By Shaun McMahon
Regional field trainers (RFTs) are vital to understanding local healthcare practices and perspectives. Their unique position provides insight and real-world perspective crucial to succeeding in today’s crowded and chaotic marketplace. Tapping them as a resource throughout all stages of training development not only creates more effective programs that lead to real sales results, but also builds overall field force morale and engagement by recognizing the validity and value of peer-to-peer learning within each region.
However, there is still room for organizations to further optimize RFTs as a resource in training.
Regional directors may not be using RFTs to their full potential because they are concerned about pulling RFTs out of the field or overburdening them with administrative tasks. They also may not know how best to incorporate RFTs’ skills into the training. These concerns result in a missed opportunity for the region and the entire company.
What RFTs Bring to Training
Healthcare delivery and practice may now be largely governed by guidance from expert consensus panels. However, at the provider level, care remains individualized and subject to the beliefs and behaviors of the provider, the patient and other stakeholders, as well as the trends and policies of the community at large.
RFTs working in the community know these nuances; they know how to adapt and customize messages on products and the disease state to align with the communication style of the providers they’re meeting. They understand what is happening on the ground and how to navigate challenges and obstacles unique to each locale.
It’s no wonder that workshops conducted by RFTs tend to get higher ratings for being relevant and meaningful.
This on-the-ground perspective also means that RFTs are able to engage with representatives on a level regional directors (RDs) and regional leaders often cannot. Since they’re in the field themselves, they know what their fellow reps are seeing day in and day out. Their shared experience and sense of camaraderie with their peers allows them to be privy to information that reps wouldn’t necessarily share with an RD.
Likewise, they help bridge the gap between the sales force and commercial learning and development (CL&D). A good RFT will regularly take the pulse of their region and pass along the feedback they are receiving. They advocate for their region while also working with CL&D to implement their goals.
The cycle is productive — the RFT brings the challenges the reps are facing to headquarters, headquarters finds solutions, and the RFT returns to their peers and trains them in these solutions. These issues can be as discrete as fine-tuning a response to an objection in a role-play scenario to be more relevant or as broad as reminding reps why role-play practice is important.
How and Where to Utilize RFTs in Training
RFTs are an excellent choice for leading workshops during national sales meetings and plan of action (POA) sustainment, especially those workshops that benefit from community insight and peer-to-peer guidance, such as objection handling. That said, an RFT’s involvement should start long before the meeting. Have them review training materials in early stages and throughout development to make sure the modules and workshops will be as helpful and relevant as possible.
On regional calls, regularly allot RFTs dedicated time to share what they’re hearing in the field. Use that time to pick their brains for topics for CL&D to consider, such as for POA sustainment.
Identify what topics each RFT is excited about and allow them to focus their energy there. When an RFT is excited about a workshop, participants will easily see its value and trust that it will reflect their experience.
Similarly, the RFT should be allowed flexibility in determining how best to support and represent their region. Ideally, an RFT should be chosen for an extended period (eg, two or more years) to allow them to grow into the position. Every region is different, and there will be no one-size-fits-all approach, but RFTs will know what approaches will work best.
For an ambitious RFT with an interest in training, this is a great way to network, gain management experience, and develop into a role with some authority, while also boosting the performance of the entire region.
As one RD put it, “We ask the RFTs to be leaders, to be representatives of CL&D as well as representatives of their peers, and they become leaders by extension.”
RFTs interviewed at companies where they are utilized in training have expressed great pride and satisfaction in their work.
By their nature, RFTs are superstars in their field, and sharing their skills and passion can lift an entire salesforce.
Shaun McMahon is president and founder of Illuminate. Email Shaun at email@example.com.