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Tactical war games/competitive simulations to gain share

Tactical war games are generally used for strengthening detailing in product launches and to develop successful counter-messages to competitors that are gaining share.

Definitions and main hypothesis:

A tactical war game is a simulation of a typical sales visit to get a thorough knowledge and understanding of the competition’s sales approach to develop own alternatives to leapfrog the competition.

The underlying main hypothesis is, as The Economist put it on its 05/31/2007 edition:

“To know your enemy, you must become your enemy”


As in the case of strategic war games, running a war game does not begin with the dynamic itself, but earlier. The steps in strategic and tactical war games are the same, they only differ in their content and execution.

The following steps are done before running the war game:

During the war game itself, the following steps are taken:

Main benefits:

Tactical war game main benefits are:

  • Teams learn by heart a lot of information in a very short period of time. Most salesmen complain that training is boring and not useful. This is not the case with tactical war games. Every time we run one, salesmen love it, because it gets the information down to earth and useable next morning
  • Higher sales force motivation, due to knowing the “reasons to believe” in the company’s product
  • Deep understanding and knowledge of the competition’s strengths and weaknesses. Salesmen will know first-hand that the neighbor’s garden is not as green as it seems
  • Learning how to overcome the competition sales approach, which will derive in higher confidence
  • Wide knowledge of the main customers’ objections and how to manage them in a practical and effective way

All of this results in increasing sales and successful product launches.

Main differences with role playing and objections’ handling:

The main differences between tactical war games and the traditional role playing and objections’ handling are:

Item Role playing and objections’ handling Tactical war games
Focus Mostly internal, our product
Some consideration for the physician in objections’ handling
Holistic, competitor’s product, our product and physician
Salesmen participation Passive, can be assimilated to a demonstration. Demonstrations have 30% recollection rate according to National Training Laboratories Active, can be assimilated to teaching to others, as salesmen will have to speak before an audience. Recollection rate is 90% according to National Training Laboratories
Change in behavior Moderate possibilities of change in behavior, as salesmen have to learn from someone else’s experience Salesmen are prone to change behavior, as draw their own conclusions on the experience and have tested that it works in a kind of “real life” situation
Incentive There are not many incentives for salesmen to learn Each salesmen team competes with other salesmen teams to see which one wins the game and also to defeat the competitor. Thus, there are strong incentives for learning and behavior change

Main uses:

Tactical war games are generally used for:

  • Training the salesforce on a new product or indication launch, as a lot of information can be transferred in a fun and fast way.
  • Developing counter-messages to use in the field to increase the effectiveness of the salesforce
  • Instill a sense of competition in the salesforce and motivate the salesforce
  • Improving sales, due to having a more tailored message and a better trained salesforce

Final thoughts:

The traditional training of salesmen is broken. Most of the training activities in sales conventions are a waste of money, as they do not engage the salesmen in meaningful activities. We believe that tactical war games can be a way to fix salesmen training.

A common concern we experience is that marketing people believe that salesmen are very basic and that this type of dynamic is too complicated for them to grasp. Our experience is that salesmen understand this type of dynamic very easily. The main difficulty they have is to truly immerse themselves on the role of the competitor, but this is common to every segment of people and can be solved with good coordination work.

One of our customers did a study to see the pay-off of the war game, in the first year, it earned additional US$3 million, due to increased sales, an internal rate of return of several thousands.

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