Next generation coaching

by Stephen Riddle

Capturing an audience is a critical task. Doing that in a wind tunnel of multi-channel white noise requires a special brand of cut-through.

The standard operating procedures that guided practice for a generation were ripped up by the pandemic and the challenges for pharmaceutic company field force teams multiplied while the opportunities diminished.

With HCPs under pressure and assaulted by a torrent of communications, those once wide-open windows of communication are now just slightly ajar and ready to close the moment the message is off-key, ill-directed or not easily understood.

Tailoring initial contacts with HCPs – even following up on previously strong links – now requires detailed consideration and a finely-tuned message for optimum results. Just like an actor cannot go on stage without the lines drilled into their psyche, so the sales or medical science liaison (MSL) representative needs to be word perfect and comfortable.

Scientific and technical information can be difficult to shape into a narrative so it is important to discover what works – and what doesn’t work – before engaging with a busy HCP.

Experts believe that coaching staff to deliver strong, clear, on-topic messages to their clients has a direct bearing on corporate efficiency and profitability; all the more vital as many companies pivot from direct sales force towards stronger MSL teams and a more scientific approach to engagements.

But coaching is a culture, not a bolt-on, says Chris Costandi, a sales and commercial excellence consultant. He believes that coaching energises staff to develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which translate into more agility in the field when responding to the needs of individual HCPs.

“Coaching is underplayed by many organisations and, in some, it can be an exercise of putting someone in charge of coaching when you actually need to upskill those managers so the training programme is a fundamental part of the business – that is where you get the results,” adds Costandi, who has 20 years’ industry experience with spells with companies such as Allergan, Novartis and GSK.

“What you really want is coaches who are raising awareness and challenging thinking and assumptions. Empowering people to take responsibility for their own development, as opposed to driving it for them, is a big part of effective coaching.

“It gives people ownership and accountability of their development. From an organisation’s perspective, it builds a coaching culture, drives better performance from teams and, ultimately, better results for the organisation.”

A whitepaper – The Age of Coaching: How pharma sales teams can face the future with confidence – highlights the positive impact a coaching culture can have on sales performance, employee satisfaction and staff retention.

The post-pandemic landscape is forcing many organisations to shrink their sales force numbers while boosting MSLs to raise the chances of engaging with HCPs on early drug development and providing niche information.

A prime challenge is the need to equip MSLs, and medical affairs departments, to make the most of their client-facing moments in the post-pandemic environment.

“Everybody wants to be more memorable. Everybody wants to say something that captures their audience’s attention,” says Marcus West – founder and CEO of 60 Seconds, the leading digital coaching platform.

“In medical affairs, there can be a certain piety around the science being good enough on its own. But it is important to convey your passion, your enthusiasm, your insight and that comes with the soft skills you get from practice.

“60 Seconds was created to give people the opportunity to maintain learning momentum. You can practice and develop your skills at convenient times, outside of official coaching sessions, such as travelling to work or appointments.

“This strategy of coaching been used by lawyers, politicians and sports people and has a great relevance to pharma where staff need to take really technical information and make it understandable and memorable. Good communication is a hallmark of business success.”

About the interviewees

Marcus West

Marcus WestMarcus West has directed more than thirty plays and coached acting for 25 years. He graduated from UNSW, with a B.A Honours degree, in Modern Australian Drama. In 1998, he founded “Inscription”, an initiative to script, sharpen and pitch compelling Australian stories in theatre, film and TV. Marcus raises the finance, curates the masterclasses and scholarships then, he pitches the stories to potential producers. Over 20 years of masterclasses, Marcus has worked with world leaders in theatre and film plus a host of leading Australian scriptwriters, actors, dramaturgs and directors. Marcus uses the experience of working with the world’s leading performing arts practitioners to inform his work in presentation coaching. He works with a host of CEOs and their firms in APAC, including KPMG, Deloitte, MSD, DLA Piper, Gilbert and Tobin, Westpac, CBA, QBE and Bank of Queensland; as well as the country’s leading politicians and barristers, to help them present their message with punch. He is also a TV talent coach with Seven, Nine, ABC and Fox Sports, working with presenters on audience engagement and storytelling. He has recently created a mobile coaching app called 60seconds.com which is a crystallisation of his training methodology around elevator pitching and has been purchased by more than thirty corporations around the world.

Chris

ChrisChris Costandi is a sales and commercial excellence consultant at 60 Seconds. He has worked in the Healthcare industry for over 20 years across a variety of divisions including prescription, medical devices and OTC for organisations such as Allergan, Novartis and GSK in driving a range of transformational sales force effectiveness (SFE) initiatives including capability development, coaching and leadership and key account management.

About 60 Seconds

60 Seconds is a remote coaching app designed to help users communicate with greater clarity through practice, coaching and measurement. It was built by a coach for coaches to deliver measurable learning momentum. For more information visit: 60seconds.com

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