Thought Leader: A Q&A with Steve Rauschkolb

New Training Wheels
Nov 01, 2005
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

Steve Rauschkolb
Whoever says change is good clearly understands the direction in which pharma sales are evolving. With new guidelines pressuring companies to demonstrate superior value, and an environment that will tolerate little else, pharma firms are looking toward innovation and technology to create better training methods—this is particularly important as the sales force changes size and shape. Virtual classrooms and more focused attention to sales reps are just some of the strategies companies are now applying to training departments.

As president of the Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers (SPBT), Steven Rauschkolb is practical in his approach and realistic in his views about concentrating on training veteran reps and getting upper management support early on. Rauschkolb maintains core values are still important in pharma training—targeting, product knowledge, and selling skills—but stresses that if firms want to get ahead of the game, change is important.

Pharm Exec: With the new sales structures, where is the biggest area of change for trainers?

Rauschkolb: The most important result of the changing sales structure for pharma firms is a reduction in the amount of training resources that are available to them; it could mean the reduction in manpower or the amount of time departments have to train people. It is also going to mean rethinking the structure of the training department to support the new field alignments.

Technical Support
Where training takes place will also change. Does it take place in the home or regional office, or is it Web- or self-based? This is an important issue, because if there is a reduction in resources, the training departments are going to have to be much more creative about how they get the training out to people.

We're also beginning to see that training centers' efforts are being shifted or split. While many companies in the past focused 100 percent of their training initiatives on the training department, you may see more companies going to a field or regional trainer to supplement what the home office does, if they haven't already done that. That's important because it allows reps to remain in territories, and that's really the biggest cost component in training.

What's your advice for implementing change to training methods?

As the new sales model begins to exhibit some changes, it's important for district managers and trainers to gain upper-management support very early in the process. These are the types of changes that you can't make unilaterally, and you need to find an early adopter or opinion leader among senior management who is on your side. You have to be proactive and get a supporter that will allow you to pilot different models and different ways of implementing training.

How will pharma companies affect change to training models?

One of the methods that is changing is an increased focus on training the seasoned reps. Ten years ago, the focus of the training department was really on the new hire, but I'm seeing more and more emphasis on training the vast majority of the field force that's been selling for a longer period of time.

If you're going to make a change in the way you train or the way you sell, they're the largest group to focus on, because they're the ones that have been trained to do it differently in the past. They are using the original methods and techniques that they were trained on—where the greatest change needs to take place. When you train a new hire, they don't know any different for the most part, and they'll take what you have to tell them at face value.

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