Successful Selling in a Data Driven World

John King

EVP of Sales and Operations at Vital Care Inc

Learning Objectives

In this session, learn how to successfully use data provided internally & externally for optimized results. There is major importance of 3rd party data and utilization in specified territories. What info can we pull using CRM models? What does that mean for Sales reps/managers? How can we achieve complete buy in using data to build high performing territories?

Key Takeaways:

  • Data realization for sales usage

  • CRM usage in today's world

  • 3rd party data usage in the specialty pharmacy industry

"The historical and internal data is a goldmine for your organization..."

John King

EVP of Sales and Operations at Vital Care Inc


Welcome, thank you for joining today. My name is John King. I’m the Senior Vice President of Sales, Trade, and Business Development for Kroger Specialty Pharmacy. Today, we’re going to talk about successful selling in a data driven world.

First, I want to tell you a little bit about myself and a little bit about our company. At Kroger Specialty Pharmacy, we serve as many high touch medications for patients across the country throughout our nine dispensing locations in the United States and one in Puerto Rico. We currently service about 35,000 patients or more each month. We have been around since late 2016 when we formed Kroger Specialty Pharmacy from multiple other smaller entities to combine into one. I myself have been in the healthcare industry for over 20 years now. I’ve seen many different forms of data being used. Many different types of organizations that pull different data. Today, I really want to focus in on a couple areas to show how using data to build successful teams can really have a benefit for any type of organization.

Successful selling in a data driven world. Big data, there are so many forms of data out there, so many ways to grab data. What does that really mean to the individual sales representative? What does that mean to a sales manager or a sales director? What does that even mean to a company? Data—at least according to the Google definition of it—data are facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis. In a more technical sense, data are a set of values of qualitative or quantitative variables about one or more persons or objects, while a datum is a single value of a single variable.

What does that mean for sales representatives? Well, let’s dive into how can it be a great resource for any sales team. All of our sales teams want to perform at a really high level. They all want to achieve their goal attainment. They all want to get a piece of their incentive compensation or at least a higher piece of their compensation every single period, every single quarter, every single year. Well, data is a great way to do that. I’ve always believed that in having the data accessible, that is the most up to date, that is the most secure, that is the most important pieces of that data will allow each and every independent rep, independent manager to really see how they are doing in a stated time frame for their specific territory.

Some important factors need to happen to get that data into those representatives’ hands or into those managers’ hands in a really time-efficient manner. One of the areas of most importance is having that most up-to-date data. We do it in several ways at our company, which I’ll talk about in a little bit. For this discussion, I really want to talk about internal data, I really want to talk about third party data aggregation, and I also want to talk about the usage of a CRM for data purposes to help teams be successful. I do believe when a combination of any or all of these items come together, then representatives, managers, teams, companies can have a lot of success in a very short amount of time.

First off, let’s talk about internal data or historical data. Every company today has some sort of operating system that does require the collection of data resources throughout the entire process. Every company today has the ability to build some type of data reporting set for their teams. Now, while some may be very diverse in nature, others may be very simplistic in nature, every company can build a report for their teams based on their current customers and the current items that they are looking to qualify as those data sets.

There’s a couple things within internal data I want to discuss. First and foremost, every piece of information that you have on your current customer listing or the current customers that you supply any type of product or service to is just a goldmine of data. I mean, you guys already have it. Your teams already have the ability to grab this data and manipulate it on what it looks like, how it’s used, what are the important factors or details that you look at, but it is an absolute goldmine of information.

The reporting aspect of it is a little bit different. Everybody has different ways for reports to be built. I’ll give you an example of what our teams get on a daily and weekly basis, and then kind of build from there. Our sales teams across the nation—and there’s over a hundred of them—every single morning, get a daily report on how many referrals from medical offices have come in the day before. This is absolutely important. This is absolutely a necessary faction of their business, so that they can understand exactly how impactful they were within that previous day’s calling cycle. Every morning, they’re able to see, “Did I make a difference in an office? Was I able to have a discussion with a nurse or a medical professional to get a referral in the door to help patients get the medications that they need to live that better quality of life?” Every single morning, our representatives look at that report to see what referrals came in the door.

A lot of times, they have discussions with managers about those single reports. Now, our managers get a regional report of everybody that is under their responsibility, and those are done on a daily basis as well. At the end of the week, every single one of our representatives gets a specified territory report of how many referrals they brought into the company or into the pharmacy. Our managers get a weekly wrap up of what their representatives did on a weekly basis as well. They’re able to see their entire region every single day and every single week combined, so that they understand, are they hitting the metrics needed to achieve goal attainment? Are they hitting the metrics needed for us, as a company, to hit our benchmarks? It also gives them some really good talking points on where the business is, where the business is going, and maybe where it’s even missing. If they don’t see somebody on the report that they thought they had a really good discussion with, that they were going to drive business through. Now, these daily and weekly reports are extremely important. They’re extremely impactful.

One of the things that we also do is we have a monthly report for each one of our representatives and their specified territory that’s called a trended territory report. This trended territory report goes into much greater detail, and has many more points of data that are included in there. I won’t go into all the detail here on this, but it is a very deep dive into each specific territory. Now, this trended territory report is probably the most important thing that our representatives are able to use on a monthly basis to really set their routing schedules, how they want to go about their goal attainment, and really try to build out who their customers are, and how they’re going to grow that customer base throughout not only a month, but a quarter, and even a year down the road. This allows them to be fully engaged in the entire process of what’s going on.

One big detail that we have added into this report is not only to give the complete monthly picture of where each and every one of our representatives stand at that certain point in time, but we also give them a full six months of data in that monthly training report, so that they can look back on how they’ve grown the business month over month or even three months over three months. Then, another major important factor that we’ve included in this is on the side of that, for each specific provider, we have shown them, are they increasing in the last three months or are they decreasing in that last three months? That right there is a true key of how successful somebody is doing in their specific territory.

By being able to look through those certain providers, and see if those individual accounts or customers are growing in a current three month cycle. If they’re increasing, it’s a great plus, and they’ve done their job that you obviously see that they’ve been impactful, and that they’re making a difference out in the market. If there’s customers that are decreasing in that market, I think that gives them a great opportunity to go in and maybe grab some of that low hanging fruit. Because if you have somebody that’s decreasing—and I’m not talking decreasing just a little bit—I’m talking some major decreases in there, well, then that gives us an idea of what may be happening. Maybe a competitor has gotten into the market, maybe some contractual issues have changed. It gives us an idea of where we may be losing some business, and allows our representatives and managers to go in and have those conversations to figure out, “Hey, if you were doing business with us before, what happened currently that may have changed?” This report is a deep dive into their complete territory, and gives them a great understanding of where they stand on a monthly basis, but even on a quarterly basis, too.

Lastly, I encourage all of our managers, all of our sales directors to get with their specific representatives on a monthly basis to go over this trended territory report, and really engage with them on what has happened in their market. What are the reasons why there’s change? Positive or negative change? What is going on in there? Are we calling on the right people? Have we missed the boat or are our messages not hitting the right individuals? I think if we’re able to have that, it really creates a buy in of all the different teams from sales from data from management to understand where we are in our current marketplace.

Internal data—go back to that first bullet point here—is just a goldmine of info that every company today has at their hands. For you leaders out there that are looking at what does my current data tell me, I would go in and get with somebody on your analytical team to build out a report that can show you, number one, are you increasing or decreasing on certain customers, because that’ll give you a great benchmark of where you need to be, but really, for the ones that are decreasing, those are the ones that you want to go after. They’ve done business with you in the past, and they can do business with you in the future, but something happened in that market. Again, internal data is extremely important and extremely beneficial, and everybody has access to it. We encourage all of our teams to use it daily, weekly, monthly, with each other and discuss what is happening in their specific territory.

Now, I want to talk about third party data aggregation companies, the importance of using those third party data aggregation companies, and how it can help you to drive really successful selling using this data. First off, here at the Kroger Corporation, we are extremely grateful, because we actually own a data aggregation company called 8451. Currently, at 8451, based in Cincinnati, with the Kroger co-general office is primarily used in the grocery side of the business and not in the healthcare side of the business. We are looking to build out different data sets within our healthcare side of the business so that we can use our own data aggregation company. However, there are many other data aggregation companies that are out there from a third party perspective that we partner with. In my tenure at healthcare, over many years here, we have had many different companies that we have used to get different pieces of information.

The company that we currently use right now does an outstanding job for us. We have partnered with them for several years now, purchasing data with them. They work with us on a monthly basis to make sure that we are getting everything that we need. They also work with us many times throughout the year to understand what might change in our marketplace, what dynamics shifts are there, and how can our reporting get better. We talked about what specialties we want to look at, what data sets we want in our reports. In my opinion, I believe any third party data aggregation company is one that really listens to the needs of their customers. Doesn’t just build a report to send it, but it builds a report after they listen to the needs of what you truly need to take care of your customer base, and then what are you doing in your market to have fully successful teams launched out in the field using the data.

The company that we use—going back to them—the two reports we get annually, they build specific data sets for us. We talk to them, they listen. We give them the information that is provided for our teams to be successful, and then they build the reports to us. Once those reports are built, and they’re pushed out to us, we don’t just push it out to the team and say, “Hey, here you go. Here’s some new reports. Go look at them,” because that doesn’t really have a whole lot of buy in, it doesn’t create a lot of engagement. What we want to do is we want to build it out to our specific teams, and make sure that all of our reporting structure is same in structure of how it looks, how it feels, how they are able to navigate through it, and look look at different areas within their specific territory.

The first thing we do is we push it over to our business analytical team and have them bump these reports that we purchased up against our internal or historical reports that I spoke of earlier. Then, when those are bumped up together, we build up report that shows the rolling 12 months that we purchased, along with our current trended territory sales report that I talked about earlier. Our representatives have those two reports in the same function, same navigation windows, so that they can actually work through those to make sure that they’re calling on the right customers, the right amount of time that they are actually hitting the right targets to grow their revenues and achieve goal attainment. They can also see where new customers may be in their market.

That is truly the benefit of these third party aggregation teams, and where we get the reports from. It’s not to give us really the data on our internal customers that we already have, but it’s these external customers that we may not have yet. It does give us good intel on where our current customers lie, and exactly how much maybe market share we may have with them based on prescribing habits. As far as bringing in new customers, that is truly the benefit of these third party reports. Without these third party reports, we may have missed, we may have glossed over, we may have just driven by out in the field some current customer or some potential current customer that we didn’t even know existed. It could have come in many different forms. We could have missed them for many different reasons. It gives us an opportunity to go after certain customers that have never done business with us before.

These reports are built specifically to our needs. These reports are built specifically to what our teams have asked for. The benefit of that is our teams have bought into using them because they completely understand how to use them. This is one thing for certain that I encourage our managers and our sales directors to have conversations with on a monthly basis with each and every team member that reports into them. I do believe that the managers understanding all the specific territories along with the representatives of that territory, that they can really target and try to identify to not only achieve that individual sales person’s goals, but also maybe the regional goals and the company goals will follow. We want them to understand exactly what opportunities lie in their market. By using our internal data reporting, along with these third party reports that we purchase every year, the teams have a great chance to be successful.

One area that we have seen some great success in with our teams is by having our tenured representatives be that peer to peer kind of training liaison or that peer to peer go-to for some of our newer representatives in the field. This peer to peer training allows real experience that they’ve had in the field, and how they’ve used this data. How they’ve looked at this report, how they’ve manipulated the report to find opportunities for them to go further within their territory, for them to really drive in more referrals to drive in more revenue for their specific territory. It’s something that can be measured not only on a daily basis, like when we talk about our daily reporting earlier, but it can be measured long term, because we’ll be able to see on monthly basis. Then, when we purchase data again or when we get our second data report for the year, we’ll be able to see, did that individual representative make a difference? Were they able to grow one person that may be down here up to here?

It is extremely valuable information, and it is something that I encourage every organization, every sales leader, or even just professional leader—you don’t have to be in sales to go out and purchase for your organization. I think it is very invaluable. Just like I mentioned earlier that the historical and the internal data is a goldmine for your organization, this third party data is extremely important as well. It ranks right up there with that internal data because it gives you the customers that you may not know. It gives you an opportunity to find those, to get those in there, and build those relationships with them. I do encourage each and everybody, each and every one of you out there to go and purchase this information as it can be invaluable to your company.

My third point today is using a CRM. Many of us, throughout the course of our careers, have used different CRMs. There’s many tools, many platforms, many devices out there, currently, that have this type of capability. I do believe CRMs are extremely important. I do think that CRMs have a very needed place within our selling environment. If you think back, CRMs have been in existence now for over 25 years. The first ones that came out were were pretty simple, didn’t have a lot of functions. [Inaudible] them didn’t have a lot of data in them. Now as they’ve gotten more complex, there are so many different opportunities for any type of company to go out there and purchase and build. You can build specific ones to your need, that it is really an open window or an open box that you can just go after and really try to find the exact one that you need.

In full disclosure here, our company uses Salesforce, and we’ve used Salesforce for as long as I’ve been with the company. It is the only CRM that we’ve used. I think that it is a fantastic CRM platform. I think the tools great. However, I do want to be very open-minded, and let everybody here know that there are many different tools out there. There’s many different platforms for a CRM out there, and there’s great companies that provide great detail, as I’ve seen a lot of examples and a lot of demonstrations going into our company. We have been extremely happy with Salesforce, and we plan on continuing to use them.

CRM. How, and why, and functionality wise, what does it provide for you and your teams? First off, the why, I believe that you use a CRM, I believe the why is the sharing of information, at least in our teams from external sales teams to inside sales teams to some of our pharmacy leaders, and that can be an operations, it can be in pharmacies, it can be anywhere within the organization. It is the sharing of information lifetime of what is going on with a specific account. Anybody in our organization that we identify access to, they can see what is going on with a specific account, primarily, our sales teams, internal and external, share that information on a daily basis by providing updates or to-do or tasks or whatever field you want to call that, for them to perform that day. This is a great way for those individuals to not have to jump on the phone or text all day long, they can put it in Salesforce and it automatically pops up, whether it’s on their laptop or it’s on their phone, as a to-do or as a task. This capability is provided because it’s on an app, and it’s available pretty much anywhere. Literally anybody, anywhere with that application, no matter where you are, field based or office space, you have the opportunity to see this information and to use this information. I think having that capability lifetime, really allows our teams to share anything that’s going on with the office and relay that information to and from as quickly as possible. It is a great why to have a CRM.

Now, the how to have it is a little more complicated, because obviously, you have to load individuals or customers into that CRM platform. You have to load information, which you can do, you can have an automatic upload based on a different API that you can have established or you can have a manual upload based on how your company decides to see fit. I do think to get the full function of any CRM model or any CRM platform, each and every company should have a designated super user or a designated manager of that platform that can really designate their full time to making sure that the CRM is used to its fullest capacity. Over the years, we’ve had different individuals, and over the years, we’ve had some that do an outstanding job and others that are still learning as they grow into the tool. I do think that CRMs are a very important part of it.

Part of how we function and how we use it inside, I mentioned a little bit ago talking about sharing of information lifetime, but we also have the ability to put in sales goals. We have the ability to put in sales numbers, whether it’s on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, and where each individual may fall. Each individual sales rep that is may fall as it attains to their goal attainment. Then, our sales representatives can build it out of how each office that they represent falls into that goal attainment bucket. They’re able to build out where do they stand in that process? Where do they stand in hitting their monthly goal, hitting the company’s measurable goals? It gives them a great process to really see lifetime where they stand, and it allows them to really find where they are daily or monthly or weekly to get to where they need to be.

Lastly, I do want to talk about one misnomer that is out there around CRMs and their usage. That is the conversations that have happened, and I’ve heard many different ones over the years, around CRM platform, CRM models, being used as Big Brother, being used as a micromanager, whatever you want to call it, many different terms out there. I can fully tell you that, at our company, we do not use our CRM platform as any type of micromanager. I fully believe that any good company shouldn’t use it as a micromanager. I believe that if it’s stated, and things are put out into the field, or there’s thoughts or words or whatever it may be, that’s put into the field that there’s some type of Big Brother tracking going on based on a CRM model.

Another function that we have allowed and we have built into our usage of our model is we’ve allowed our sales director, sales managers, the autonomy to build their own reports. Not every director may want to look at the same report. We do have some standardized reporting that is in the function, but we’ve allowed our directors to go in and really build out what they want to look for. Every region may be different, every territory may be different, and every specialty may be different for that matter too. They may want to go in and build out a completely separate function for their team, for their specific sales representative, and to allow that to really hone in on what their goals are for that specific timeframe. It has been a great resource for them, and it allows them to use this model to the best of their ability on how they see fit. It also allows them to look through the usage of the CRM of how well customers are responding to clients, how well customers are talking to clients. Then, they can use that information bumped up against any of our sales reporting that I talked about earlier from a third party company and or from internal data. It is a great usage of information and great sharing of information amongst all of our teams.

Finally, I want to talk about the three items that we briefly discussed today. How do teams get success? Well, I do believe data can help teams drive towards success, especially now and where we are in 2021 and moving forward. As we look at the top of the chart here, internal data is by far a huge piece of it. It’s a goldmine, as I stated earlier. Everybody has internal data, it’s a matter of how do you get the information out into a report that is useful, that is something that teams can manipulate through very easily, and that they understand the importance of.

Then, secondarily is the third party—the data aggregation companies, and where do you buy data from, and why should you buy data. I think it’s extremely important to buy that data, because it does allow you to find customers that you may not have there. I think if you use the internal and the external data together, your ROI on the price you may pay for that is taken care of almost immediately.

Lastly, the use of a CRM. The use of the CRM is extremely important. I believe it helps build relationships. I believe it helps conversations. I believe it helps engagement amongst internal external teams and operations included. I believe that the people or the teams that share the most information, and put the most into it, really get the most out of it, just like anything else in life. If you use the tool to its full capability or capacity, then I believe you’ll get the full return on it as well. I believe using these three areas here of any type of data compilation brings success to any type of sales team.

My full belief is that it really pushes the teams to try and find a way to cheat the system. When I say cheat the system, I really mean that they’re looking for ways to get what is trying to be found within that big brother, quote, unquote, if you will, type of aspect, whatever that may be, and the teams really try to go after that, and make sure that that is taken care of before they do their job. We don’t have any metrics. We don’t look at anything. I don’t have any type of tracking capabilities out there that we put out on our teams, because I don’t believe in it at all. I believe in hiring good people, and hiring very ethical, hardworking individuals that want to do the right thing for their specific territory, which will help the region, which will help the company. I don’t believe in having any type of micromanagement from a CRM model at all. I do believe CRMs are very important to the success of any sales team out there.

Thank you again for joining today. I appreciate the time with you all. My contact information here. I left my professional email for work, I left my personal email, and then also left my LinkedIn profile as well. You guys reach out to me at any point in time. I would love to have a dialogue, conversation around any data usage you use in your company or if you want to get into a deeper dive on how we use it, I would be more than happy to have a conversation. I hope you have a great day. I hope that data conversation opened up some ideas for you and your company. I really hope that you use more data in the future to help drive success in your company. Thank you again. Have a great day and take care.

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