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Engagement is Essential. Thanks to research, ‘Engagement’ has become a buzz-word and mantra for success. And rightly so. It was not known when I started.

As I mentioned earlier, tradition in Pharma was to join a company (more so in MNCs) and retire from there. Both parties remained ‘engaged’ as per tradition. It was more of a physical engagement and was not related to performance. The organization carried high performers and low performers together. There were interesting examples of internal job switches when a person was unable to perform on the existing job.

Engagement as we know today is physical, emotional and professional. Engagement is Essential because Engaged employees perform better, work longer, and live happier. It is another win-win.

It is more important now because the longevity of staying in one job has consistently dropped over the years. The Generation Y and Z consider a three to five years tenure as ‘long-term’. It is now a challenge to keep people engaged.

May 1999. Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman published ‘First Break All The Rules – What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently’. The book was the result of observations based on 80,000 interviews with managers  as conducted by the Gallup Organization during the last 25 years. The book became a huge success and stayed on New York Times Bestseller list for 93 weeks.

The book mainly focused on ‘Engagement’ while introducing the subject of ‘Strengths’. It included a 12 questions questionnaire to gauge ‘Employee Engagement Level’. It was followed by ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’ by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton.

I highly recommend these books and the series to understand and pursue employee engagement.

Result is Essential – the Method to Get Result is Also Essential. I have mentioned in some detail in previous blogs how the MNCs focused on the work organization, work-tools, and paper work. They discussed the work first and result later. It was clear to everyone that work standards are to be met. There were no short cuts and getting results through quick-fixes was discouraged. We know examples of salespeople losing their jobs due to such issues.

When a manager focuses on results only, and asks the salesperson to ‘manage’, he may be giving him/her license to do anything to get the result. The discussion has changed; results first, work standards not even discussed.

Work-tools have also changed. Gradual decline of training and development occurred all over. Lengthy initial trainings disappeared; replaced by short fixes. In many instances, the salesperson starts working without training. S/he may or may not get training even later.

Salesperson is an artisan and requires tools to work with. Previous tools of product knowledge, customer knowledge, territory knowledge, selling skills, and work standards helped the salespersons to carve a niche for themselves, their products and their companies. These have been replaced by new tools which we should debate about.

Skilled Management is Essential. In the 70s and early 80s, Pharma Sales Management was simple and easy; piece of cake, if I may say. Market growth was natural; so was business growth. New products and new brands introduction was slow. New companies coming into Pharma Business was even slower. Most salespersons worked without rigorous follow up. It took effort to manage business but of lesser magnitude.

The Managers of that time were highly experienced, but not necessarily skilled. Much of the new management jargon had not arrived, at least not in Pakistan. They used their own experience to navigate through management maze. It was customary that when a med rep became District Manager, he would copy his previous manager(s). It would take few years when he would come to his own. In summary, the managers mostly knew what to do, but didn’t know why they were doing it. Skill develops when knowledge is applied. Practical knowledge transferred from one to other generation of managers was there and sufficed largely. However, these managers might not be able to tackle a situation not available in their experience inventory.

Pharma Selling now is extremely competitive. More companies and products are landing in the market place. The already crowded landscape becomes more congested by the day. The development of managers did not keep pace with the market changes. The business, the managers and the salesperson have suffered together.

Skilled management is (more) essential today. Development of management skills should be considered on war-footing……


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