So when you start a Pulse assignment you are given a scope of work (SOW).  It is not the most detailed thing ever.  It is very top line with a general overview of what the NGO would like you to accomplish in your six months.  All the past Pulse volunteers spoke that it will change, items will be added and if you have initiative then you will create projects. So you need to be flexible but also aware that what you work on needs to have the potential to be sustainable.  It is a trap sometimes because we want to help in all areas but not all the work is about the project.  Learning to say no is hard but vital.   I tend to lean toward the high initiative aspect and tend to create a lot of projects for myself.

One size does not fit all.  This not only applies to shoes but to all aspects of NGO work.  I have been very fortunate with my work here at PATH to be able to go and GEMBA.  This ability to go out and observe has been critical to assess the gaps and then create a plan to close the gaps.  Very early on I got to meet with several Central Vietnam Community Business Organizations (CBO’s).  These CBO’s are a vital link in the distribution of any and all HIV related goods and services.  They work directly with the key populations we are trying to get these commodities to, to lower the risk of HIV spread.  Since that initial GEMBA, I have had 3 more trips similar to do the same.  What I saw quickly is that we are asking them to sell things (condoms, lubricant, needle/syringes, HIV testing…) without them really knowing how to sell.  Well guess what?  I know how to sell (at least that is what my manager tells me:).  So I created a project for myself.  Get them to increase their basic knowledge of sales techniques.

Sounds great in theory.  At GSK we have many people with lots of experience selling and can take very high concepts and apply them rather quickly.  Here they do not have that experience.  They are very intelligent, but experience really does shape the techniques you will apply daily.  To start this project I really set out to figure out the basics that are across all sales.  Not just pharma but for anything.  I set out to deconstruct the habits I have built over the years and have witnessed from my talented teammates at GSK.

So it started with:

  1.  Reach and Frequency
  2. Features and Benefits
  3. Uncovering a Need
  4. Advancing

Makes sense right.  Reaching your customers and the amount of times you see them.  Knowing the features of your products and then linking them to the benefits to the consumer.  How do you uncover the need by asking the right question at the right time?  How do you ask for something?  The base of the pyramid I felt.

So to make this project sustainable I could not be the one doing the training.  I won’t be here to carry it forward.  So I was allowed to hire a vendor that specializes in training and that PATH has used in the past.  That is when I realized you really never have enough GEMBA.  This vendor had some workshops in a box but they did not fit the needs.  We went back and forth for a few weeks to really get an agenda that made sense.  It cannot be just about doing training for training sake.  It had to be something that was applicable and also interactive so they would enjoy the learning.  Plus there is still a lot of cultural differences that I do not always take into consideration (e.g. lunch hour and then rest hour!  So a 2 hour break).  We then had a train-the-trainer session with the vendor.  She was not grasping all the concepts.  This is when I realized that if this hard for her, then I do not have enough information.  So how do I deconstruct it even more?  How do I take what I have ingrained in my own ways of working and take it back to the root skill? You know what you do…GEMBA more.  All the answers lay within the people that you are trying to help.  Because it is not about you.  It is not about your ideas or how good of a salesperson you are.  It is about them.  You can teach the best course imaginable but if they don’t understand it then it was the worst course imaginable.  So it morphed.  It had to.

  1. Who are your customers?  Do you have a plan to see them?
  2. What is a feature?  What is a benefit?
  3. Do you ask your customer questions?  If so what kinds?
  4. Asking for the business

Similar in ways but not in many ways.  If they cannot describe the features of the products they sell how can I ask them to link it to a benefit.  They are not given the features of their products.  They buy theses commodities from a manufacturer and they do not have the support system like GSK does that will tell them what to focus on.  So we had to start from the beginning.  What is a feature.  Identify all the features.  Then understand what the feature means to the customer.

In the end we had the most interactive two-day training I have ever seen.  The vendor did a great job of facilitating the meeting.  And it really helps to have a native speaker do this.  To have me do the the training and have an interpreter would have lost something in translation.  The team I work with did an amazing job.  We got overwhelmingly great feed back (Because you know I had to teach them what an AAR was).  I do believe this will carry over to a culture of training and skill building.

I have a passion for training.  I coached gymnastics for 20 years.  There is something about breaking a skill down and helping someone get that skill that just brings all my passion out.  I am so glad I got to do that here, but also learn to not base things on my opinion. GEMBA!  Seek and learn. Never stop!training-2training-4training-5


  1. Very cool post! Thanks for the great insights… letting us see inside your thought processes helps me see what PULSE is all about and how we can make a difference, really inspirational!

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