Sales Onboarding Challenges Solved

Explore the cohort learning approach used by QuintilesIMS to solve for sales onboarding challenges, while getting 100% manager engagement.
Around the world, healthcare stakeholders are working to improve real-world patient outcomes through treatment innovations, care provision and access to healthcare. For the information, technology and service solutions they need to drive new insights and approaches, they count on QuintilesIMS.

With a global team of 50,000, QuintilesIMS harnesses insights, commercial and scientific depth, and executional expertise to empower clients to achieve some of their most important goals.

In the past two years the QuintilesIMS organization has grown from 10,000 employees to over 50,000 worldwide. Their business is complex and evolving and includes servicing health care clients in areas such as clinical research & development, technology applications, data analytics, real-world insights, professional services, and commercial outsourcing. QuintilesIMS’s 1,600 sales professionals face pressures including:

  • Increasing competition
  • More demanding clients with complex business needs
  • Aggressive revenue growth targets
  • High sales force turnover (for sales employees with less than 3 years tenure)
  • Inorganic growth by mergers and acquisitions


In order to build sales skills and capabilities in a very complex and challenging environment, QuintilesIMS’ L&D department needs to deliver training that:

  • Upskills their global sales force efficiently and economically across multiple regions worldwide
  • Drives consistency in sales and CRM processes
  • Improves upon existing sales onboarding and retention practices
  • Increases cross-selling capabilities
  • Minimizes time out of market for sales training over more traditional ILT programs

"We think we will see MORE behavioral change and business impact from cohort learning than any other type of learning. That, and at a fraction of traditional classroom cost.”

Mike Duffy - CLO and VP, QuintilesIMS

QuintilesIMS’s goals for “Progressing Your Sales Opportunities”: to link their learning objectives to specific business outcomes. All of this led to the choice of a blended learning approach delivered on the Intrepid Learning platform, designed and launched in 90 days. The pilot was delivered to 103 employees (89 participants and 14 managers) across 11 countries.
Completion Rate
Manager Engagement
Able to Align Client
Needs to Solutions



“Progressing Your Sales Opportunities” centers on applied learning and real business outcomes using actual client business scenarios and opportunities. The course is primarily self-paced, with blended online and offline activities managed and delivered through the Intrepid Learning platform. There is an in-person peer and manager coaching piece as well.

“Progressing your Sales Opportunities” is delivered via the Intrepid platform and created a learning experience that is:

  • Scalable across multiple geographies, time zones, and number of learners
  • With social learning activities to maintain high level of engagement
  • Discussion forums
  • Missions (key macro-level activities)
  • Commenting and “liking” of Mission Field Reports
  • Full of rich, micro content including documents, knowledge checks, videos, and links to external resources
  • Uses gamification elements (leaderboard, badges, best practice sharing, etc.) to fuel interest levels and competition
  • Increases cost savings (eliminate need to travel to central location) and minimize time-out-of market for revenue producers by incorporating real-world client opportunities in our learning activities and exercises
  • Boosts behavior reinforcement and manager pull-through post-learning
  • Improves reporting to business and HR partners on participant activities in the platform


The 8-week cohort learning program consists of 4 modules. Learners have 2 weeks to complete each modules’ content. Participants are required to bring an actual client opportunity for the applied learning activities.

“We have gotten tremendous feedback on our cohort learning programs. Learners enjoy the interaction with peers, gamification and thoroughly modern look and feel."

Mike Duffy - CLO and VP, QuintilesIMS


THE MORTAR All assignments in each module center on applied learning, using existing clients and business opportunities in real time. Learners focus on their most pressing needs—call planning for example— provided with the tactics and tools to prepare for their client meetings. Then, they create their plan and share the output with their peers and managers within the online learning experience.

Participants are assigned into cohorts of 3 or 4, with a blend of senior and junior salespeople in each group. Cohorts are expected to meet once per module outside the platform (generally via conference call or web meeting) to share information, strategies, ideas, insights and challenges, and work on that module’s “Mission” or applied learning assignment. Each learner submits a Field Report for each Mission, which is viewable by the rest of the program participants, enhancing the sharing of knowledge even farther.


  • Members of the cohort select one opportunity from the group
  • All members of the group review and discuss the opportunity and apply the input and insights to refine their own individual Missions
  • Afterwards, participants share their Mission field report with their manager for additional feedback and coaching

By applying the review & refine process to their specific business challenge (client opportunity), each participant in the cohort is able to create a better work product through collaboration. In addition:

  • Managers get line of sight into the work their team members are doing and how they’re executing against the process
  • Senior salespeople collaborate with and mentor junior salespeople
  • Everyone benefits from the peer group’s experiences and insights
Intrepid Case Study - QuintilesIMS Sales Onboarding


Initial results are very promising and “Business Development: Progressing Your Sales Opportunities.” is now an integral part of QuintilesIMS’s new sales hires onboarding program.

Program participants have been able to able to:

Increase win rate & average deal size. The average sales cycle is 9 to 12 weeks and the team needs to look at data over a longer period to get meaningful measurements, however, they conducted an impact survey 3 months after the training ended and confirmed that 88% of respondents are now using and documenting their opportunity plans in CRM.

Create and shape client needs more efficiently: The 3-month impact survey confirms that 81% of respondents are able to align their client business needs to QuintilesIMS’s offerings and solutions.

Improve collaboration: The 3-month impact survey confirms that 64% of respondents are now receiving regular feedback from their managers

In addition, QuintilesIMS is seeing the following skills rise in their sales force:

Leveraging the power of networks through regular collaboration and teaming (collaborate and add value/insight to opportunities through peer and manager review and feedback)

Achieving consistency in managing and tracking client opportunities (this will lead to a healthier sales pipeline with more qualified opportunities, which in turn will lead to better financial forecasting and reporting)

In addition to the above learning / business outcomes, internal Global Learning & Development goals met by the program include:

  • Prove that QuintilesIMS can deliver an interactive sales training program to a globally distributed audience (they had never done this successfully before, particularly outside of traditional, class room-based, instructor-led training programs)
  • Insure completion rates were better than completion rates for virtual and/or self-study learning programs (better than 50% of benchmark enroll-to-complete conversion rate)

Integrate manager coaching and cadence to sustain expected behavior change from the learning (sales managers are considered the lynch-pin for success – without their support, success won’t happen).

Effectively deliver an interactive sales training program to a globally distributed audience

A completion rate of 73% (far better than benchmark enroll to complete conversion rate of 50%)

Manager engagement level of 100% for our program. Not only were managers engaged in their participants’ activities, they also recognized the business value of the training and the usefulness of the toolkits provided to managers. Manager feedback was over 90% positive for all of these indicators:

  • Improve performance of my team
  • Relevant and applicable to their job
  • Recommend this training to new team members
  • Manager toolkits were relevant and useful

This program has now become part of QuintilesIMS’ new sales onboarding program—all new sales hires are required to complete the course during their first 90 days and it is offered globally each quarter.

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