The Ten Skills that will transition you from Having a Successful Job to Being a Successful Entrepreneur

I had an interview with Aimee of Business PR News to share with her members the launch of the online entrepreneurial book club on January 18th and the launch of some of our new initiatives like the FastTrac Listening to Your Business workshops.

During our interview, she asked me about my sales career working for Xerox Corporation and Pfizer Inc.  Her question to me was how did I generate several million of dollars in revenue and win numerous sales awards?

Once a success, always a success!

I knew that one day I would have my own business so I made a conscious decision to work my territory as if I was running my own business.

The skill sets that I learned as a salesperson laid the foundation for my success as an entrepreneur.  They have proven to be invaluable to me.  What are they?

1. Have a plan – At the beginning of each year, I created a marketing plan for my territory.  I had to forecast how much revenue I was going to generate and how I was going to achieve my revenue goal. In general, this plan comprised of who my top physicians were for each product and how I was going to promote my product(s) to them. In greater detail, I had to create specific goals like % of increase in market share and the tactics I would employ to achieve those goals.  Of course, there were adjustments, but I was held accountable to the outcome of that plan.

2. Understand who your target market is – For each product, I was clear who my patient type was. When I discussed my product with the physician, I gave him a specific patient type that would benefit the most from my product. I understood that my patient type was different for the physician who had a private practice vs. the physician who worked in a hospital setting. Therefore, my marketing message was tweaked accordingly.

3. Be a subject matter expert – I only called on Psychiatrists and Neurologists. I became extremely well versed over a ten year period about the different disease states I was discussing with my physicians.  This enabled me to have a lot of credibility with my physicians.  In addition, this knowledge and expertise enabled me to promote my products with greater effectiveness.

4. Be prepared – Before I  stepped out of my car, I knew what I wanted to discuss with my physician that day.  Based on my last call notes and my colleague’s previous notes who may visited the doctor since my last visit, I knew what I needed to follow up with the doctor about. This allowed the visit to be a lot more productive especially if the physician was pressed for time.

5. Be more than a promoter of your product/service – I called on the same physicians every two weeks for years.  I had an opportunity to converse with my doctors about not only my product, but about my and their personal lives.  I was there, when their son or daughter got engaged, married, and when they welcomed their first grandchild.

In this day of social media where it is critically important to understand the value of community, it was a great lesson to learn.

6. Maintain balance between friend and customer – Calling on the same physicians every two weeks was a blessing and a curse.  It was quite easy to fall into the trap of just having a social conversation. Every time you visited them, you didn’t always have something new to tell them.  So, I made it a rule to mention at least one key advantage of my product on every visit and close them on a call to action.

Bonus Tip: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for the Business – Before I sold pharmaceuticals, I sold copiers. Selling copiers ingrained in me the habit of asking for the business and closing my customer on a call to action.

7. Follow the 80/20 Rule – The Pareto rule says 80% of your business derives from 20% of your clients.  I was very aware who my top prescribing physicians were, who the influencers were, and who the early adopters were in my territory.  Those were the folks I spent my time with and my financial resources on to drive my business.

8. Know your competition and your competitive advantage – I understood the advantages and disadvantages of my competition.  Some of these characteristics were based on fact and some based on the perception of the physicians. It was very interesting to see how each product had created a brand for itself in the minds of the physicians.

I was adept at maximizing the advantages of my product and exploiting the disadvantages of my competitor’s products to change my physician’s prescribing habits.

9. Be time sensitive – As a pharmaceutical salesperson, I had full control over my schedule. I did not work in a structured office environment. Therefore, I was always sensitive to how I was utilizing my time. For example, if I had a breakfast meeting with a group of other sales representatives, once the meeting was over, I didn’t hang out for another thirty minutes to socialize.

Having an entrepreneurial mindset not only impacted how I spent my time, but how I spend my budget dollars as well.

10. Have Strategic Partners – Throughout my career in pharmaceutical sales, I always co-promoted my products with sales persons in other divisions.  It was critically important that we had a coordinated sales message.  I know I am stating the obvious, but it wasn’t so obvious all the time.  In addition, I had to negotiate how our budget dollars would be spent to achieve our common objective.

The greatest lesson I learned was to choose your strategic partners wisely. In that environment, I didn’t have a choice, but the lesson was not wasted.  Some of my partners said yes to every request a physician made without thinking about the ROI.

Bonus Tip: Don’t think like salesperson, think like an entrepreneur especially when it is your own money.

A lot of my colleagues have changed companies but stayed in the pharmaceutical industry.  We tend to stay in our comfort zone by doing the familiar. There are so many ways that our skills can serve us in trying new and different things. GO FOR IT!

Much success to you in 2010!

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