It is a new year and a new decade! What is not new is the importance of developing effective geography and account plans. Life Sciences companies that take a purposeful and consistent approach to developing, executing, and reviewing geography and account plans yield better results.

Most pharmaceutical organizations deploy year beginning meetings to ensure everyone is clear on goals and key business priorities. Typically the “ask” is to take these strategic priorities and translate them into a meaningful plan of action. Sales and access leaders must proactively coach the team to resist the inclination to jump into the deep end without engaging in focused planning. Instead, use this year’s beginning meetings and initial one-on-one visits to ensure each direct report can develop a plan that leads to better results.

All sales, access leaders, and professionals should keep the following four tips in mind when developing a business plan:

Tip 1: Align the plan with business strategies

Planning does not happen in a vacuum. Consider therapeutic area or account priorities and brand goals.

  • Have a full appreciation of business objectives, emphasize brand strategies, and seek clarification as needed
  • Understand and gain an appreciation for the “why” behind tactical activities and day-to-day actions
  • Incorporate leadership guidance into the planning process to understand the higher level company or strategic goals that must be met and then translate these into the territory and account level goals

Tip 2: Continue to learn about the marketplace

Critical to any plan development is the need to evaluate the marketplace. As we all know, in healthcare there can be major market shifts in any given geography or account due to mergers and consolidations. Take the time to confirm the major players and key stakeholders. Challenge the team to evaluate what is unique about the specific geography relative to dominant providers and payers and the subsequent impact on treatment decisions. Furthermore, healthcare policy differences across the country must also be considered. When performing a marketplace analysis, it is important to evaluate the larger context.

  • Remember that depth of knowledge changes over time
  • Limit the scope of what needs to be analyzed to remain focused and efficient
  • Do a “gut check” and validate with evidence

Tip 3: Assess performance and focus on the best opportunities

After gaining an appreciation for the broader healthcare ecosystem, it is important to identify and prioritize accounts and specific health care providers. Evaluating priority customers requires both an evaluation of past performance and making assumptions about future potential. It is important to provide support on how to evaluate performance by having each customer-facing professional:

  • Reflect upon and analyze overall performance (e.g., where is most of the business concentrated? Where is the business trending up (growing), down (declining), and staying the same (flat)?)
  • Develop objectives and plans that include opportunities based on future potential due to factors such as access, positive formulary positions, local KOLs, and willingness to engage in other value-added solutions, such as patient adherence programs or educational efforts
  • Develop goals related to penetrating accounts to expand opportunities

Tip 4: Be accountable for business success

Creating business plans can be one of the key differentiators between “good” and “great” customer-facing professionals. The other differentiator is effective plan execution. Customer-facing professionals who follow their plan stay focused and break down activities in pursuit of the broader goals. Even with a plan in place, these plans may need to be adapted based on marketplace conditions or shifts in internal direction.

  • Be prepared to share the rationale for your focus, goals, and actions
  • Review existing goals and action plans to determine if you are on target
  • Leverage existing business analytics and reports to assess if on track for goal attainment
  • Revisit and prioritize activities to ensure quick wins can be achieved
  • Evaluate resources in this year’s budget and allocate for opportunities with the highest potential
  • Coordinate with other customer-facing roles on any planned activities for shared customers, or when specific expertise is needed to achieve goals (e.g., nurse educators, MSLs)

Imagine yourself and your team a year from now. Keeping these four tips top of mind can help you achieve the desired results. Purposeful attention to creating a culture of disciplined planning and execution builds the individual, team, and organization’s capabilities to consistently deliver results.

If you are looking to create a culture of effective planning and execution, WLH Consulting, Inc. can provide support to adapt lessons learned and best practices to your organization’s structure, portfolio, roles, and priorities.

Wendy L. Heckelman, Ph.D.

Dr. Wendy Heckelman, president and founder of WLH Consulting, Inc. has over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 100 industry clients. These include pharmaceutical, biotech, health care, animal health medicines, and consumer products, as well as international non-profit organizations and growing entrepreneurial companies.