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Beyond Training: Focusing on Learning and Development

Today, COVID-19 has upended virtually all aspects of our personal and professional lives. For sales professionals accustomed to face-to-face interaction with prescribers, the impact of the current pandemic is immense.

As we settle into a period during which sales are conducted online or by phone, the ability of pharmaceutical sales representatives to engage general practitioners confidently, competently and concisely is more important than ever. That’s why an emphasis on training that targets a comprehensive understanding of medical conditions and product attributes— programming that is focused on learning and development—is so important.

An approach that focuses on learning and development not only establishes a sales rep’s abilities; it also advances and sustains them. A former client once said, “We train dogs. People need to learn.” While training can be seen as a one-and-done approach, learning and development implies long-term commitment and investment.

In an effective learning and development program, once fundamentals are understood and absorbed through a host of strategies like gamification, an engaging method that encourages learning through repetition of key information, learners continue to grow as experts on the subject.

So how can we ensure that we are not simply “training”? What are the essential components of a program that places sales pros on a consistent and seamless course of growth?

Microlearning, which presents key foundational material in digestible nuggets, is one effective tool in this process. It requires program developers to elevate key curriculum, consolidating it to its most essential and easily-memorized core elements. This material, presented multiple times across various formats, creates a foundation of touchstones, to which sales professionals can easily refer back and build upon.

Of course, many other traditional development-stage training practices involve the sort of group settings and interactions that are not currently possible. However, there are valuable, engaging approaches that observe the guidelines of social distancing that can be applied to the further development of sales abilities. These include podcasts, one-on-one phone or Zoom/Skype practice calls with trainers and team meetings on these and other virtual platforms.

Regular use of these technologies offers an additional benefit: familiarity. Sales reps are developing the skills necessary to confidently use platforms that may become primary methods for communication with medical professionals and prescribers.

The current situation is, in many ways, challenging. However, one positive is that the new learning solutions and improved development strategies necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic will not only help us now but will also make for a more robust and stronger sales force in the future.

Shaun McMahon is president and founder of Illuminate. Email Shaun at

Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network

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