time with the doctor, the ingenious links between the doctor’s needs and their products, and lots of others.

I suppose you can imagine their initial surprise when we came out of the first visit (I did four visits with each one) and I started telling them what I noticed and was impressed by and nothing else! So they all looked at me and asked “And what else? What should I do better?” And I said, “I don’t know. I am just here to tell you what I see you doing well.” Then we continued to the second visit and all I asked was “what would be an indication that this visit is going in their desired direction?” Then, again, I gave them my resource feedback and this is how we rolled out the whole day. At the end we had a coaching conversation with each person about what they wanted to work on and how they will “experiment” with this until our next session.

2. While sales people have products and services to sell, they also build relationships and trust by listening to the customer. How do you see Solution Focus being useful in the sales person’s role? is liberating sales people from the inside Gremlins haunting a sales visit. The element of noting small positive changes can help a sales person on what they are doing towards the desired sales direction instead of self-whipping and eventually losing one’s motivation.

The “traditional” sales coaching is around feedback that points out some positive behaviors (they usually have to be outstanding to receive positive feedback points) and then emphasis is placed upon things that need to change ie. More open questions, better listening, handling objections, etc. So in order to get a “good” grade, a sales person has to score a list of points running a sales presentation – Opening / Need Questions / Presenting, etc. But again, how predictable can a sales visit be? And even if the doctor allocates the desired 20 minutes to them, how productive is it to have a sales person who acts like a live robot? I don’t argue that sales steps are not required, we all find good use for them, but Pharma selling has overdone it. It seems like the strict scientific nature of the product has influenced the nature of the selling process itself to more “rigid.”

So, SF behavioral sales coaching addresses experienced sales people who wish to move a step further in their sales results. It is about how to talk to the doctor with genuine curiosity and ask real questions, questions for which answers are not known.

3. If I were interviewing the manager of your client’s sales team, what would this person tell me was most useful for the team about your Solution Focus shadowing?

The manager was impressed by the power of resource feedback and how this enabled his team to open up within a couple of hours. Although he was the project champion, he was also a little sceptical about this SF project. It was quite different from anything they had done before, it was not traditional training and the process was not clear.

The project is not completed yet, but I had the chance to ask the manager about his thoughts so far and he reported that his people said that what they experienced was completely different from what they expected – they thought that I, as a coach, would TELL them what to do and of course this did not happen. AND they said that this conversation with me, during which they were “talking so much,” was thought-provoking and insightful.

They have all started changing and experimenting with new approaches to their sales as reported by the manager.

4. In both the banking and in the pharma cases, what pleased you most about using Solution Focus to help the clients make progress in their work?

  • I enjoy the joy of the client when we have the resource talk and get so much detail about what I notice them doing well.
  • I enjoy the surprise when they expect to get the “BUT… “ after our resource discussion and they don’t get it.
  • I enjoy my client’s transformation when they get “infected” by the SF way of thinking from negative focus to strengths.
  • I enjoy the gleaming eyes of people who finally feel appreciated for things they do well that are usually taken for granted.
  • I enjoy when the participants said they became a better person and better parents by applying the SF principles to their children!

Finally, I enjoy that, through the work as an SF practitioner, we can bring visible business results and ROI.