Training Tools for Today and Tomorrow
Feature Story – By Shaun McMahon
Let’s look at your current training strategies and emerging techniques that it would
be wise to adopt.
It’s a given that life sciences sales training programs must address current challenges in the marketplace. But if your sales force is also prepared to deal with oncoming issues, then your team’s resiliency is strengthened and their odds for ongoing success are greatly improved.
Let’s look at both the training strategies that you should already be applying and the emerging techniques that it would be wise to adopt now.
Delivering content in bite-sized nuggets isn’t a fresh idea, but there’s a reason we’ve become familiar with it: It works. Studies have found that working memory capacity and attention span in human beings is quite brief – in fact the average amount of time that a person can apply focused attention to something is only 8.25 seconds. (While that sounds shockingly brief, as a species we do beat squirrels, which have only a 1-second attention span. Goldfish, however, are a hair better at concentrating: They can focus for 9 seconds.)
So, it shouldn’t be surprising that material that is thoughtfully and carefully delivered in small segments will be 50 percent more engaging than lengthier presentations, and the transfer of learning when using microlearning formats is 17 percent more efficient.
How can you most effectively structure curriculum into smaller bites? First, identify key learning objectives and draft concise material that explains and reinforces these. Be sure to present them in a methodical sequence that allows the learning process to build, and space the delivery of information to allow for absorption and provide needed ‘attention breaks.’
We also find that microlearning content is easier to grasp when accompanied by illustrative, easily understood graphics.
Delivery methods that we prefer for microlearning formats include:
- Short, informative podcasts of two to five minutes each for easy on-the-go listening.
- Micro/mini modules that reduce sitting time.
- Quick hit, easily digestible videos on topics like the patient/physician journey.
- Short assessments of learning that utilize the ‘testing effect’ (curriculum that’s designed to prompt review of information at regular intervals).
Creating individual paths based on learner inputs and actions increases focus and efficiency and accelerates the learning process.
Shorthand for curriculum shared on mobile devices, mLearning allows for “on-the-go” learning and is especially handy when a sales professional needs a quick refresh before meeting with a prescriber or wants a straightforward platform for quickly identifying pertinent information. Fortunately, advances in technology mean that it’s cheaper and easier than ever to mount rich media and immersive content on mobile platforms, which allows your training program to compete with your trainee’s own favorite apps when they’re reaching for an activity!
mLearning platforms also allow users to swipe through prescribing information at their own pace, tapping callouts in each section — if they desire — that highlight and explain key concepts, provide clinical context, and link to promotional messages. Some mLearning programs allow users to watch videos and take sprints or assessments on their devices as well.
Gaming and Gamification
As any parent knows, gaming is both addictive and a tempting distraction from study. Those are two reasons why integrating gaming into your training program – along with gamification activities like contests and leaderboards – is a necessity. Well-designed, interactive games can be used to introduce information and improve retention, and they allow for immediate feedback. “Rewards” can be offered for achievements and learning analytics can be applied to personalize the games based on each individual learner’s performance and assessed needs.
Also, while the solitary nature of gaming means that learners have the freedom to fail without judgment, it’s also possible to turn learning exercises into team-style competitive gamification exercises, with point assignments, badges, and leaderboards. Whether competing with others or simply trying to improve their own performance, gaming is both engaging and motivating for learners.
While many of these training techniques are primarily solitary in nature, working with a coach is another effective and essential component of the sales training process. A good coach will help your trainees maximize their learning through meaningful back-and-forth, individualized support, and immediate correction of missteps.
Coaching venues include teleconference series, as well as during morning reports that integrate content pulled from home study and workshops, coordinated to match study timelines and reinforcement of key messaging.
We touched on personalization above, but it’s an important approach that deserves its own call-out. Creating individual paths featuring updateable and adaptable content based on learner inputs and actions increases focus and efficiency and accelerates the learning process.
Examples of strategic personalization opportunities include targeted remedial training based on individual performance; program content that is individualized so that no two trainees complete the same course; and microlearning modules developed to address the learning objectives of each trainee.
Are you currently employing all the above strategies in your training program? Then you’re in great shape – for the moment. Our sales landscape is constantly shifting and evolving, and we recommend integrating the following emerging concepts as well:
Apply either augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) technologies to provide a more dynamic and immersive training experience, depending on budget. For a lesser cost, augmented reality will reinforce content with an interactive workbook and micromodules that spotlight important content from disease progression to mechanism of action. Virtual reality, meanwhile, provides exceptionally immersive realworld opportunities to understand a condition and its medication, and to then refine sales strategies.
In 2019, instructor-led training will feel like a return to basics, but with a modern edge. Pairing a more traditional learning style with modern tools will allow for a healthy balance of face-to-face and transporting, virtual classroom methodologies. This combination will increase learners’ engagement and strengthen training outcomes.
Maximize User Experience
Sometimes the best method of learning is doing. Hands-on methods that elevate the user experience have proven popular and productive, and it’s an approach being used more often and widely.
Being aware of the ever-evolving needs of life sciences sales teams and adapting training programs to meet them is essential to growth.
Usually scheduled at national or POA meetings, programs feature interactive stations emphasizing different skills, sales calls and sales targets and common issues to be resolved. Representatives are free to select the stations where they need reinforcement, and skip those where they feel more proficient. These supportive environments allow for real-world message testing and problem resolution and contribute toward improved sales technique and confidence.
Today’s multi-billion-dollar life sciences industry is a vital contributor to our country’s fiscal health and, of course, to our own health, with new medications coming onto the market regularly. Being aware of the ever-evolving needs of life sciences sales teams and adapting our training programs to meet them is essential to the industry’s continuing growth and our important role as trainers.
Shaun McMahon is the founder and president of Illuminate. Email Shaun at