Thought Leader: A Q&A with Steve Rauschkolb - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Thought Leader: A Q&A with Steve Rauschkolb
New Training Wheels

Pharmaceutical Executive


To be able to continue to provide a high level of support to the field forces, there will be an increasing need for training departments to demonstrate return on investment and show the value they bring to the companies. More and more, the training departments are being asked to measure what they do. The seasoned reps are the crucial element here, since they can get the quickest return on investment training, especially the ones that are already successful.

Do seasoned reps require different methods of training than new hires?

In the future, you're going to see training be much more individualized, as opposed to just taking the whole field force and putting them through one comprehensive program. There's going to be much more accountability for individuals to take advantage of the development opportunities that they have.

How are companies applying new training strategies in the face of limited access to doctors?

They have to change the way they sell, because they don't have the luxury of being able to do the same things as before the PhRMA guidelines. The focus is more on having a quality exchange with the physicians. On the other hand, in the past, the reps that demonstrated they could provide some value within an office and to a physician were the ones that got more time anyway. That's just magnified now because the weaker representatives don't have the things they used to have to fall back on in lieu of selling. Product knowledge, selling skills, and an ability to provide value are more important than ever.

How will smaller sales forces affect the role of the district manager?

The role of the district manager is becoming increasingly more important. Reps who get better coaching from their manager are more likely to retain that training and implement it in the field.

Do you think the industry will replace classroom instruction with Web-based learning?

No. I think e-learning is an effective tool for certain parts of training, but there is no replacement for face-to-face training when you're teaching things like selling skills.

In fact, trainers are increasing the amount of time they spend with sales reps. And trying to make training more realistic by bringing in actual physicians to role play with the representatives.

Okay, but will companies continue to shift their training methods online?

Yes and no. We are seeing companies increase their use of technology and e-training, but I'm not sure we're getting the productivity gains or incremental benefits that we thought we were going to get with the use of technology.

There's been a change in focus from buying off-the-shelf training programs to customizing programs and developing custom content. Early on, there was a big rush to get content out there to justify the cost of learning-management systems and Web-based training, but the return on investment was not there. What we are seeing now is not so much a game of making tons of training accessible and hoping people would take it; it's more of a game of focusing on ensuring that the training you put out there is highly relevant to what people need, and is customized to the way you do business in your company.

Do you have any other thoughts on how evolving trends or changes to the pharma sales structure will affect training methodologies?

It's important for the people in the training department and the people who are redeploying the field force to talk frequently and early, so that the training department can start to talk about what changes need to be made to the model in order to fully support what's going on in the field. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to have a training department that's structured from a business-unit perspective if the field force is going to be redeployed in a more therapeutic or specific-product area.

While change comes slowly, one obstacle will be getting senior leadership's consensus, and allowing them to give you the time to train the people. It comes down to looking at the changes that have taken place in our industry, and figuring out how we are going to adapt to them.

Steve Rauschkolb is associate vice president of leadership and management development at Sanofi Aventis. As president of the Society of Phamaceutical and Biotech Trainers (SPBT), he also serves on the editorial advisory board of Pharmaceutical Representative magazine (an Advanstar publication). Prior to joining Aventis, Rauschkolb was the senior director of the University of Pfizer, Hospital and Specialty Representative Training.


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