August 14, 2022 | Sales Tips

Why Is My Team Failing to Meet Medical Sales Rep Goals?

In pharmaceutical and medical sales, goals ensure that sales reps know the expectations around their performance. Pharma and medical device sales rep goals that are aggressive (but still achievable) can help motivate reps to do their best while ensuring that the company can stay in the black.

However, not every sales team meets its goals. Many medical and pharmaceutical sales teams struggle with this task. This contributes to the organization as a whole falling behind its sales projections, which can lead to other problems with cash flow down the line.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the common issues that affect sales team performance in the pharma/medical sales industry, how to set goals that are achievable, and some examples of SMART goals that can motivate sales teams.

Common Issues Affecting Sales Team Performance

So, why do sales teams fail to meet their goals? There are many reasons why a sales team might not be able to meet their goals as there are—far too many to cover them all in a single blog article of reasonable length. So, this list will be limited to just a few of the top reasons that we’ve encountered over the years:

1. A Lack of Pharma/Medical Sales Training

Getting in touch with decision-makers in the pharmaceutical and medical sales sphere is tougher than ever. Decision-makers have their gatekeepers block off access to them, only allowing a few trusted people to even talk to them directly. Also, regulations regarding how sales reps can engage with customers are always changing.

These changes make it more difficult to contact and engage with sales prospects. So, medical sales reps need to modify their sales tactics to techniques that work and are in step with the latest medical/pharma sales regulations.

This means providing medical sales training to keep sale rep knowledge and skills up to date with the latest standards. With the right training, medical and pharma sales teams can leverage the most effective tactics and techniques to make meeting their sales goals easier.

2. Not Bringing in Enough New Sales Leads

For medical sales reps to sell products and services to new customers, they need valid, high-quality leads. However, if marketing efforts aren’t bringing in new leads, it’s hard for sales reps to close new deals. Some pharmaceutical or medical device companies may also discover the potential market for specific products and services may be very limited.

For example, if you’re selling a new drug that treats an extremely rare congenital disease that only affects 1 out of every 1,000,000 people, odds are that you’ll tap out your maximum potential market very quickly — though odds are good that you won’t have as much competition for that market. The reason is that not many hospitals or other organizations will have a distinct need for the product.

To help sales teams meet their targets, it’s important to have a set of solid marketing initiatives that build brand awareness. It’s also necessary to have a realistic expectation for maximum market size based on the total addressable market for a specific product or service.

3. Disengagement among Pharma and Medical Sales Reps

Employee engagement is a classic metric for measuring how dedicated employees are with their work. Highly engaged employees are more likely to go the extra mile, put in the extra time, and do what it takes to meet their goals. Meanwhile, disengaged employees are more likely to quit early, avoid taking on extra work, and not care if they hit their goals or not. Extremely disengaged employees might even work against the company’s best interests.

Sales reps are no exception.

According to a Gallup survey from 2020, 51% of U.S. workers were “not engaged,” while 13% were “actively disengaged” with work — leaving only 36% of employees being engaged with their work. In short, only about 1 in 3 people in your organization are going to put in extra work to meet aggressive goals (statistically speaking). If the majority of your sales team is disengaged, then they won’t be doing their best to meet sales goals.

The best solution is to look for the reasons for employee disengagement in your organization and do your best to address them. This may mean:

  • Finding and removing employees who may harm the work culture.
  • Addressing issues in employee pay or benefits programs.
  • Modifying recruitment practices to bring in better candidates.
  • Creating more opportunities for internal mobility in the organization, allowing employees be promoted from within rather than hiring external talent to fill higher-level roles.

4. Pharma/Medical Device Sales Rep Goals Being Too Aggressive

Sales rep goals are supposed to motivate those reps to do their best and maximize their results. However, when goals are too aggressive, they may do the opposite—demoralizing sales team members and making them unmotivated.

Even highly-skilled sales reps with excellent track records might balk at sales goals that ask for something like routinely exceeding their top-ever monthly sales results every month. The issue is that such creep in sales goals rarely happens all at once—it’s usually a gradual increase as employees hit previous sales targets and leaders increase those targets because of reasoning like: “If they hit $X in sales before, they should be able to hit $Y in sales next time.”

Such reasoning often doesn’t take into account any unique (and thus, unrepeatable) circumstances that may have contributed to the sales target/goal being exceeded.

As noted in a Medium article, salespeople might start to avoid exceeding their targets if they know that it will inflate future goals and force them to work overtime. This limits sales results and may result in reps missing their revenue goals.

To alleviate this issue, it’s important for sales leaders to use a goal-setting framework that enables them to make aggressive, but achievable, goals while minimizing the risk of goals creeping into unattainable heights. The SMART goal framework is one example that is popular with many organizations.

5. A Lack of Coaching in Performance Reviews

Whether you call it a 1:1 meeting, performance review, or something else, meetings between sales team managers/leaders and sales reps is an important opportunity to help the reps improve their sales skills and meet goals. However, as some sales reps might attest, their performance reviews often have less to do with coaching and optimizing performance and more to do with simply calling out missed goals.

A lack of coaching in performance reviews can leave the sales rep feeling like they’ve been used as a verbal punching bag by their sales team manager—which can contribute to disengagement. Simply being told “We needed you to sell $X of Product Z and you missed that goal by 30%” doesn’t help the sales rep improve their performance.

To actually improve sales rep results, there needs to be an element of coaching in the performance review. For example, you could ask what difficulties the sales rep had in meeting goals (like getting in touch with decision-makers), review what steps the sales rep took to address those challenges, and provide some suggestions based on what other sales reps who met their goals did.

Creating a performance improvement plan (PIP) that collects clear, actionable advice for the sales rep to follow can help make a major difference in their ability to meet their goals. Making that advice specific to the challenges they report during the 1:1 meeting can also demonstrate that their concerns matter—helping improve long-term engagement.

How to Set SMART Medical Sales Rep Goals

One of the easiest adjustments to make when sales reps fail to meet their goals would be to the goals themselves. When sales rep goals are unrealistic, they can make reps unmotivated—preventing them from reaching their full potential. So, setting better goals is crucial for long-term sales success.

One of the best ways to do this is to follow a simple goal-setting framework. Take, for example, the SMART framework. The specific meanings of the letters in the SMART acronym may differ from one organization to the next, but the end result is largely the same—enforcing the creation of goals that are objectively measurable and can be achieved by the employees expected to meet them.

For the purpose of this article, let’s go with the following SMART acronym meaning:

  • Specific. The goal needs to be clearly defined so the sales rep knows what they need to do and what they’re responsible for.
  • Measurable. The goal needs to be measured by some objective standard rather than a subjective one. For example, a dollar value, a percentage increase in some sales metric, or closing a specific number of deals.
  • Achievable. How realistic is the goal? Based on past performance data, is the goal something the sales rep can do, or is it too much to expect? Setting goals too high can hurt employee motivation.
  • Relevant. Why does the employee need to meet this goal? Does it further the company’s strategic needs in some way? The goal needs to tie into the sales rep’s role and to the company’s overall strategy.
  • Timely (or Time-Bound). The goal needs a set deadline for the sales rep to be accountable to. This helps encourage the rep to work to meet the goal on the company’s timetable instead of one that they set arbitrarily.

SMART Sales Goal Examples for Medical & Pharmaceutical Sales

What does a SMART goal look like for a pharmaceutical or medical device sales rep? Here are a few simple examples to help you get started on setting your own SMART goals:

  • “Close $50k in new sales during the third quarter of this year.” This goal sets a specific goal with a measurable target in a specific deadline for the employee—one that is relevant to the company’s need to increase revenue with new sales. Meanwhile, if past performance data shows that sales reps can consistently meet a $50k new sales target, then the goal would be demonstrated as achievable.
  • “Complete Training Module Y by the end of the month so you can apply the training to your sales efforts.” This goal requests that the sales rep complete a specific training module in a set time limit. It also explains why the goal is important by linking it to the rep’s sales efforts to make it both specific and relevant. If the module is only a couple of hours long, it should be relatively easy to work it into the sales rep’s schedule (making it achievable).
  • “Upsell 10 instances of a related product/service to Product/Service Y customers by end-of-month.” This goals sets a specific number of instances of a product or service upsell to customers using another specific product. By emphasizing upsells, the company can grow revenue with existing customers and (hopefully) move inventory or services that are being underutilized, but could provide value for customers to deepen the relationship. Offering related services helps to make the goal more attainable—though some adjustment may be needed if sales reps struggle to meet the target.

Of course, the achievability of all of these goals is dependent on the specific skills of your sales team as well as your company’s current market penetration. For example, the upsell goal example might be harder to hit if your company has fewer active customers using the product you’re trying to offer related products and services for. On the other hand, if you have a lot of customers, that goal might be too easy.

Need help meeting aggressive sales goals? Consider leveraging sales outsourcing for your medical and pharma sales teams! Axxelus has a proven history of pairing skilled and motivated sales specialists with companies in the pharma and medical sales industry — creating long-term success!

Reach out to Axxelus today to get started!

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