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We all know how crucial Sales Reps are to the Pharma industry (even if there are some disputes as to the best tactics they should be using to sell their products). But what makes a top performing rep? One man believes he has the answer...

Steve W. Martin, an expert in the study of how customers use language during the decision making process, researched the personalities and habits of over 1,000 salespeople in an attempt to decipher what makes a top performing rep. His top 5 traits for boosting sales performance include verbal acuity, inward pessimism, achievement orientation, sales management influence and sales organisation management.

Verbal acuity

This first trait is not rocket science, but the better a person is at communicating the more sales they are likely to make. A top salesperson will be able to push for the sale of their product both in person and over the phone with the same conviction and passion.

Inward pessimism

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to presume cheerful, optimistic people make the most sales, and nearly all of the candidates who took part in the research did describe themselves in this way. However, almost two-thirds of the most high performing sales reps actually fall on the pessimistic side of the spectrum.

“Inward pessimism drives a salesperson to question the viability of the deal and the credibility of the buyer,” stated Martin, who found that those who are sceptical tend to make more sales than those who are not. Their ability to see which leads will be worthwhile following and which have the potential to be a waste of time hugely benefits their overall performance.

Achievement orientation

To be a top salesperson, Martin also believes they must have the ability to focus on attaining their goals while being vigilant about tracking their progress. His research found that 84% of these top performers are able to consistently beat their targets. The chance of these people having also played a sport at school is high, something which has made them better suited to the competitive environment of the industry.

Sales management influence

The working habits of your manager can have a huge influence on your working performance, according to Martin, with the quality of time you spend with them weighing more beneficial than the quantity of time. The research also discovered that high-performing sales reps favoured leadership and management traits in their manager, as well as practical experience in the field, and communication and coaching skills.

Sales organisation influence

The overall morale and drive of the sales team has a noticeable impact on individual performances, according to the research. In fact, two-fifths of high performers strongly agreed that their organisation’s sales reps were held accountable against their own quotas.

Despite this, Martin claimed: “Sales performance is more likely dependant on the attributions of the individual and sales environment characteristics over company-related influences. Establishing credibility requires that messages be conveyed at the recipient’s communication level, not too far below the level of the words that the customer uses.”

While Martin’s traits can be applied to any form of sales representative, within the Pharma industry the usual prerequisites apply. Candidates need to have a strong work ethic, a demonstrable ability to work within a team, good spoken and written communication skills, as well as the initiative to set up meetings and conferences on their own accord.

Ben Chadwick, Head of Sales and Marketing at Carrot Pharma Recruitment, said: “The NHS has changed and continues to evolve therefore the traditional role of a Sales Rep no longer truly exists. Gone are the days when the role was just a transactional relationship. The NHS now demands and expects more therefore a “value added proposition” from the Sales Rep is required. The Pharma Sales Rep has had to adapt quickly in order to successfully promote their product.

“Now, a Sales rep needs to be accountable. As sales teams have reduced in size, so the Sales Rep is expected to work autonomously. Much of their role is based around account planning; they need to be able to interpret complex sales data and identify new and potential accounts whilst maintaining and growing existing ones. They need to identity the key influencers and engage with them-  therefore much of the role is now working cross functionally with both internal and external stakeholders. A good Sales Rep needs to be both resilient and innovative and have passion for their products... every action needs to be taken with the patient at the centre of the plan... patient centricity is an absolute must.”

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