Anyone who has ever coached will understand how much joy they experience when the team, or individual you have worked with, excels. The feeling of sheer delight and pride when you witness the impact of success. As a coach, you have a sense of enormous personal pride at a job well done. You beam when you see the rewards bestowed on those you coach, those whom you have nurtured to ensure they achieve their maximum potential.
Organisations invest millions of dollars to train their line managers, particularly sales managers, to be great coaches, and rightfully so.
There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that coaching enhances the success of individuals and teams and is a contributing factor for motivation and staff retention.
Effective coaching and development results in individuals who:
- Perform up to 25% better than their peers
- Are 29% more committed than their peers
- Are 40% more likely to stay with the organisation than their peers
Source: CEB (Now Gartner)
However, the majority of coaching activity in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries is centred around in-call coaching. Maximising the interaction that a sales person has with an external stakeholder. Ultimately, the focus is on driving sales in order to achieve, or exceed the sales target.
We know that between now and 2030 the landscape for pharmaceutical and medical device companies is changing beyond recognition.
Source: Pharma Outlook 2030, KPMG
The advances in science and technology, combined with increasingly complex health systems will require significant organisational and behavioural changes.
I am not saying that the need for sales coaching to improve in-call performance will go away, however, organisations do need to invest in their future and build strong Key Account Management (KAM) capabilities across all functions in order to succeed. A fundamental part of this will be to equip line managers with the skills and knowledge required to coach their teams on how to adapt to working within an effective key account management model.
The important factor for consideration here is that coaching skills need to be developed across the business with the cross functional account team, and not just the first line sales manager.
For me, KAM is the layer above sales. It is the process that connects marketing with customer facing activity and it needs to happen before we engage with external stakeholders to ensure that we make the most of the face to face interactions that occur.
KAM as a way of working ensures that we create a red thread between marketing, medical, sales and the wider cross functional team.
Some of the core behaviours that are critical within a Key Account Management model, include insight generation, as discussed in a previous article, creating the patient journey and stakeholder mapping. The quality of these operational processes will have implications for any external stakeholder interactions that occur.
To excel at any one of these requires a change in behaviour from all members of the cross functional account team.
The Strategic Account Management Association (SAMA) have researched this in great detail.
It takes an organisation between 3-5 years to successfully embed key account management as an operating model.
Source: The Strategic Account Management Association (SAMA)
However, this suggested time frame can be reduced when an organisation takes key account management seriously.
Embedding any new operating model requires a strategic approach. Most of us have been exposed to a new selling model, or new brand planning model at some stage. Alongside the multiple training interventions, we are exposed to an ongoing communications programme endorsed by senior leaders in the business. Line managers are well versed in the new processes and actively increase the frequency of their coaching interactions with their teams.
Why should KAM be any different?
Going back to my earlier point, there is an emphasis on coaching for in-call performance. Anyone who leads a team who are part of the cross functional account team needs to be well versed in key account management. Leaders need to be able to coach their teams on how best to generate insight, map stakeholders, prioritise accounts etc; regardless of whether they are in sales or not.
Changing behaviours in a cross functional team to adopt KAM as a way of working requires more than a skills based training intervention.
Yes, that’s right. If you lead a team of medical science liaison managers, you should understand the critical behaviours within key account management that your team need to demonstrate. The same applies to marketing, pricing, market access and any other role or function within the organisation who plays a role in the account team.
From an organisational perspective, it is critical to ask the question:
‘Who is accountable for coaching for key account management in the business?’
More often than not, coaching activity falls to the first line sales manager. But, the reality of the first line sales manager role in today’s environment is such that coaching is not high on the list of priorities.
At a recent meeting with some first line sales managers I asked them about their typical priorities. They mentioned recruitment, HR management, sales target achievement, business planning, resource allocation, conflict resolution and managing upwards as core tasks. When asked about coaching, they agreed that coaching is part of their role, but takes up a smaller part of their working day because they have so many competing priorities.
If an organisation is serious about embedding KAM as a way of working, then they also need to explore how they are going to implement and embed the associated behavioural changes required to make it work.
I have observed many organisations who invest in KAM training programmes and yet fail to invest in coaching to support implementation.
If we look outside the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, this would seem absurd. In the sports world there is a strong balance between teaching skills and rules of the game and coaching to improve performance and technique.
Coaching is an integral part of anything that requires finely tuned skills and behavioural change.
How serious are you or your organisation about embedding KAM as an operating model? Do you have an approach to coaching for KAM in your organisation?
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