I recently watched Apollo 13 with my kids, and they were awed by the amount of consoles, buttons and lights that were in the control room (in the 1970s, mind you). NASA set up its control room to monitor every inch of the space shuttle. The team knew exactly how things were going, and major alarm bells would ring when something was off by the smallest fraction. 


Wouldn’t it be great if there were a NASA-like setup that could help with proactive deployment decisions for medtech companies? I believe that there can be, and I don’t think that it would be too hard to create. 


Commercial operations isn’t rocket science, but we can learn a lot from these types of applications of measurements and data. Deployment of sales resources comes down to a set of rules defined by the organization that include the geography, products, customers, sales reps, etc. Each of these individual pieces can be measured. If we can measure them, we can create rules around them. If we can create rules, then we can monitor the field organization to understand its health. 


Too often we have the same issue where we aren’t seeing the signs that point to a clear conclusion that something in our sales force deployment needs to change. We miss the fact that two territories next to each other each increased sales by 50% with so much more potential available, or we miss that the population of a metro area quadrupled in a five-year period. These misses mean that our sales force isn’t optimally deployed. We could have added more reps in either of these scenarios and driven higher growth. 


The next evolution in analytics and field force deployment is the ability to succinctly monitor all of the different forces impacting the sales organization based on data and rules, and having theoretical “alarm bells” ring when it’s time to do maintenance to the field force deployment. This concept starts with the hardest part: codifying our field deployment model and defining rules for what we expect to see in our field territories. We need to define pieces such as: 

  • What is the maximum radius that a rep can reasonably cover given our sales size?
  • What is the minimum share by which we’re missing out on opportunities because there’s too much new business to cover?
  • What level of sales is too high to manage the maintenance of the current business?
  • What level of population growth in a geography will require additional resources to cover the area?
  • What level of meaningful engagement in the incentive compensation program is sustainable to keep the sales organization happy? 

By starting with answering these types of questions, the organization can determine the rules and thresholds for proactively digging into potential changes to the field deployment. Once defined, the organization needs to determine if there’s data that can be leveraged, updated and analyzed to answer the questions in a succinct time frame. Given that data isn’t perfect, you may have to find analogues to help answer questions or come at the question from two different data sources to feel comfortable. The commercial operations team then needs to build the dashboard to look at all of these different concepts across each territory, district, region, etc. 


That level of detail sounds daunting, but compare that to helping launch a 200-foot space shuttle to the moon. Creating this type of dashboard to monitor the sales force allows the commercial operations team to proactively bring ideas to field leadership and get ahead of the changes that, if missed, could result in missed revenue growth opportunities.