Fall 2022
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Jabian Conversations

Lisa Praeger is the Vice President of the United States Field Sales organization at Alcon, the global leader in eye care. Her responsibilities include sales growth, commercialization of products including launch excellence, and organizational design. With more than 31 years of experience in the Eye Care industry, she is a leader in both commercial sales and operations. We spoke with her about what it means to lead a sales organization today, challenges due to recent economic and societal changes, and what trends she sees shaping how businesses connect and sell over the next decade.
Lisa Praeger
Vice President US Vision Care at Alcon

What is top of mind for a Sales leader these days?

As I think about the journey we have been on these past few years, it really shapes where I want to accelerate on behalf of our sales team. Digital is a key consideration for me today with our customer in mind. I want to make it easy for our sales team to spend their time with our customers rather than on analysis and email. AI insights can help to focus our rep’s behavior to support how they spend their time. This, coupled with their on-the-ground practical knowledge and application can change the game. The digital experience also exists with our customers to bring our products to life. As a sales leader I am thinking about our in-person customer experience to help patients see brilliantly and how digital is an opportunity for us to accelerate.

How have you addressed the culture of the Sales team and what results have you seen?

Coming into this role in March of 2020, culture was a key priority. I immediately implemented a detailed culture plan. Each step was intentional. I needed to fully understand the key themes. I started with a listening tour and met with every team at the district level in the organization. One theme that stood out was an us versus them undercurrent. The broader team felt disconnected. Communication had to improve. I established a set communication cadence which included meeting with all levels of the organization every month with open office hours, along with Town Halls and videos. I included “The Why” in every conversation I had with the team, offering perspective to the decisions being made. Intentional communication with a focus on being authentic. This included sharing what we were willing to consider but also what we were not going to consider and why. We are on a continuous culture journey. When we look at our sales last year, we accelerated each quarter and are seeing our innovation drive our sales results.

Guidance and feedback in a trusted mentor relationship is a key success factor to helping one reach their career aspirations.

How has your operational experience helped you succeed as a commercial leader?

It has been invaluable. Understanding how technology can wrap around the sales team to support our efforts allows us to take advantage of removing barriers to execution. We have been able to introduce new ways of learning and automate ways to complete work and submit workflows to reduce the administrative burden. As I reflect on my leadership journey and my time in operations, I learned how to be curious about how things connect and work together. That curiosity is now embedded in my leadership style. I look for what could be true and how might something help or hurt regarding decisions we are about to make thinking end to end rather than just about driving execution.

How has personal development and mentorship played a role in your evolution as a leader?

Mentorship helped me lead at Alcon. Several people at Alcon were trusted mentors supporting my development. They gave me that critical feedback, which was not always easy to hear to help me develop. They were accessible and engaged and supportive. I carry that forward and mentor many others at Alcon. Guidance and feedback in a trusted mentor relationship is a key success factor to helping one reach their career aspirations. In addition to mentorship, Alcon continues to invest in leaders at all levels. I was fortunate to participate in a 15-month intensive leadership program called Project Blue. In addition to an effective learning program, it connected future leaders of Alcon across the organization.

What are some of the emerging trends you are seeing in B2B Field Sales?

Virtual is a bigger part of our day to day. Organizations need to be agile and adjust as customers change. We have made several changes to our B2B team since 2020 to meet the customer where they are. While many organizations have swung to 100% virtual, we remain an infield organization meeting our customers in person. We continue to align our team to include virtual, wrapping in some virtual experiences. A good example of this is education. We believe in the value of strong relationships with the doctors at their practice and we want to continue to provide virtual options to round out how field sales relates to customers.

How do you see the role of the B2B sales rep evolving over the next 5-10 years?

Consolidation is happening everywhere. B2B has to be ready. The sales rep will need to have the sophistication to work alongside key account teams to bring the best value to each of our customers whether independent, chain, or private equity. With private equity expanding, the C-suite decisions are shifting. The reps will need to be able to blend what they can offer to a doctor’s office and what the C-suite is driving from the top down to make it a win-win for everyone.

What are your thoughts on the B2B Sales Rep’s role in Customer Care?

Customer care is critical for a B2B sales representative. We constantly evaluate how we can free up the time for our team so that they can be in front of their customers. We continue to train our team to ask effective questions so we understand what is important to each doctor. We have great products, but we also need to be sure that we understand how, along with our products, we can support the goals of each practitioner. Providing excellent products with excellent service that is pertinent to the doctor deepens that customer relationship and secures loyalty.

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