Sunday, February 27, 2011

Joint field work (dyad)


One of the important sales building step in pharmaceutical marketing is JOINT FIELD WORK. During joint field work, a Medical Representative and one superior manager work jointly, calling on doctors, pharmacies and stockists. They work in a spirit of mutuality to enhance brand sales. Productive joint field work is described as a five step process: skill identification, training, sales rep observation, manager observation and coaching stage. Joint field work will significantly improve sales outcomes and brand establishment.

Recently I had the joy of joint field work in Bhubaneshwar. As such, there are three types of MRs (in my experience):

a) the difficult type: they are not self starters, these MRs are inflexible, jaded, frustrated, demotivated, and follow the "rules" to the T. Typically, they are always having field problems and few solutions!
b) the systematic type: these MRs work as per tour plan, systematically, and are not used to out-of-the-box thinking or to new ideas of product promotion. They like to do things as they are doing, and feel it is the best. These MRs may be self-starters too, however, they like to do things in the established ways
c) the self-starters and entrepreneurial type: these type of MRs (or managers) are few in no. They are very active in the field. They are constantly at work (mentally and physically). They are capable of accommodating many activities. They have an art of getting along with people. They are looking for higher and higher results. Their EQ (emotional quotient) too is very high. These MRs have empathy and drive. They score very high in the salesmanship equation:

S = ED

S = salesmanship, E = empathy (ability to imagine oneself in the other person's shoes) and D = drive.

It is indeed a joy to work with the third type of MRs. These MRs also typically enjoy a high level of contacts. Ask them to get a taxi, they will do the work in a jiffy - they always have a reliable contact in their radar. Such MRs have good working relationships with a wide cross-section of people. These MRs neither have fear or bravado, such MRs (or managers) have a sense of balance. Such people also enjoy a higher degree of negotiating ability. There is practicality and high self-esteem in them too. Their main motto is to establish results with win-win relationships.

I enjoy working most with the third type of MRs/managers (although some would find them 'pushy'); however, joint field work with such people is a joyous and learning experience.

Another characteristic feature of such involved MRs is their improvisations (and openness to improvisations). This is an important trait that makes their work entrepreneurial. While working with these adaptable type of MRs, it is working with ideas particularly the novel ones, that makes joint field work entrepreneurial.

There were days of the systematic joint field work, then came quality joint field work, today the approach required most is entrepreneurial joint field work. It is important to be innovative and help impart innovative-ness.

Joint field work is also about empowerment. Being a senior the experience and higher skill level will empower the junior during joint field work. The learning process will provide better value to the field work activity.

What do we do in joint field work?

The first thing, that the superior manager must understand is that the MR or subordinate is an internal customer. He is looking for value added service from the superior manager during joint field work. Supervisory bossy behaviour which includes fault finding, policing, cross checking, constantly nagging and correcting, berating, over advising, and high control oriented monitoring will not elicit favourable outcomes from joint field work. It will only be a cat and mouse game, leading to distrust and may be acrimony. So the ideal way would be to map the profile and needs of the subordinate and accordingly offer value added service to the MR.

If the MR is slightly weak in detailing, the better approach would be for the superior manager to detail the product at certain doctor chambers and help the MR or subordinate through such modeling activities. So the central theme of joint field work would be to increase involvement and help the MR or subordinate enjoy the work. When people are immersed in work, results will automatically follow. The idea is improving involvement by addressing the subordinate's concerns (eg., detailing). Joint field work is about mutually increasing confidence.

Joint field work is also a window of opportunity to observe execution of strategy and use of promotional inputs. The observations will further provide ideas for strategy making. Joint field work will help the skeptic MR see the positive results of strategy implementation and the manager can get first-hand feedback.

Joint field work is an important although, little focused on part of marketing process. Most of the focus is on supervisory aspect of joint field work. The idea is that the superior manager should exercise control over the subordinate and make the junior generate results in line with corporate expectations ... or else - the Damocles sword will hang over the head of the junior!!

Up to a point this approach is OK ... but it is fraught with severe limitations. The engagement is not positive and is based more on use of authority. The improved version of joint field work is when it becomes positive, empowering, entrepreneurial (ie., innovative) and value added to the customer and the MR.

There was a time when the superior manager would accompany the MR, he would silently observe the MR's in-clinic activity and other field behavioural patterns. The superior manager also makes observations in his diary and finally, after the day's work provides his feedback, gives assignments to improve the junior's work behavior and - off - goes back the superior manager to his HQ in the evening.

Today, the dyad (superior + subordinate) can ill afford to function in this manner. If the dyad has to be relevant to the organization, the dyad has to generate a synergistic (ie., 1 + 1 > 2) response in the field. This can only come if the dyad is enterprising, entrepreneurial, empowering, constantly improvising, mutually inspiring and result oriented.

These are changing times. And changing times require new ways of dyad working. In an age of empowerment and entrepreneurship, it is a contemporary challenge for trainers and top management personnel to cultivate the traits of 'entrepreneurial dyads'. Thanks for reading, scroll down and also click on older posts to read all other posts, kindly recommend this blog to others too!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011



Recently during a meeting, I asked a group of front-line pharma managers:


Most were amused with this question, some giggled, and a few others were wonderstruck?! Obviously none had scolded any customer-doctor till date, although some said they had done it out of frustration behind the back, probably because the doctor had not prescribed the promoted brand or the doctor had made demands that the field manager found impossible to fulfill.

In any case, the most common phenomenon of organizational communication is scolding! It is more common than appreciating!! We see managers scolding non-managers, we observe such transactions between workers and supervisors, we see it when irate doctors or customers interact with company personnel. Although, this type of communication is very common, and has very important implications for organizational functioning, and enterprise outcomes, there is hardly any management study done on the organizational phenomenon called scolding!!

During the meeting, we proceeded on to a small dialogue on the concept of scolding. By and large, most front-line managers felt scolding leaves a bitter taste - the person scolding and the person at the receiving end - do not enjoy it. Scolding will not necessarily produce outcomes as desired. It may even increase the distance between the parties.


In inter-personal communication, scolding has a very bad impact. People scold because of over-aggression, in their bid to be assertive people end up scolding, and this complicates the situation. Even if a subordinate does not react back, the harshness will make the person who is rebuked, have resentment. This will then lead to disharmonious relationships, difficulty in getting things done, and probably unpleasant circumstances later on.

During the group discussion, on scolding as an inter-personal phenomenon in organizations, it was felt that scolding by - and - large is a negative communication and should ideally never be resorted to. However, the reality was that scolding was a common thing particularly during month ends, when sales pressures for target achievement was high!!

Some other interesting points about scolding:

a) scolding is most often done by people who have the bullying habit
b) scolding is a sign of frustration
c) scolding is an abuse of authority
d) scolding is a bad habit (ie. to say some people do not know any other way of communicating!!)
e) scolding is not done when the opposite person is more powerful (for eg., a doctor, or a physically strong or politically well connected subordinate)
f) scolding normally complicates situations, it does not solve problems
g) scolding is different from being assertive or insisting on a course of action
h) diabetics and hypertensives scold more often than normal people
i) scolding comes due to lack of presence of mind, and absence of effort to plan things; scolding happens when people feel overwhelmed

What to substitute scolding with?

If one does not want to scold, then how should it be substituted or how should the situation be managed?

One can avoid scolding:-

a) through problem solving attitude
b) habit of appreciating people and things, ie., speaking positively
c) maintaining silence (to cool off things)
d) by humorizing the situation with ready repartees or out-of-the-box thinking
e) through effective training to equip the personnel with skills and right attitude like time-sense, prompt communication, timely interventions etc. This will improve level of motivation. Hence, managers will not face circumstances where scolding has to be resorted to.


g) scolding is also a result of negative emotions like anger, pride (ego), greed, unsatisfied needs, hatred, fear etc
h) scolding can also come from physiological needs like hunger, tiredness, dehydration, etc.
i) scolding can be avoided by communicating the points through another individual who is more close to the subordinate (for eg., put the point across through the immediate superior or senior colleague)
j) communicate with coolness, assertiveness, and rationality, indicate that there is no intention to hurt to avoid 'scolding situations'.
k) scolding can be avoided by having good caring relations - this includes asking about health, enquiring about family, shaking hands, patting the back etc.

Scolding is a familial, organizational and societal reality. As an organizational phenomenon it needs to be explored further. For example, the causes, implications, pros and cons of scolding should be scientifically collected and studied. Besides, the triggers of scolding, and the management of scolding too needs to be looked into. Thanks for reading this blogpost, kindly scroll down, read all other posts, click on older posts if required and please recommend this blog to your acquaintances.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Entrepreneurship and epigenetics

Opening quote

Michael Porter the famous management expert says:

if a company makes above average profits when compared to the industry average of profits, then the company has a sustainable competitive advantage. A company achieves sustainable competitive advantage through three means:

a) cost leadership strategy: the firm delivers same quality and service at a lesser cost. This could be through efficient processes, cheaper raw materials or other value engineering means.

b) differentiation strategy: the product or service ie., value offering of a company has unique qualities that customers pay extra for it. A patented product is an example of a differentiated offering. Technology or superior quality helps in differentiation, that helps command a premium for it. Thus, differentiation strategy provides a platform for higher growth of profits.

c) niche market strategy: here, the enterprise focuses on a narrow market segment and becomes the biggest fish in the smaller pond and achieves higher profits.

Whichever the strategy a business enterprise uses, it requires the quality of ENTREPRENEURSHIP to succeed. Firms requires the buzz - ideas, they need to be driven to take chances, firms should be energetic and nimble. Entrepreneurship within organizations at all levels helps firms survive and grow.

Entrepreneurship and epigenetics

Epigenetics: Conrad Waddington (1905 to 1975) is said to have coined the term epigenetics in 1945. Epigenetics refers to a phenomenon where there are heritable changes in gene expression without changes in DNA sequence.

What this means is as follows:

We are commonly aware that a gene is a code on the DNA. A gene is a unit of heredity. A small part of DNA is a particular gene:
The above is a part of a DNA which is a unit of heredity (ie., gene). It codes for some trait, for eg., colour of the eyes.

We normally understand that this part of DNA (ie., gene) is responsible for the characteristics in the offspring or the individual.

Today, science has established that the expression of the genetic trait can change; even though the DNA sequence has not changed! So the blueprint DNA is not the only responsible factor for genetic expression. So the person may have a DNA code for blue eyes, but it may not be expressed due to epigenetic changes.

Let us say, there is a gene responsible for hereditary diabetes in a person. However, the expression of this genetic trait (to cause hereditary diabetes) need not take place even though it is in the genes of the offspring! That is what the field of epigenetics says!

Genome is the entire set of hereditary information in the organism. The genome and - the dietary or nutritional or environmental factors interact, this shapes and influences the genome. This is to say that nongenetic factors interact and influence how the genes behave.

Eg., even if the genetic predisposition to obesity is not there, the lifestyle - diet - other environmental factors influence the genetic function, and the net result may be that the person becomes obese (even though genetically he or she is not inclined to be obese!)!

What this goes to say is that GENES are not everything, there is a phenomenon called epigenetics that influences genetic functioning, gene expression, and consequently onset of disease or expression of traits.

Epigenetics presents the power of change, above the level of genes! It represents an intervention that can change things for the better. Thus, even if a person is predisposed to Alzheimer's disease (AD), through an understanding of epigenetics, one can intervene through dietary or nutritional or other factors and influence gene expression, and thus can potentially prevent occurrence of AD in an individual. Epigenetics literally means "above genetics".

Epigenetics represents hope. Epigenetic changes are responsible for health and disease. DNA methylation (a chemical reaction where methyl group is introduced in to the DNA), is a epigenetic change and is thought to be responsible for diseases like inflammatory bowel disease. Epigenetic changes can be corrected through nutritional interventions like folic acid supplementation. In epigenetics, non-genetic factors cause genes to behave differently.

Genes code genetic information. But this is only one part of the story!!


Entrepreneurship is about converting innovation in to economic goods/services through business and financial acumen. Entrepreneurship provides hope by filling market gaps through value. Entrepreneurs make profit through their entrepreneurial activities.

However, for every successful entrepreneurial story, there are scores of entrepreneurial losses. It is a part of the game of entrepreneurship! For every Big Bazaar (supermarket) success story, there is a Vishal (supermarket) that is in loss!

This is like epigenetics! Even if it is not in the genes, epigenetics can change the story coded in the genes!! Even if entrepreneurship is not coded in organizational DNA, it can be induced!! Entrepreneurship can change things in the market unexpectedly! Entrepreneurship is the game changer, like epigenetics!! Entrepreneurship is the cardinal tenet of business.

Closing quote:

Business has only two functions: marketing and innovation - Milind Kundera

The moral of the story is that entrepreneurship is required to get the competitive advantage in today's fierce marketplace. Even if entrepreneurship is not there in the DNA of the organization, taking a leaf from epigenetics - is a ray of hope! Epigenetics changes gene expression!! Entrepreneurial business culture can be injected in to any organization to change organizational expression!! Thanks for reading this blogpost, please scroll down and read all other posts, click on older posts as and when required, please recommend this blog too!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Competitive edge

Above portrait of Sun Tzu from here.

The present era is of fierce competition between marketers, yet this competition is still in its first lap! PICTURE BAAKI HAI!! (There is more to come!!). The typical pharma marketing attitude, one can say by rote, is to make a copycat pharma product brand, appoint MRs, offer them handsome incentives, and promotional inputs like samples, literatures, gifts, sponsorships, and deals with doctors.

Recently, while talking to a pharma front line MR who is neck deep in to such 'wheeling and dealing with doctors,' he said to me that the 'bait sentence' was:

"So, doctor, what are you planning to purchase in the near future?!"

The doctor will take the bait and put forth his plan and together the MR and Dr. will 'work out' the financing plan for the same and the returns in terms of Rx or sales commitment from the doctor! So this is the world of MR centered fierce competition of the pharma market!!

The next question is: Will the above pharma marketing attitude suffice to provide the competitive edge to pharma companies?

There are other interesting options - primarily top-management driven approaches (below) that can help add horsepower to the pharma marketing approach!!

To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence.
Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting
- Sun Tzu

The following approaches are in the spirit of above quote of Sun Tzu, they are beyond oneupmanship type of marketing. These approaches provide superior competitive muscle that can break the competitor activity 'even without fighting'.

Palmtop based call-by-call reporting

A device that can potentially revolutionize MR working is palmtop based call-by-call internet enabled reporting. Cipla is trying out laptop based real time internet enabled reporting. As soon as a doctor call is over, the field person is expected to despatch the call report. If palmtops or such gadgets are used for call-by-call reporting, one can capture many aspects of call activity instantly and also ensure that the MR gets to the field daily! It helps reduce the manipulation and false report activity to the minimum.

However, to implement any such gadget based reporting system, the requirement is a lot of training and tact. It also requires great maturity among the managements of companies. For one, to implement such a system, a lot of investment will be required on the infrastructure, secondly, one will have to pay the field persons competitively to ensure that there is diligent application of the gadget during field activity and that there is sufficient positive reinforcement for the MR to do it.

If the MR perceives the use of such gadgets as draconian and policing, it will lead to a new set of problems. Hence, implementation of gadget based call-by-call reporting requires great tact and sufficient maturity in the organizational culture. It is a HR challenge to create new organizational cultures!!

Nevertheless, the call-by-call reporting system has the potential to transform the way of field work.

Database marketing

Hand-in-hand with gadget based call-by-call reporting is the need to have a robust IT enabled database department. The department will not only have the onerous task of collection and analysis of reports, the database department can also help create a new ecosystem of database marketing.

For eg., if the MR call report says, "Dr., int
erested in Brand A, but wonders about the side effect on liver", the database department can instantly provide feedback to the doctor or through the MR on the side effect profile. Database marketing can potentially offer significant real-time value and enhance efficiency and effectiveness of field calls.

Another contribution of database marketing can b
e in relationship marketing. If the database marketing department provides the list of birth dates of doctors in a month, the tour-plan of the MR can be appropriately planned, to ensure excellent CRM (Customer Relationship Management).

Database marketing department is a "home
work department". The departmental work here is detail-driven. Yet these details can help transform business results for a pharma company.

Balanced score card

Invented way back in 1992, by Kaplan and Norton, the BSC breaks down the organization's strategy in to quantifiable goals and measures activities against it. BSC focuses on measuring. 'You get what you measure' is a management saying! The BSC starts with the vision, mission, then strategies, tactical activities and the metrics.

The BSC's specialty is that it provides an ALL ROUND VIEW of the business. The BSC has four key dimensions:

a) The financial perspective: how do we look to shareholders and stakeholders?
b) The customer perspective: how do we look to customers?
c) Business process perspective: how effective are we internally?
d) The learning and growth perspective: how can we change and improve?

The use of BSC in an organization removes the hyperfocus on MR centric working and creates a wholistic picture for marketing improvements. The ALL ROUND VIEW is what one gets through the BSC and this creates new patterns of marketing. BSC can influence, positively, the type of products being launched, the pricing strategy, promotional approach, the distribution activities and communication mix employed.

Blue ocean strategyWhen there is severe competition, the ocean becomes blood red, thanks to the fierce marketing wars! The superior approach of marketing is swimming in calm uninfested waters (where there is hardly any competition) - ie., the Blue Ocean. This requires a new framework of thought in companies. This involves CREATING VALUE THAT TAKES COMPANIES IN TO UNKNOWN UNCONTESTED MARKET SPACES.

Dell created such a marketing approach when they took orders over phone and supplied PCs at rock bottom prices with great quality. It was a new market space discovered by Dell. This is an example of blue ocean strategy.

Another pharma company is currently creating waves through their range of refreshing electrolyte energy drinks in natural fruit juice base manufactured with aseptic technology. There is great market acceptance by prescribers. The market is virgin and truly a blue ocean. The waters are not infested with competitors.

Blue ocean strategy can come through superior processes, packagings, or products. Blue ocean lends a major competitive edge.

We see above four approaches that can create a competitive edge to the pharma company, much like what Viagra did to Pfizer! Thanks for reading this blog, please scroll down, click on older posts as and when required to read all other posts, feel free to recommend this blog to your acquaintances.