Building teams takes time as well as the ability to find and mesh skill sets that will complement each other to ensure maximum results. Within commercial functions, synergy and drive are what can take teams from good to great – but many organisations within Life Sciences struggle to find great commercial talent due to the intricacies and differences between Biotech, Pharma, and Medical Devices.
Each area (as well as the drug or product that is being promoted) needs a strong commercial team and leaders to take it to market and ensure its success. Even the best products need to be marketed and sold in a way that is compelling and will connect with the buyer and impact a patient’s life.
Particularly within Medical Devices, which is a core focus for Evolve, we have spent a lot of time looking at how commercial teams operate and highlighting the key strengths that they need. When a device goes to market and passes FDA approval, there is a lot of pressure on commercial teams to ensure that this product is tried, tested, and bought by their key clients.
Team structures and sizes can vary, too. You can have a team made up of senior salespeople such as Directors, Territory Managers, and BD Representatives, but you can also market a device with Field or Clinical specialists who are going into the environment where the device is going to be used and show key clients how it works.
That’s a real-world approach and a hybrid team which prioritises commercial business development as well as real-world implementation can have a lot of success in the medical device world. You also need different skill sets and experience levels to ensure equal workload distribution and your commercial team can work like a well-oiled machine.
The problem with hiring, particularly commercial individuals within Medical Devices is the sheer demand that great commercial talent is in. It can be even harder to source someone for a device that has no similarities with others on the market – your commercial talent needs to be able to connect with what they are selling and believe in the vision of the organisation, too.
Additionally, with great salespeople being in demand – you’re dealing with passive or off-market candidates the vast majority of the time. Unless there are mass layoffs (like we have experienced in Q1 of 2023) or a stroke of luck with someone leaving a role, you’re having to actively headhunt for talent and in turn, sell them into leaving their current opportunity for one that is supposedly better.
Although all great talent is usually passive – this can be a bigger difficulty within the commercial space. Salespeople know what a great sell can look like, and can be harder to get buy-in from, especially if they’re content in their current position.
We’ve mentioned having a blended team with senior salespeople and then field and clinical specialists, but that doesn’t always have to be the answer. There is no “silver bullet” to your team building – you have to treat it on a case-by-case basis to figure out how many heads you need, how you want the team split to look like, and who you want to lead from the front.
There are, however, some key things to look at which are applicable regardless of business size, budget, or product:
We often get leadership and management mixed up – and although there are a lot of similarities, you want to ensure that if you have someone coming in to manage a team, they have a tangible experience with people management at all levels. People who are more junior than them, people who may have been more senior than them at a different organisation.
People who have been tough to manage, et cetera. Leaders can of course, “lead by example” and be at the forefront, but some leaders have never had to embrace true people management, especially in a commercial setting. You want to have complete confidence that the individual that you have leading the team has enough people management experience that they’ll be able to deal with challenging situations with ease.
You want people who can walk the walk but you also want a people manager who understands the complexities of personalities and has a genuine care for people in their team.
This isn’t necessarily someone who is going to lead or manage a team – this is someone who gets the job done, for the use of a better phrase! Commercial teams need proactive, high-performing salespeople who can drive results and can build quality relationships at pace. They may be a bit more independent from the rest of the team, but they’re self-sufficient and are driven by their natural sales ability and passion for the product or device they are marketing.
This doesn’t mean that you need a team of data analysts to look at how your team is performing. In fact, you need someone who is data-minded (or data-driven) to ensure that research is being done to support the commercial function and their efforts. Where are you having the most success and why? What tools are you using to message this? What are the areas for improvement? To have a successful commercial/sales strategy you need planning and data at the forefront.
We are working with some incredible Medical Device companies across the USA to help them scale their commercial teams. To find out how Evolve can help you to build a world-class team, get in contact with us today.