Like most industries, COVID-19 disrupted life sciences operations, especially the activities of their commercial teams. Commercial pharmaceutical and medical device sales professionals are accustomed to engaging and building direct relationships with their customers during on-site visits at hospitals. But given the impact of the pandemic on healthcare providers, pharmaceutical and medical device sales professionals have by necessity shifted to digital channels to communicate with physicians. This digital communication strategy also has to avoid bombarding pharmaceutical, medical devices, and healthcare providers with too many communications or too much pressure at a time when patient-centricity is their top priority.

Life sciences training leaders are taking the lead to help their sales professional colleagues adapt to these new circumstances. But just as face-to-face meetings in healthcare settings are not currently feasible, nor are in-person training sessions to help people adapt fast to these new sales circumstances. Sales reps need new skills that weren’t necessary due to the nature of how pharmaceutical and medical devices teams sell face-to-face. Also, because of COVID-19, reps need new essential knowledge and skills that aren’t exactly sales related but are nonetheless crucial for overcoming challenging times. And sales training teams can play a vital role in enabling reps to adapt to all these changes and gain new knowledge and skills that can help them overcome these challenges and even continue to use these lessons to continue to be successful now and in the future.

1. Health and Well-Being

Although educating people on taking care of themselves and focusing on their health and well-being is not the main responsibility for sales training teams, during stressful times it’s important to focus on our health by exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy diet. If people aren’t prioritizing their personal needs in this environment, it will result in burnout and a lack of motivation which will have an impact on our productivity. Sales training teams can provide reps with basic knowledge and resources for staying active while working from home. If this is not an area that sales training teams have expertise in, human resources teams always have programs like these setup, so partner up with them to provide support for the sales organization.

2. Resiliency and Mindsets

We must accept the world that we are currently living in, and we will only be able to control the things that are in our power. Resiliency training helps sales reps continue to thrive in the midst of the current challenges. Also, it will help them adapt and quickly recover from any stress they’re experiencing. Sales training teams can create training that reinforces positive mindsets and removes negative thoughts that decrease their attention and focus. If we help sales teams create a positive mindset and accept the new world we’re living in, it will help them see the big picture and use this as an opportunity to grow professionally and as an organization. In the pharmaceutical industry, where there is currently much more downtime in interactions with physicians, now’s the time to embrace spending extra time on learning and development and focus on gaining new skills and knowledge or refreshing skills that have been lost. Creating a culture of positive mindsets will pay off now to get through these tough times but also for a smooth transition back when such a transition is possible.

3. Technical Skills

The transition to a virtual selling model has made it mandatory for reps to learn new technical skills. Now reps are operating digitally using communication and collaboration tools like Zoom, Veeva Engage, WebEx, Adobe Connect, Microsoft Teams, and Slack. Educating reps on how to log in, use the tools, or even sharing best practices to be proficient when interacting with physicians and other colleagues.

4. Clinical Acumen, Presentation, and Communication Skills

Soft skills have always been a priority for sales training teams to help them engage, communicate, and build trusted relationships with physicians during on-site visits. But these practices change when conducted through digital channels. Sales training teams can help reps become just as effective virtually by using scenario-based learning techniques that help place reps in the types of situations they will encounter when speaking to physicians. Scenario-based learning creates an authentic experience that gives reps the opportunity to react to the situation making them use their critical thinking and decisions making skills.

This approach builds confidence and gives the learner the ability to easily transfer and recall the knowledge to real-life work. Video role-play is also a beneficial learning method to help reps practice their clinical acumen when they’re presenting in front of physicians digitally. Sales reps can record quick three minute videos of themselves as they would when communicating with a physician on a certain product. Managers review the rep’s video pitch and provide feedback on how they can improve things like their tone, eye contact, or even call out if they are miscommunicating product information. When it’s time to transfer practice to real citations, reps will have already had the practice which will give them a better turnout and experience for the physician.

Microlearning for Life Sciences Knowledge Reinforcement

Pharmaceutical and medical devices sales training teams turn to microlearning to deliver highly customized training content to reps via mobile device or computer. Microlearning is a flexible training format, ideal for reps that are working remotely. Sales reps are presented with scenario-based Q&A challenges and respond to them at any time during their day, then they get immediate feedback on their response. Additionally, an explanation of the question appears for reps to review for them to better understand and recall the material. They can also see how they responded relative to their peers and a leaderboard for a friendly competition. Being remote, reps are permitted to still collaborate and discuss training content as if they were in person by commenting and socializing on discussion boards. Microlearning is a flexible format to scale learning for pharma and medical device reps between calls with physicians. Sales training teams are able to keep reps engaged, keep information refreshed, and top of mind for when reps are back to operating back to normal. The feedback received from reps using microlearning as a new training initiative has been extremely positive from Qstream customers in the pharmaceutical and medical device space.

In a webinar with LTEN and Qstream's customers at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Fresenius Medical Care, and Daiichi Sankyo, they share how sales training teams can best support their sales force while working remotely and how to better prepare them for what’s to come. Watch the webinar here: Preparing Your Sales Training for a Virtual World.

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