Pharma Firms Intensify Electronic Training of Sales Force
The pharmaceutical industry is boosting its support of etraining for its sales representatives and managers, according to a new study.
Conducted by consulting firm Best Practices, LLC of Chapel Hill, N.C., the study examined 33 companies — more than 20 of which were U.S. or foreign pharmaceutical firms, with the balance being nonpharmaceutical companies included for comparison purposes.
The survey found that 45 percent of U.S. pharmaceutical firms plan to increase their budgets for all types of sales training compared to 32 percent of nonpharmaceutical companies.
Unifying the Sales Team
Cameron Tew of Best Practices said that “100 percent” of the U.S. pharmaceutical companies planned to do more computer-based sales training (CD-ROM, DVD and web-based) compared to 83 percent of the international pharmaceutical firms.
The only type of high-tech training pharmaceutical companies were not planning to increase was training by satellite feed, and here the plan is to maintain the satisfactory status quo rather than cut back.
“The reason they were looking to do more etraining is that it cuts down on the amount of time reps have to be in the office, so they have more time to be out in the field meeting with physicians,” Tew said. “Also, it gives them the opportunity to do the same training throughout the company. If you hold a workshop, only those who can attend get [the training].”
Of these two motivators driving pharma companies to increase etraining, by far the more important is the prospect of increasing the amount of time sales reps can spend actually selling, Tew said. “[Sales reps] get more time in the field trying out what they learned in etraining. [Companies] can also package the material and send it out with the sales reps when they’re on the road, so they can put the CD-ROM or DVD in the laptop whenever there’s downtime.”
Providing training electronically helps ensure everyone is on the same page, Tew added. It is viewed as a best practice because it “allows everyone to get the same message, instead of one group of 50 getting one message and another group of 100 getting a different message because it’s a different trainer,” he said.
Uniform training is vital to the kind of information that pharmaceutical sales reps must absorb, Tew said. “It’s best suited to academic topics — to product knowledge and the applications they have, as well as to science. You don’t want to mess up that information.” Nevertheless, individual sales reps have the flexibility to work at their own pace with their CDs and DVDs, as long as they fulfill the number of training hours set by the company, Tew said.
Burden on Training Managers
Tew said that this uniform etraining is increasingly mandatory for the entire pharmaceutical sales force — “those in the field and managers, everyone tied to the sales force up to the district managers and even the regional managers.”
But the burden of actually implementing the etraining programs is on training managers, who are “the ones getting their hands dirty in setting up etraining, with some oversight from the heads of sales training,” said Tew. Training managers, in turn, are increasingly relying on outsourcers, since companies “can’t do it all in-house,” he said.
Tew offered a final word of advice: “Make sure the outsourcers have the tools to make [etraining] valuable to your sales force and to implement it. Make sure the vendors are [highly] skilled at what they do.” — Martin Gidron