What about the evolution of wireless technology? What sort of advantages has it provided for reps?
Sales reps started with laptops in the field, then slates, then tablets to communicate information to doctors. Then PDAs came
out. Although the original concern about PDAs was that you couldn't put as much data on them as you could on the computer,
they had the advantage of being in the rep's pocket. That broke through the barrier about how to store a useful amount of
data on a telephone.
Today, it's possible to add GPS to the equipment. That means reps can actually have a device that doesn't need to carry all
of the data because the back end can track where they are and download only the data of the customers who are in their vicinity.
Now that prices for Smart phones are dropping, systems like this are ideal for small companies. They're cost-effective and
the sales force automation system is on the back end. You never have to change it if your sales force grows from 30 to 300
reps. And since the sales reps enjoy the portability, it's a win-win situation for both the company and its reps. It represents
a whole new world of thinking about what resources you give a rep. Instead of sending everything to them once a night, send
what they need now. It gives tremendous flexibility with the platform you choose.
One of the advantages on this system is if a rep finds himself with free time, the GPS system can simply give him the clients
who are nearby and enable more opportunistic calls.
It looks at when the doctor's available. It looks at when you called there last. And if you decide to make the call, it'll
give you all the previous history of your calls and what samples you dropped there. Even though you weren't planning to make
the call, it's all there for you.
Plus, there is no training on a phone; reps can pick it up and run it. I'm on the low threshold of technical competence in
the company, so if I can work it, anyone can work it. This also cuts down the costs of re-training a new rep—it takes a whole
layer of cost out of the system.
You spent a lot of time looking at what reps actually do in the field with the technology they have. What were some of the
most interesting things they can do with wireless systems?
Reps, especially hospital reps, get frustrated when they're about to make a call on somebody and another doctor appears. In
traditional SFA systems, they had to go and find the new doctor's record and bring it forward, which could take some time.
But new SFA systems are tailored to real-world events that get in the way of a rep executing their plan. It makes a huge difference
to the usability and, therefore, desirability of the system. For example, if a rep is working a group practice, he may have
seen one doctor, but another doctor signs for the sample. Now he has the ability to quickly substitute that doctor's signature
onto the call history of another doctor, which takes mere seconds.
You're going to find large pharmaceutical companies adopt the telephone as their SFA device in the next couple of years, but
first companies will adopt it as the companion, and then that'll be the one that the reps use all the time. Eventually companies
will wonder why they're using laptops at all and use these phones with SFA systems exclusively.