How L&D Can Improve Relationships with Sales Management

A collaborative approach between hard driving sales teams and learning and development pros is essential in the high stakes pharmaceutical industry.
A collaborative approach between trainers and management is essential.

A recurrent challenge arises from the differing priorities of sales management and training departments. Misunderstandings can impact the effectiveness of both teams, limiting company performance. Nowhere is this more evident than in the rapidly changing and heavily regulated landscape of pharmaceutical sales.

Hard driving sales cultures may naturally clash with the more reflective and deliberate approach of learning and development practitioners. How is the divide best navigated?

The Pressure for Immediate Results

Sales management is inherently focused on achieving sales targets and driving revenue growth. Managers require quick onboarding of new reps to fill gaps and meet quotas, with a focus on immediate productivity rather than comprehensive education.

The Long-Term View

Learning and development departments are tasked with the comprehensive and methodical development of sales reps. Their aim is not to throw reps into the field as soon as possible, but to ensure they understand the competitive landscape, regulatory issues, and develop valuable soft skills. Effective training programs are costly and time consuming, delivering extensive product knowledge, background on therapeutic categories, and familiarity with company processes and culture.

Employment Dynamics

The pressure for quick results can lead to high rep churn. Turnover is costly, with sales rep replacement costs ranging from 1.5 to 2 times their annual salary, emphasizing the need for effective retention strategies. Yearly turnover rates as high as 40% are fueled by:

  • Lack of professional development opportunities
  • Lack of job satisfaction
  • A fluid job market
  • Overwhelming streams of information

There are 6 ways to improve collaborative relationships.

Collaborative Relationships

The most effective organizations develop symbiotic partnerships between sales and training departments.  This can be achieved by:

  1. Aligning Goals: Make sure that common goals include short-term benchmarks and long-term growth. A learning and development plan should include onboarding as well as continuing knowledge and skill development. 
  1. Providing Actionable Data: Make learning outcomes tangible and ROI justifiable by providing meaningful data for managers. Individual and group learning gaps must be clearly identified and remediated. 
  1. Periodic Reviews: Schedule regular reviews with sales and product management colleagues to make certain that content is aligned with current market dynamics and sales strategies.
  1. Collect Feedback: Regular feedback from the field helps tailor training to be more relevant and timely.
  1. Optimize for Retention: By addressing the main drivers of turnover, including unrealistic training goals and lack of professional growth opportunities, L & D can enhance job satisfaction and reduce costly turnover. 
  1. Respond Quickly:  Market situations change rapidly. The stakes are high, with one OTC drug worth $5 million in sales per week in a retail chain. Quick Zoom calls are ineffective. Training departments who are able to respond quickly with activity-based training materials are highly valued strategic partners for product and sales management.


Sales management and training departments that are in-tune with each other’s needs create organizations with sustainable success. By fostering a culture that values both immediate results and long-term development, companies not only enhance their market position but also build a more resilient and satisfied workforce. A collaborative approach is essential in a high-stakes industry where the cost of turnover is high and the need for skilled professionals is continuous.