Sales reps rely on company laptops

Pharmaceutical Representative

How common is laptop use among sales reps today? It's more the norm than the exception, according to recent survey of Pharmaceutical Representative's reader advisory panel.

How common is laptop use among sales reps today? It's more the norm than the exception, according to recent survey of Pharmaceutical Representative's reader advisory panel.

Nearly all - 98% - of the 85 sales reps who responded to the survey said they use a company-provided laptop for business purposes. Of those sales reps, more than 70% of respondents use IBM or IBM-compatible laptops and the remainder use Macintosh or Macintosh clones.

Sixty percent of company-provided laptops possess CD-ROM drives, although 48% of the reps who had a CD-ROM drive said they used theirs rarely. A few - 14% and 12%, respectively - reported using their CD-ROM drives daily or weekly. Ten percent said they never used their CD-ROM drives at all.

When reps did use their CD-ROM drives, they used them for continuing education programs, loading software, assessing business or financial information or listening to music.

Software

Of the 83 pharmaceutical sales reps who use company-provided laptops, the majority rely on the Microsoft suite of word-processing (Word, 81%), spreadsheet (Excel, 77%) and presentation (PowerPoint, 60%) software. A mere 6% reported having Adobe Illustrator software installed, and only 2% had Adobe Photoshop, revealing a general lack of use of graphic design software. Several sales reps also said they had WordPerfect and Clarisworks installed on their laptops.

Internet browsers share a more balanced distribution. Microsoft's Internet Explorer, installed on 18% of respondents' company-owned laptops, topped Netscape by only 1%. Another 8% of laptop users indicated they use other browsers, including services such as America Online.

The Internet and intranets

Surprisingly, although 96% indicated that their laptops possess modems, only 44% said they use the Internet - and less than half of those reps access the Internet through their laptops. Of the 36 sales reps who said they surf the Web (approximately an hour per day's worth, or once or twice per week), 67% do so at other computers. Several reps said their companies do not allow them to access the Internet via their laptops.

What Internet sites are those sales reps who have access visiting? Not the fluff and entertainment sites that their employers may fear.

Given a selection of business and financial sites, continuing education sites, entertainment sites, medical or scientific sites, motivational sites and news sites, business and financial sites were the most visited (81%) and medical or scientific were a close second choice (72%). News was the third most-visited site category (53%), and more than 22% of the respondents said they visited continuing-education sites.

All work and no play, however, would leave sales reps dreaming of pharmaceuticals as well as promoting them. To maintain their sanity, 31% said they also visited entertainment sites or used the Internet to play games. An additional 36% said they explored sports, legal, travel, retail and hobby sites.

As for company intranets, private Web-like networks accessible only to designated users, 64% of survey respondents said their companies had an intranet, but many commented that they did not or could not use it.

Of those using intranets, most said they use them primarily for internal messaging. One rep, however, reported that he used his company's intranet for "e-mail and reports, attaching files, physician profiles…and [accessing] network and technical support." PR