I have yet to find the pharmaceutical company with a perfect sales training process. No such thing! But some are making real strides in improving the on-boarding and Phase 1 (P1) process (may be called initial sales training, or some other equivalent, in your company). Would yours, if scrutinized, gain approval?
It’s not easy. Often, there is a mix of people new to the industry, thrown together with experienced reps hired from other companies. Some have background in the therapeutic area; others couldn’t tell a mechanism of action from a garage door opener.
Dozens of issues must be analyzed in each case to come up with a good prescription for change, but a few major themes seem to be right at the surface in most cases:
1. “Baselining” the incoming class. How do you ensure that a certain level of knowledge has been attained before the Phase 1 Training classes begin? Without this, an unfortunate “least common denominator” approach tends to dominate the instruction, with inevitable loss of training effectiveness. This issue is tied into a feedback loop of Home Study expectations, and a solid assessment strategy.
2. Reducing didactic lecture time in favor of practical application and reinforcement. Putting an effective structure in place for 1. (above) allows this shift to occur – classroom time can be used for review and deepening of already-acquired knowledge, instead of endless Powerpoint lectures covering the same basic materials (that they are supposed to be familiar with already)! This opens up more time for role-play and discussion of practical selling scenarios.
3. Providing field opportunities for “newbies” before they ever walk in the door for P1 Training. It is very difficult to envision how all of this information and training is going to be applied, if you haven’t had the opportunity for some field rides with managers or mentors before/during Home Study. Having a practical view of the work context – and the role the rep will be playing – will make the training come alive.
4. Sequencing the training in both a realistic and strategically intelligent manner. Is it truly reasonable to expect that someone can digest three straight weeks worth of information, delivered via the Fire Hose Express? We all know it’s not possible – so why can’t the early months of on-boarding and training be structured according to the dictates of common sense and sound instructional strategy, with an end goal of maximum effectiveness?
I know, change is hard. And, many times a training department is so immersed in day-to-day operational details that the idea of a comprehensive audit and re-vamping of process may seem daunting (shameless plug: that’s the kind of thing I help with!). But with growth, or mergers, or new specialties, or other business forces changing the way we do business, sometimes the “old way” just isn’t going to cut it any more.