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  • Writer's pictureKarsten Schmidt

How to use comprehensive surveys to detect bottom-up critical improvement areas

in Marketing & Sales processes.

Before the pandemic, the focus of field representatives obviously was to engage with their customers face-to-face. Nowadays, field team members try to compensate the actual lack of f2f interactions with remote ones but most certainly there will be free time which needs to be utilized in the best possible way. Asking the Field Force to provide feedback on critical Marketing & Sales processes can be a meaningful activity in these times in order to prepare the company to be in a better position when the worst part of the pandemic is over.

With this conclusion in mind, I have invited Éric Luttringer, expert in Field Force assessments for improving their effectiveness, for an interview. Éric is founder of Global Sales Solutions, a well-established company in the Business Excellence area, and has been working during almost 20 years on developing surveys about bottom-up evaluations to help improve the effectiveness of Life Sciences organizations.

Karsten: How have structured Field Force surveys evolved over the last couple of years?

Éric: We have been interviewing Field Forces in the Life Sciences Industry since 2001 in 65+ countries observing critical changes. Apart from a noticeably growing adoption of this type of analytical activity, the evolution is mainly pointing to a new type of client facing roles: KAMs, MSLs and also to new questions concerning technology, new tools (CRM, CLM, Digital, Remote etc.) which were still absent from our surveys e. g. five years ago. We are now more focused on the new Go-to-Market Model and the adequacy of current Field Forces. During the last 5 to 6 years, we have been noticing Emerging Countries (China, Indonesia etc.) joining the same processes as the mature ones such as USA and those in Europe.

Karsten: Why are structured surveys so important?

Éric: Structured surveys are fundamental for the Life Sciences Industry as they provide robust benchmarks, both externally (Ex : what are the results of the CRM in China compared to one’s own company?) and internally between all affiliates of this company in EMEA, Asia-Pac. Also, it is important to follow trends over long periods of time. Consistency here is the key.

Karsten: Which management areas should ideally be covered when looking at the executional performance of Life Sciences companies?

Éric: As every area has a direct impact on the general performance, robust Field Force surveys should explore all dimensions: leadership, FLM management, training, Marketing, MSL, motivation (bonus schemes), sales tools, sales processes, territory alignment, alignment between functions, customer engagement and customer experience…

Karsten: Which business areas should be part of surveys?

Éric: The scope should be as wide as possible because each item studied interacts with the others. (Management of the FLMs →training →motivation…). The best surveys should show the entire sequence of marketing/sales activities in an unbiased way and not just some isolated static pictures.

Karsten: What are the main benefits of conducting surveys with external support versus just running them internally?

Éric: It’s obvious that without robust benchmarks and comparisons with competitors, companies doing surveys only by themselves, lose the crucial part of orientation: It's easier to be the best if you don't compare yourself!

Karsten: How can high voluntary participation rates in Field Force surveys be achieved?

Éric: If the survey is fully endorsed and driven by the General Manager him/herself and if the questions are interesting enough for the Reps (no philosophy unrelated to praxis!), it is easy to achieve a 95% response rate. This is what we got since 2001 on average for example.

Illustration of comprehensive field force assessment process

Karsten: What from your perspective is the ideal process to derive meaningful action plans from surveys? 

Éric: The surveys must be a means and not the final goal in itself. It all depends on the quality of the analysis, on actionable recommendations and on what Management will do with them. Too many surveys will not lead to adequate Management decision-making which means that they will be a waste of time for all participants. Instead derived action plans should be divided into short term (quick wins) or medium term projects if more structural. Karsten: Could you please give us some examples of action plans which address quick wins versus more structural problems? Éric: An example of quick win: Company A has 10 regions. When we ask a question related to the clearness of the new bonus system, 7 regions of 10 said that they fully understood it. But 3 of them denied. So, the recommendations to the 3 FLMs had to be to re-explain the bonus system to their Reps. In two hours, the problem was fixed! But if, as an example for medium term projects, you want to move some Reps doing more Public Relations than really engaging with HCPs, it could take 12 months of training and coaching to change the behaviors. Karsten: For which organizational roles can such surveys be most valuable? Éric: Every employee group has its own role in the success of the organization: from Country Managers to Reps, FLMs, MSL, Marketers. Of course, considering cost, a clear and purposeful orientation of Field Forces is obviously of utmost importance for a successful outcome. Karsten: How can surveys help identify training needs for Field Forces? Éric: It all depends on the quality of questions! They must be numerous, precise, and creative. For example, participants could say at the same time: “We appreciate the e-learning programs run by our company but, personally, we do not need more training, thank you!” This is an example where survey findings give rise for action. Karsten: How do you see the Go-to-Market model evolve for Life Sciences after overcoming the worst part of the current pandemic? Éric: It is clear that the conventional way of acting we are used to until now must be considered outdated in many countries (overweight of large Primary Care Field Forces). Instead, there will be a stronger focus on Specialty Care Field Forces to commercialize specialty products (Oncology, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, etc.). Today and in the near future, the new Go-to-Market model will concentrate more on optimizing field representatives combined with the activation of more digital Marketing channels. Now that the time is ideal to do so the key question is how many companies will really be prepared to reorganize accordingly! Karsten: Thank you, Éric for sharing your perspective on this very interesting topic. In summary, we can say that the described bottom-up approach enables companies to benchmark comprehensively the effectiveness of their marketing and sales activities which in turn allows to derive meaningful action plans for senior management both short and medium-term. If you find this article interesting, please like or share it. If you have further questions on this topic, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at or  


Xeleratio Consulting Ltd.

We help Life Sciences executives improve sales performance with innovative best-in-class Business Excellence tools and methodologies . Expertise in Business Excellence has been gained with over 12 years of working in different global and regional roles in the Life Sciences industry.


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