Unleash the Tablets - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Unleash the Tablets
Reps have been armed with tablet PCs, but are they trained to use these powerful tools?


Pharmaceutical Executive


Comprehensive training As with all new technologies, some reps will take to it like ducks to water, while others stand on the sidelines waiting for it to become the gold standard. But, proper training can help ensure that reps know how to use the tool and fully understand it, so that they can integrate digital selling into call routines.

Companies should first train reps on the basic hardware and software, then follow up with thorough application training. To make reps fully proficient with the resource, managers should offer at least two days of face-to-face training.

Work with the medium A new medium or device might look cutting edge, but it's the content that attracts and engages healthcare professionals. Whether you are launching a brand or working to extend its life, telling the story on the tablet is different than telling it through a traditional visual aid. Don't expect stellar results from scanning in a paper-based visual aid and presenting it on a tablet. Rather, reps should maximize the tool's power by personalizing multi-media effects, such as key opinion leader and mechanism-of-action videos, or by presenting relevant journal articles.

Measure, analyze, and adapt Tablet PCs can collect data in real-time. Knowing what was detailed and collecting physician responses to questions can provide the learning necessary to update messages on a frequent basis, even between plans of action (POAs), which traditionally drive most of the development of detail aids.

The Bottom Line Marketplaces are changing rapidly and the speed of response can mean the difference between gaining one or two share points. Previously, once competitive data was collected, companies conducted conference calls to arm reps with counter details; this could sometimes take weeks. Now, thanks to new technologies like tablet PCs, executives can offer reps the ability to download new visuals and counter details for a more rapid and thorough response. This marketplace adjustment allows the reps to get out the most effective and timely message.

The cost/benefit equation Making the decision to roll out tablet PCs and closed- loop marketing software to the sales force is a big step. But to ensure success, companies also must make the decision to invest in the support services, such as strong creative development, additional strategic planning personnel, and IT support. Keep in mind that some of those dollars will be offset by the lower costs of printing, shipping, and storing of paper core sales aids or training materials.

As with any investment in new technology, there are those that will over invest and those that underinvest. Based on the information gleaned from pilots, managers can make sure they have optimized the investment. Companies that make calculated risks with sound plans will succeed in the digital detailing world.

Similarly, companies can increase their ROI in tablet PCs and closed-loop marketing software by leveraging efficiencies across multiple brands or at an enterprise-wide level. This amortizes the investment because it facilitates centralized training and the sharing of best practices and cross-brand efficiencies. But that doesn't mean one size fits all: Each brand team must have the ability and creativity to build the best solution for its specific business needs.

Despite the challenges that adopting new communication channels present to marketing and sales departments, the long-term benefits outweigh the risks. As pharma companies continue to strive to optimize their sales forces, adoption of best-of-breed digital detailing solutions will be essential to keeping reps in the game. However, without careful consideration of how to best deploy these new competitive strategies, companies will struggle to get reps up to speed.

Anthony Mason is EVP managing director, and Amy Katzenberg is VP client services director of Avenue-e Health Strategies. They can be reached at (212) 614-4909.


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