Keep The Training Wheels Rolling

By Malcolm Fleschner

Implementing pharmaceutical sales training for new hires should be a lot like running a relay race. The trainers do their job imparting the information and then hand off to the district managers who take the baton by helping their salespeople seamlessly implement the strategies and approaches they’ve just learned in the field.

Unfortunately, pharmaceutical sales organizations operate on a notoriously slippery track and this training-to-field baton passing does not always go smoothly. The good news is that diligent managers are not powerless against these challenges. Writing recently in Pharmaceutical Representative Magazine, pharma and biotech industry trainers Laura Montocchio and Jamie St. Peter offer a four-point plan for district managers looking to strengthen the bridge between new hires’ corporate sales training and frontline deployment.

1. Talk to the trainers.
If your company encourages managers to participate in field sales training, great. If not, how about volunteering? Failing that, get in touch with the training staff to request information on the latest curriculum and learning objectives. Solicit suggestions for implementing and supporting your new charges’ efforts when they begin making calls.

2. Go back to basics.
Though you might be tempted to refashion your new reps’ selling efforts to match your own style, this isn’t a great idea. You’re likely to simply overwhelm them by creating an information overload. Instead, during the first three months they’re on the job, stick to the fundamentals. Use the same terminology they’ve learned in the training and provide an ongoing seminar on the basics until these elementary selling skills become second nature.

3. Mix it up.
It’s well established that learning styles vary among different people. For the attentive sales manager this means delivering instruction in a variety of forms. Role playing is, of course, one good alternative. Other approaches include asking reps to study the marketing-approved guide to, say, objection handling and then quizzing them on the material. Or, because there’s no better way to learn something than by teaching it to others, the rep could lead a review of the material during a sales meeting.

4. Open up the floor.
It’s always a good idea to create a one-year development plan for all new sales hires. Even better is to let these reps take an active role in their own progress. Maintain an open-door policy for suggestions they might have for new ideas to reinforce training, as well as input on developmental goals and opportunities. Once you’ve agreed to implement these ideas, follow through with performance appraisals and by regularly monitoring their progress.