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It’s not news that the pharmaceutical industry is undergoing a digital transformation – pretty much every industry is. This is expected to be a positive change since research has consistently shown that companies that achieve digital excellence tend to outperform competitors in terms of responsiveness, agility, innovation, and revenue.

However, it isn’t as if digital promotion and eMarketing are going to completely take over traditional sales channels in pharmaceuticals. Done with skill, planning, and forethought, changes brought about by the digital transformation should empower pharmaceutical sales teams by helping them be more relevant to the healthcare providers they work with. Digital vs. traditional is not, in other words, an either-or proposition.

Today’s pharmaceutical sales forces are being transformed into smaller, more flexible and focused science-based teams. Naturally, this means that pharmaceutical sales training has to adapt to this new reality. Here are 3 things pharmaceutical sales trainers need to know going into this changing paradigm.

1. What Some of the Emerging Technologies Are

Pharmaceutical sales reps have always been equipped with samples, which are favorites of prescribers. But now more healthcare providers are requesting samples through digital channels, and pharmaceutical sales training will have to get sales reps up to speed on these exciting new technologies. Though this may sound like it cuts out the sales rep, it doesn’t. Physician “e-orders” for samples automatically notify his or her sales rep, who has a window of time in which to personally fulfill the order. If this is not possible, the order is then filled electronically.

Premium digital content is taking over for medical textbooks as tools for accessing healthcare providers. Sales reps can help providers download digital content, and by doing so open up a new world of contact points with healthcare providers. This digital content makes a great partner for other mobile campaigns that target health care providers, such as e-orders for samples. Sales reps also have access to tools that can offer samples, patient coupons, or research papers to prescribers at the point of care.

2. The Importance of Apps and Other Digital Channels

Many pharmaceutical companies are developing apps that physicians can download (from iTunes, for example). One example is an app by Novo Nordisk that helps physicians calculate blood glucose levels. Merck, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and Sanofi-Aventis are other companies that have developed product-related apps for prescribers.

The goals of apps (and digital marketing channels in general) are multiple, and include:

• Enabling customer-driven marketing by sales reps
• Making customer relationship management (CRM) easier and more effective
• Demonstrating leadership in innovation
• Developing differentiators in a competitive marketplace
• Making the most of a multi-talented sales pool
• Facilitating standardization and accountability, particularly with the CMS Open Payments System

3. Factors That Can Hold Back Effective Change

As with digital transformation in any industry, there will be challenges, and pharmaceutical sales training has to address these as well to be effective. Some of the challenges are straightforward, like inadequate bandwidth, while others are more complex. One of the most important challenges that some pharmaceutical companies may face is inadequate buy-in from upper management. That’s why it’s critical that executives understand the return on investment of these technological changes and see the tools in action for themselves if possible.

Technological changes in the digital transformation can’t be seen as adding complexity without adding value, and that’s another reason why pharmaceutical sales training must be on-point and up to the task. Ultimately, the result should be an increasing emphasis on customer needs and customer value, and that’s another way the pharmaceutical industry is changing. The digital transformation should enhance this.

To make the digital transformation in the pharmaceutical industry successful, the entire company has to get behind it, and sometimes this can be intimidating. Besides acquiring the needed digital development skills, however, companies must be willing to invest in the pharmaceutical sales training that will empower sales reps to make the most of the exciting new technologies they increasingly have access to. Throughout, sales reps continue to bring health care providers critical information, while taking on a more long term educational role than they have before.

CLD assists pharmaceutical companies in designing and delivering custom pharmaceutical sales training, and is a leader in understanding the digital revolution taking place in pharmaceuticals and life sciences. CLD is proud to help pharmaceutical sales trainers develop sales teams that have the specialized combination of skills necessary to succeed in this exciting and changing marketplace. To find out more, please feel free to contact us, or check out our many free online resources.