Flying Under the Radar - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Flying Under the Radar
Pharma companies are overlooking the importance of training for regional managers and directors. What they don't realize might hurt them in the long run.


PE Sales Management


In particular, companies wrestle with the delicate issue of when training should take place: on selling time, or on the rep's or manager's own time. Companies that preach the importance of work-life balance can struggle with this issue, Rauschkolb says. "While it is always important to maximize field time, we want people to approach training as an activity that the company endorses because they know that it ultimately will help drive business results, rather than just another chore." What's the solution? "The key to making technology-based training successful might be to give salespeople permission to do it for 30 minutes at the beginning or end of the day," Rauschkolb says. "But this requires a change in mindset."

Companies also may take into consideration what reps like to do. "Salespeople are very gregarious by nature, and they like to get with other salespeople," says Otterbein. "DMs and RMs are the same way. They get a lot of energy and ideas from their peers when in the classroom. If given the choice of a one-day, Web-based course or a three-day classroom course, they will pick the classroom every time." In other words, the aphorism "build it, and they will come" doesn't apply to e-learning.


Intellectual Integration
Companies like Amgen also are investing in technology and tools that managers can use to track reps' development and assist them with coaching. Managers don't like ubiquitous training binders or complex computer programs. Amgen's online tool will be designed to make it easier for managers to set expectations, reinforce learning, perform ongoing coaching, and recognize reps for their efforts. According to the study, other companies are making similar investments in these tools (see "Intellectual Integration").

Mixed Messages for Headcount

While most L&D departments continue to spend the majority of their time focused on sales force activities, trainers also partner with legal, marketing, and HR departments to deliver compliance and product manager training, and other courses.

"If you were in pharma training 10 years ago, tied into a therapeutic team, and as long as you had the sales message down and solid presentation skills, you were in pretty good shape," says Mani Chidambaram, director of learning and development at Esprit Pharma. "Now, our responsibilities have broadened ten-fold. But this is a positive thing. For those of us in training who want to do bigger and better things in our organizations, our training role gives us a much broader range of experience than we might get in the field."


Taking a Headcount
According to the SPBT benchmark study, the ratio of learners to trainers is virtually unchanged compared with the same study they did in 2003 (see "Taking a Headcount"). There are currently an average of 62 salespeople for every in-house trainer. This ratio, though, differs by company size and type. There are generally more salespeople per trainer at Big Pharma (87 to 1) than at biotech companies (38 to 1).

The industry is adding more trainers to the mix for several reasons. There are more reps to be trained; there is a desire to improve the learner-to-trainer ratio; and there is a desire to improve the learner-to-trainer ratio. Overall, 41 percent of the survey respondents reported that their pharma company had plans to grow.


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Source: PE Sales Management,
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