L&D Best Practices: Strategies for Success (September 2021)

Training taps 2021 Training Top 100 winners and Top 100 Hall of Famers to provide their learning and development best practices in each issue. Here, we look at Cardinal Health’s performance support program for the Richardson Consultative Sales Methodology.


By Pam Conyngham, Director, Learning Solutions Hub, Cardinal Health Learning Center of Excellence

Despite a global pandemic forcing sales representatives to work virtually, Cardinal Health launched an innovative training implementation and sustainment of Richardson Sales Methodology programs across global teams.

Program Details

In mid-2019, Cardinal Health partnered with Richardson Sales Performance to implement an enterprise-wide consultative sales methodology via five distinct skill sets and training programs:

  • Consultative Inside Sales (CIS)
  • Consultative Selling Skills (CSS)
  • Consultative Negotiation Skills (CNS)
  • Developmental Coaching
  • Territory Management

The goal was adoption of a common global methodology to improve sales execution, which needed to align with our variety of healthcare customer buying behaviors. It was critical that all skills programs include tailored practice activities, knowledge assessment strategies, and reinforcement, driven and coached at the manager level. Due to attrition, the program needed to be a repeatable curriculum, and yet flexible enough to address the unique needs of our various inside and outside sales teams. Cardinal Health offers a wide range of solutions, products, and services. Sales representatives have a vast variation in customer call points. Our overall approach was to tailor and customize the Sales Methodology program to our unique selling situations as much as possible, and provide a deep level of reinforcement to impact our sales culture.

Overall, since inception, 45 distinct U.S. and 21 global sales teams have participated in Richardson selling courses, encompassing 2,314 sales reps and 384 sales leaders. The program spans Cardinal Health’s Pharma and Medical business segment sales teams.

The training curriculum began via the online Richardson Accelerate platform, which introduced concepts foundational to the sales methodology. That was followed by Cardinal Health-tailored instructor-led training (ILT) and virtual instructor-led training (VILT) workshops. These sessions were critical to the program success, as sales representatives practiced skill application in realistic Cardinal Health customer-specific scenarios.

Finally, each sales representative was challenged to apply their knowledge through monitored sustainment (supported by our six-month in-house, custom-built manager reinforcement tool kit). Sustainment included manager-led practice calls, microlearning reinforcement questions in our Cardinal Health gamification platform, Richardson Accelerate platform customized testing, and manager observation. Sales reps’ Richardson selling behaviors were scored on a standard rubric and were recorded in our learning management system (LMS). Marketing partners also incorporated the Richardson consultative approach into our customer-facing literature, and in representative-facing sales resources.

The partnership between Cardinal Health and Richardson was a key to the success of this project. A core team of business representatives from both sides crafted a tailored process enabling large-scale program adoption, while controlling costs and ensuring the tenets of the methodology remained strong.

Given the broad implementation scope, Richardson and Cardinal Health agreed on a train-the-trainer (TTT) approach. After completing a rigorous TTT program, 23 Cardinal Health Learning and Development (L&D) professionals were certified by Richardson to facilitate Consultative Selling, Consultative Inside Selling, and Developmental Sales Coaching skills courses.


Sales representatives using their new sales skills have experienced success and positive changes in customer relationships. Two success stories:

“I used several components from the Richardson Consultative Selling Framework to successfully sell a new product line to an existing customer in just a few weeks. Open-ended questioning, value realization, and positioning statements made the difference in moving the sale along quickly and successfully.” —Sales Rep from Nuclear Inside Sales

“My greatest benefit from the Richardson training was the portion on listening. Prior to training, I went in with an agenda to pitch the items I wanted to sell. But when we listen and uncover needs, we can better align ourselves to offer solutions that benefit our customers. I recently had a customer who was only buying $100 to $200 in one pharmacy product from us per month. After spending 45 minutes with the pharmacist, listening and determining their challenges and analyzing where they see value, I identified 10 to 15 products that will help their pharmacy thrive. This significantly increased their monthly spend.” —Sales Rep from Pharma Inside Sales

Early results (less than six months following training) indicated that sales reps with Richardson Accelerate (reinforcement and assessment) progress of 89 percent, and gamification platform (reinforcement questioning) utilization frequency of 19 times per month, significantly improved attainment of sales quota versus other reps with less engagement in performance support tools.

Comparing Richardson Accelerate test scores (baseline to final assessment), Cardinal Health saw significant improvements from participants of CIS, CSS, CNS, and Developmental Coaching. Cardinal Health believes these improvements are due to the robust sustainment program and manager coaching engagement.

More recent sales performance results continue to show that sales representatives who actively participate in the Richardson sustainment activities (gamification reinforcement questions and Accelerate activities/testing) continue to significantly outperform in attainment of sales quota.

Edited by Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine, owned by Lakewood Media Group. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.