What Does It Take to be a Global Leader in Training - Pharmaceutical Executive


What Does It Take to be a Global Leader in Training

Pharmaceutical Executive

And when it comes to delivery, whether it is a Web-based course or even a paper-based course—everything gets organized through the Wyeth TRAINet and gets either mailed out or electronically sent to individuals. If individuals are delinquent in certain areas, there are automatic e-mails that go out to remind them.

The investment in technology, along with adapting to a new world, has helped us. If I look at our training budget over the last five years, we have reduced it by about 30 percent. The cost of new rep training is down 50 percent. Some of that is because they are not in the classroom as much. But a lot is because we have employed better training techniques. Even with budget reductions, we are probably doing 50 percent more than we did five years ago.

What accounts for that reduction?

I think days in the classroom are definitely a big part of it. And different training techniques—where people can do training on the other side of a telephone line or on the other side of the computer—are definitely a little cheaper. We have production costs obviously, but we have been able to maximize what we do.

All that has come together over the last three, four, or five years. Companies learn from each other. The pharma companies will share a lot of information with each other. The Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers (SPBT) is a forum for sharing information. Training magazine offers a large training conference, as well as the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD). There are lots of venues for trainers to get together, not just in our industry, but across industries. And there are a number of good vendors that have helped us.

I have noticed when I have been to SPBT conferences that trainers are much more interested in sharing information than any other discipline in the pharma industry. Why is that?

I don't know. Ever since I joined the industry about 27 years ago, even within our own district there was always sharing among our sales group. Fellow sales reps would compete with each other for awards, but we were always sharing information, even within our district. To this day, we do the same thing at Wyeth. It is a sharing organization.

I think pharma, over the years, has been known for that. I think it is because we are in a professional situation where we are one-on-one with doctors. To a degree, we are selling. But we are also giving information and knowledge to a physician and providing fair balance. There are some professional courtesies among sales reps that you won't see in other industries at all.

What about the fear of creating antitrust issues or of inadvertently sharing competitive information?

Obviously there is proprietary information. We are always aware of that. That probably stops a lot of the discussion. But I know in other industries, sales reps definitely will not talk to each other or even acknowledge each other, the competition. That has never been the way it is in pharmaceuticals.

Within our organizations—and I will use Wyeth as an example here—our marketing teams collaborate well across business units. There is a lot of sharing of ideas within our team.

There used to be an understanding that a lot of product managers and brand team people grew up through the sales force. Is that still true?

At Wyeth, yes. Even though we have some individuals who come up through different ranks, I think if you looked at the majority of our people that have moved on to product management, they started out carrying the bag. They have become district managers and then come into the home office and started in product management and moved on from there.


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