When the Rubber Meets the Road, Don’t Slip

Four things you can do to make sure you commercialize your new product successfully

Kristina Belyea 10 July 2017 - 5 min. read

In the life sciences industry, the process of getting a product to market is long and arduous with no guarantee that the product will be approved, let alone find any kind of commercial success. Millions of dollars are spent on R&D and funding clinical trials, and once a product is developed and (finally!) approved and ready to hit the market, millions more are invested in training sales reps to sell it successfully. And inflated training costs aren’t limited to the life sciences industry. According to a Training Magazine report, in 2016 companies spent over $70 billion on training expenditures – in the US alone.

In a Harvard Business Review article breaking down why many product launches fail, we’re told that nearly 75% of new products fail in their first year. There’s no reason to believe the life sciences industry is immune to this. With ever-changing technology, growing competition, constrained buying budgets, and increasingly complex procurement processes, commercialization isn’t easy. Success hinges on competent reps prepared to make the most out of every sales opportunity. This is where the rubber meets the road.

Picture this. A life sciences company is commercializing a new product, and a rep gets most of her training at a national sales meeting. After the (twice a year) meeting, she relies on slide decks, marketing brochures, and touchpoints with her training manager via phone or email. The same manager has touches with other reps in the field, and has to have the same conversation again and again. How to handle a certain objection. How to reference clinical information. How to speak to benefits and features. Rather than moving the needle forward and accelerating sales, the needle stutters. Managers try to ensure engagement and retention, but there’s no visibility on whether the money, time, and human resources expended in sales training has a real business impact.

There are four steps you can take to make sure your field reps are capable of successfully commercializing your products. Taking these steps will help you give them the tools to effectively educate prospects on why they should buy or switch over to your newly commercialized product.

One. Break down and simplify clinical information.
Your newly commercialized product hinges on breakthrough research and technology. But what good is cutting-edge if your reps can’t convincingly reference it during sales conversations? Even experienced reps won’t be familiar with your product’s novel clinical benefits. By breaking down and simplifying clinical into short-bursts of easily accessible information, you educate your reps – even those without a clinical background – to speak to a product’s value, and in turn highlight this value to clients.

Two. Create product playbooks.
Your reps simply have too much information to sift through, in formats that are, at best, uninspiring and, at worst, overwhelming. A new product means even more information they need to know. A short playbook organizes each stage of the sales pipeline and lays out what training content reps should focus on, and which messages to leverage in the field – and when! Reps need a place to get answers when a training manager isn’t available, so that they’re messaging consistently and getting the most out of their limited time with clients.

Three. Track everything.
In the words of Peter Drucker, “what gets measured gets managed.” You invest time, money, and resources into training your reps, and you hope they exceed their targets. Hope is not a strategy. How are your reps using training content? How often? Are they referencing it before, even during, sales conversations? By gathering metrics on how your training is being used, managers/stakeholders will be empowered to identify competency gaps, and then bridge them through coaching and stronger training tools.

Four. Give your sales force the most up-to-date information at their fingertips.
Sales messaging and strategy finds its feet during the commercialization process. Based on the market’s response, sales and marketing messages and other sales tools quickly evolve. This updated information needs to be relayed to reps in the field as fast as it evolves so that they’re always operating at their full potential. As one Senior Director of Product Management at a publicly traded medical device manufacturer told us, “I want new information out [to the field] in no more than 48 hours.” Mobile technology is a particularly effective way to ensure that reps always have critical product information at their fingertips when they need it.

Here’s the big question. When rubber meets the road, are your reps going to fumble and risk losing the sale, or will your training help them steer straight – and give your newly commercialized product a fighting chance?