For any company, the key motive behind all strategic decisions is the constant drive to maximize operating profits. Operating profit for a company is the product of sales and operating margin, and these represent the two key ‘levers’ on operating profit maximization – growing the size of sales and/or raising the operating margin. Both sales and operating margins are directly related to the ability of a pharmaceutical company to generate more and more new prescriptions. And this is the domain of the salesman.
The pharmaceutical business model is undergoing major change, as the industry seeks to obtain maximal operational efficiencies. But conspicuous by its absence is the focused investment from pharmaceutical companies to help their sales force cope with the evolving needs and dynamics of both customers as well as the business model. The industry must begin to shape sales force training programs to inform sales professionals through cross-disciplinary didactic and experiential learning.
Until such programs proliferate with curriculum content spanning selling skills, managerial studies, social sciences and basic sciences, to prepare managers cope with the evolving market, we must make do with books such as SuperVision for the SuperWiser Front-Line Manager. “The consultative style of selling us a new and effective approach for moving from product-led sales to solution-led sales,” writes Anup Soans in the middle of his book, as he outlines how a successful medical representative must transition into the role of a successful manager. A few pages later, he describes how a successful manager must build diverse skills to navigate through advancements in fields such as Information Technology, distribution, human resources while still setting time aside to coach and engage his team for breakthrough performance.
Soans describes himself as having discovered his passion and strengths as a facilitator/enabler. The discovery was none too soon, it turns out, for his efforts have produced one of the most lucid and easy to read books on the basics of pharmaceutical selling in years. Few pharmaceutical professionals have thought it fit to draft such a dispassionate and self-critical account of the nuances of pharma selling and its career-building prospects. And perhaps few other Indian authors could write across so many disciplines–culture, emotional intelligence, finance, education, and the basics of management and selling — with as much clarity and acuity.
Soans’ book, SuperVision for the SuperWiser, charts how the Indian Pharmaceutical Market (IPM) arrived at the potentially transformative moment it has reached today and describes the gargantuan challenges the industry will have to overcome if it is to fulfill that potential. Soans is especially well qualified to write this book. As a professional who rose through the ranks from Medical Representative to become Chief Operating Officer and later consultant, coach and author, he both departs from the traditional pharma way of doing business and embodies its recent promise.
Finally, Soans is as grounded as he is a visionary. This should be unremarkable for a man with such a long career, but with its complexities, pharmaceutical selling in India is entangled in perhaps the world’s most binding network of traditional “this-is-how-it-works-best” philosophy and the oft-repeated “India is big and different” excuse. Both in practice as he rose to respectable positions in the industry and in theory, through his many books, Soans is an unapologetic modernist.