Archive for the ‘Interview’ Category

Procter and Gamble to leave pharma? Procter & Gamble Co is working with Goldman Sachs Groupto identify potential buyers for its pharmaceuticals brands or find other ways to exit the business, people close to the matter said late on Wednesday, the Financial Times reported. Plus, Allergan the latest to announce job cuts.

Green tea blocks effectiveness of popular cancer drug. Wow. Contrary to popular assumptions about the health benefits of green tea, researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) have found that the widely used supplement renders a cancer drug used to treat multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma completely ineffective in treating cancer.

Novartis gets back to #1 with Managed Care Pharmacy Executives. Novartis’ rebound to No. 1 with pharmacy executives can be attributed to a big win in the area of value-added services, taking the top spot away from Pfizer. One pharmacy executive said, “Novartis has strongly responded to a previous deficiency in this area.” Pharmacy executives considered Novartis a leader in value-added services due in large part to its successful patient education materials and staff support.

PLUS – J&J and Social Media. A recap on the Eye on FDA blog. And – Pharma earning back trust – it’s a long post, but well worth the read. It ain’t just a PR problem, folks…from John Mack‘s Pharma Marketing blog.


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Impactiviti interviews Steve Woodruff, President and Founder of…Impactiviti. Steve consults with pharmaceutical clients on training, marketing, and communications initiatives, with a particular focus on strategic planning, project definition, and vendor recommendations.

Previously, Steve held Sales/Marketing/Business development positions with Pedagogue Solutions, and with a medical device company in the radiation medicine field. Steve actively blogs at the Impactiviti blog (pharma), and his blog called StickyFigure, which is focused on broader branding/marketing ideas.

Q1: Why did you start your own consulting business?

Two things converged to bring me to that rather scary decision. One, I concluded after many years in sales, that I was, in fact, more of a consultant than a salesperson – I loved hearing out challenges, thinking through solutions, and making recommendations. I would watch a real salesperson, and I’d say, “that’s not me.” I’m getting better at networking and schmoozing, but really, I’m an analytical type at heart. And secondly, I had entrepreneurial and creative drives that kept pushing to the surface, and I finally decided that the best way to use my skills was to build a business around…my skills. I happen to agree with Seth Godin that true job security means the hard work of creating something remarkable – not necessarily punching a clock.

Q2: Why was it scary?

It’s still scary. Starting a business means always living on the edge of potential failure. There’s no safety net. But I’d rather take the chance, and even risk failure, than look back later in life with regret that I didn’t have the courage to pursue my vision. One year in, I continue to approach each day with a sense of growing confidence – and stubborn fear.

Q3: What has been most fulfilling thus far?

Two things. One is sitting down with clients, hearing out their particular training needs, and being able very quickly to “match” them with a great provider. These win-win arrangements (the “recommendation” service which is unique to my business model) give me a real thrill because I have just saved a client from the headache of trying to guess who might make a good partner, and I’ve just helped my vendor/partner find new business that matches their abilities. I love that. The second thing has been to have the privilege to work with one particular client on a much fuller-scope assignment, evaluating a major part of their training structure and recommending major architectural changes (also vetting suppliers to help make it happen). I’m a big-picture, strategic thinker and those types of engagements are incredibly rewarding.

Q4: Who is your favorite client? And your favorite vendor/partner?

I’m a parent – I know this drill. They’re all my favorites! Actually, I’m privileged to regularly interact with some absolutely wonderful people, both on the client side and the supplier side. And I make it a point to build partnerships only with collaborative, quality, ethical companies. That’s the only way I can confidently provide recommendations. Did I avoid that question skillfully enough? Should I go into politics?

Q5: How do you keep up with all the blogging, and putting out a weekly newsletter?

I have too many ideas. And I love to write. After a year of blogging, I feel like I’m just now beginning to find my “voice.” Which, by the way, includes more humor than has been seen up ’til now…

Q6: What’s with that “other” blog, StickyFigure?

I’ve always been fascinated with branding and marketing. I focus on those topics on a separate blog, because many of those themes are not necessarily pharma-related. However, I view training, communications, and marketing as very closely related disciplines – they are all about using media and methods to make impact, to inform, to change minds, to inspire action. It’s a bit of a compulsion for me – I remember dreaming up a marketing campaign for some moving company way back in my teen years. When it comes to training, I believe in adult learning and instructional design, of course – but I’m always thinking about creativity, engagement, and impact.

Q7: Finally, how is your business doing?

I’m the odd type of consultant that gets a lot done in a short amount of time. Sometimes, all I need is 30 to 60 minutes to help clients find solutions (that’s the free recommendation service). So, yes, I am ready to work with more clients. I need to get out as much as possible!

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Impactiviti recently interviewed Jim DeMaioribus, Senior Director, Healthcare Strategy for Johnson & Johnson Healthcare systems, on the topic of Future Trends in Pharma Commercialization. Jim looks out at the healthcare market 3-5 years to understand the changes in the market that will have an impact on the various J&J companies in the Consumer, Pharmaceutical, and Medical Device sectors.

Previously, Jim held variety of Sales and Marketing positions within the Pharmaceutical industry as well as Global Strategic Marketing in Medical Devices.

Q1: What would you say are the two biggest changes going on in the overall healthcare space, which are impacting the pharmaceutical commercial model?

If you look at the last 20 years, the sole decision maker was the physician. Now look at the landscape. You have big providers, payors, government, PBMs, among others all have a hand in the decision process. Some companies see these entities as obstacles to the customer (physician); to be successful, you need to look at each of these groups as customers and look to satisfy their needs as well as the physician.

The second area is Evidence Based Medicine. With the investment in Electronic Health Records, many providers have access to a robust amount of clinical data. These provider systems are using that data to make decisions about pharmaceutical products. The upshot is that the Randomized Clinical Trial is no longer the only source of evidence on the block. How are the commercial organizations going to deal with a customer that may have more data about your product than you?

Q2: Do you think that social media, and DTC communications, may eventually erode the need for substantial sales forces?

Actually, no. I think the market is continuing to increase in complexity. With that, a commercial organization needs to apply resources across the market. I do think that the “detail” rep will need to continue to become more savvy about the evolving pharmaceutical market.

Q3: How do you see current regulatory trends impacting the way pharmaceutical field sales will occur in the coming years?

I actually think that after the shock wears off, you will see an increase in the importance of the pharmaceutical representative. Notice I did not use the term sales. Given the increase in areas such as Evidence Based Medicine and the increasing complexity of treatments with biologics and a move towards personalized medicine with an increase in theragnostics, the representative will be looked upon to have access to the right evidence to help the doctor-patient interaction.

Q4: If you could pinpoint one way in which sales training has had to change the most substantially in the past 10 years, what would that be? What do you think it will be in the next 5 years?

In the past ten years, the sales representative needed to understand the business side of medicine with the advent of Managed Care. Going forward, the operative word will be transparency. Data will be generated and available for your product from a variety of different sources. The representative that embraces a world of complete transparency will succeed. That means really knowing when and where your product should be used and where it should not.

Q5: What is the best thing that a pharmaceutical company can do in the current environment to create a more positive perception in the marketplace?

As an adjunct to the previous answer, we need to embrace an environment where there is more knowledge about the real world performance of your products outside of your company than inside. One word of caution: Before you decide to live in a house without window shades, you better go to the gym first.

Browse through some prior Impact Interviews here.

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Impactiviti recently interviewed Jennifer Zinn, Director, Worldwide Marketing, Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics. Before taking on this role, Jennifer was Group Director, Worldwide Training (Sales and Marketing) for the OCD commercial organization. Prior roles in Sales, Sales Management, and Training were held by Jennifer at McNeil Specialty Pharma, and Dupont Pharma. Jennifer has a particular interest in building and maintaining productive partnerships with vendor/suppliers, and that is the topic of this Interview.

Q1: From a broad perspective, how do you view building relationships with vendors?

First of all, I banish the use of the “v” word (“vendor”)! It is my philosophy to view suppliers of products and services, not as mere commercial storefronts, but as business partners – people who will work with me to create long-term, win-win solutions to business challenges.

Q2: What qualities do you look for in a vendor/partner?

First and foremost, I am looking for quality of work. Our partners are outstanding at what they do, and often have very unique offerings or skills that rise above the others in the marketplace. I also value a collaborative attitude, which shows itself in a productive approach to issue resolution. There will always be problems that surface in a business relationship or in a specific project; our partners understand that flexibility and reasonableness solve issues far more readily than hard-nosed tactics or avoidance of responsibility.

Obviously, I look for reliability over time – true partnerships are built over the long haul and our best partners come through with consistency. And, I seek to have partners that are willing to both give and receive candid feedback – pats on the back are great when warranted, but we aren’t looking for “sweet talk” when things begin to go south!

Q3: How do you work with your partners – either new or existing – when things don’t go well on a project?

First, you need to set clear expectations up front, and set up an on-going communication system. This will help you avoid 90% of the issues that may arise. When there IS a problem , I just state the issue and the expected solution. You have to trust that the intent of your partner is to deliver a high quality product. If you start from that premise, only good will follow.

Q4: Do you see any dangers in developing long-term partnerships with suppliers?

I have many long-term partners, and I find these relationships to be very valuable. The only “danger” that I see is complacency. It is easy for a supplier to become complacent – to assume that the business belongs to them no matter how they perform – but it is also easy for the client to slip into a type of complacency, valuing the warmth and good will of the partner relationship to the point of turning a blind eye to faults that surface. Both most be avoided.

Q5: How much emphasis do you place on recommendations and referrals in your decision-making process for new suppliers?

I place a tremendous amount of emphasis on referrals – how else would you know that the quality you expect is what you are going to receive? I also practice giving referrals to others who want to know about quality suppliers, which is another benefit to the in-depth knowledge that comes from long-term partnerships.

Browse through some prior Impact Interviews:

Small Company Training

Launch Training

Measuring Training

Enterprise Training

Global Training

Training in Pharma, Biotech, and Devices

Vendor Management

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Impactiviti recently interviewed Cynthia Canup, recently Director of Training at Connetics. Prior to her time at Connetics, Cindy was Director of Sales Training at Chiron, and also served as Associate Director of Management Training and Development, Novartis. The topic of this Impact Interview is Small Company Training – a perspective that Cindy can uniquely address, having worked with both large and emerging pharmaceutical companies.

Q1: What are the positive aspects of directing training at a smaller pharmaceutical company?

There are many! One of the prime benefits is having the opportunity to know most or all of the individuals on the sales teams, as well as the surrounding support staff. Similarly, the entire management team (inside & field) works closely in selection of field managers and management development candidates. In a larger pharmaceutical company, you can only get to know a relatively small percentage of the people, and therefore it is more difficult to lead with in-depth awareness. Also, Sales, Marketing, and Training tend to work more closely together, often having offices in the same building or even on the same floor. Communication is much more streamlined in such an environment.

Another advantage of working in a small company is the ability to “turn on a dime” – make changes rapidly in the face of changing conditions. Finally, being part of a smaller training teams means wearing more hats, and gaining broader experience in a variety of roles.

Q2: Sounds really nice…but what are some of the drawbacks?

Most everyone in this type of position will point to the relative lack of resources compared to a “Big Pharma” environment. Often, infrastructure and processes (such as eLearning platforms and practices) are not yet in place; budgets are smaller, and cost of training per person is huge…there are no real economies of scale. For instance, if you spend $180,000 on a training program, for a sales force of 1,200 that comes to $150/person. For a sales force of 80 it’s $2,250/person. Leading training in a smaller specialty pharma or biotech company is not a “behind-the-scenes” position – it’s definitely a “roll-up-your-shirtsleeves” environment.

Q3: What is the biggest mistake a training manager or director can make coming from “Big Pharma” into a smaller-company environment?

Simply put: holding on to wrong assumptions. What worked in a large company may not be effective at the new company. Importing those perspectives and practices can easily alienate field management and the field sales teams. If possible, sit in on training as it has been done before making any changes. Perform a needs assessment and gap analysis. Ask for field management input. And then assess how to make changes while maintaining buy-in and respecting the current culture.

Q4: From a budget perspective, how do you do more with less?

First, when working with vendors, create an information sheet describing your training needs, the state of your field force, and your expectations. Be careful about working with vendors who have only serviced large pharma companies – their pricing model may not adapt well. Build your network of other trainers in similar companies and seek referrals and advice. And reach out to trainers in other divisions of the company, seeing if there are shared resources that can be leveraged.

Q5: How should management development be practiced effectively in a smaller-company environment?

One important method is to seek out, or have developed, courses for reps that have a manager training component. Current Directors, VPs, and Managers should be utilized as much as possible for delivering training and mentoring, so that internal leaders can have a bird’s-eye view of emerging management talent. Expansions can sometimes be dramatic in the emerging company, so pro-active management development is crucial in order to have a good talent pool from which to draw when the opportunity arrives for expanded roles and responsibilities.


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Impactiviti recently interviewed Greg Sapnar, Associate Director, Metrics and Adaptation, Learning and Organization Development, Bristol-Myers Squibb. The topic of this Impact Interview is Measuring Training – an endeavor that occupies the majority of Greg’s professional attention. In his current role, Greg is tasked with developing and implementing standards and tools for measuring learning outcomes. Previously, Greg was the production manager at Business Training Systems, Inc., responsible for the design and production of OSHA compliance, health and safety training programs.

Q1: What made you decide to focus in on metrics and measurement as a career role?

Early in my career, I focused primarily on instructional design and media development with a vendor company. That type of work was very rewarding from a creativity standpoint, but as is often the case, I often wondered whether or not anyone was actually learning anything from the programs, or if the work was having the desired impact on performance. In my current corporate role, I continued my work in instructional design but was able to take a more serious look at outcomes. Most recently, I was offered the opportunity to focus solely on measurement for the learning group and gladly took on the role. I believe the metrics role in learning is critical, since it reveals the true value of the investment in learning.

Q2: In general, do you think pharma companies are doing a good job measuring training effectiveness?

There’s always room for improvement. From what I’ve seen most companies have learning groups that are activity based. They focus on keeping the machinery of training in motion without dedicating sufficient time or resources to looking at outcomes.

One unique feature of pharmaceutical representative training is the heavy knowledge base we are trying to build. This practice falls more in the realm of education than traditional training and provides a challenge when it comes to measurement, since most corporate learning folks aren’t experts in measuring cognitive skills. There is also much room for improvement in developing valid and reliable tools as well as improving the consistency of our human raters, who evaluate representatives in role play scenarios. All metrics processes need to be formalized and structured in order to provide valid data to inform decisions.

Q3: What do you feel are the most important tools and processes for the job?

The most important tools are the ones which can capture what you want to measure. That is key. We need to practice “situational” measurement. It is important not to fall into the trap of thinking that because you have a good computerized testing system, everything can be measured with online testing, or that because you have a suite of role play rooms, you only need to evaluate using role play. A good learning organization should have a variety of assessment instruments and methodologies at its disposal and use them to generate cross-referenced data, revealing a three dimensional perspective of learning.

From a process standpoint, it is important to follow standards of professional practice. The fact that most of the people in pharmaceutical sales training organizations are former sales people, rather than learning experts, means they will either have to hire people to bring expertise in-house, rely heavily on consultants, or teach themselves how to apply metrics in a business environment. It is also important to develop a good relationship with the HR department and consult with them while developing a metrics strategy.

A variety of good books exist outlining how to implement valid and defensible practices in assessment, such as those by Judith Hale, and Schrock and Coscarelli. Measuring learning should be taken as seriously as a clinical study, making sure that your data is valid and reliable before making any claims. This is especially important when the consequences affect job status in any way.

Q4: How does a more robust program of metrics and measurement impact a company’s culture?

The impact a measurement strategy will have on culture, is highly dependent on the existing culture of the organization. Innovative organizations will use measurement results to develop their employees and reward them on their accomplishments. A robust metrics program should inform existing coaching and feedback programs and energize their culture of improvement. When employees are held accountable for clearly defined objectives, metrics demonstrating how well they are meeting these expectations can be a valuable tool to in helping them achieve the next level.

In companies lacking a culture naturally open to sharing metrics data, they will need to begin with a clear communications and change management program in order to gain the trust and buy-in needed to be successful.

Q5: If a company has just begun to consider measuring training effectiveness, how do you suggest they get started?

The first step in measuring training effectiveness is to define the outcomes they are trying to achieve. This may seem obvious, but many organizations still haven’t made the leap from being a training provider to being a performance driver.

One of the most useful tools I have used to identify the relationship of desired outcomes to business results is the impact map. Impact mapping provides a clear roadmap for learning success. It is an eye-opening experience when an organization focused primarily on the creation of training programs creates an impact map and sees how its efforts have the possibility of impacting real business results. Once those targets are mapped, an organization can select and implement the most appropriate measurement tools to gather learning metrics. At this point, training vendors committed to helping the organization achieve its defined learning outcomes can be brought in as partners.

It would not be out of the question to expect a two or three year plan for building a multi-dimensional view of the organizational impact of your L&D group. As this big picture is forming, the individual metrics you gather along the way will provide great value for informing day-to-day decisions at the program level.

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Impactiviti recently interviewed John Constantine, Director, Employee Productivity, GlaxoSmithKline. John is also the current President of the Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers (SPBT). The topic of this Impact Interview is Enterprise Training – John has invested a large part of his recent career in building up the technology training platform and approach at GSK.

John’s team is charged with the application of technology to make employees more productive, driving a key enabling process of core business processes. He has spent the last 20 years in sales, marketing, training, and technology in the pharma industry.

Q1: Starting out the process of deploying an enterprise approach to training, what were the main benefits you and your colleagues were looking for?

Reduction in duplication (content, courseware, and LMSs); enabling employees to learn more via online channels; reducing costs of classroom training with online delivery. Also, uniting 100+ distributed learning groups into a network that can share and act like a loosely affiliated corporate university.

Q2: What are two or three of the chief obstacles you’ve had to overcome along the way?

The biggest one is changing the attitudes and behaviors of training professionals…we focus too much on what they need to deliver and not enough on what people need to learn. Next is trying to get the lumbering pharma business’ IT infrastructure to keep up with our vision.

Q3: How has an enterprise-scale training technology platform changed the way training is done in your experience?

In the last 3.5 years, employees have ‘pulled’ 3 million learning activities in addition to those that have always been ‘pushed’ at them.

Q4: What have been the biggest sources of ROI that you’ve seen from enterprise initiatives?

Large-scale programs in sales, which are usually expensive with lots of lost opportunity cost, as well as IT learning, which affects every employee.

Q5: If you had one “mulligan” with everything you’ve done in the process of taking on global enterprise initiatives, where would you take your do-over?

Understanding the complex nature of the pharma manufacturing learning/training requirements about 3 years earlier than I finally did.

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Impactiviti recently interviewed Manny Santiago who is presently Associate Director, Oncology Training for Bayer. The topic of this interview was Launch Training – Manny co-wrote an article in the current edition of SPBT Focus magazine on this topic. Manny oversees oncology training (3 products) for 2 salesforces, with a total of 130 sales reps and managers. Previously, Manny was head of sales training for specialty sales training groups in large, medium, and small pharmaceutical companies.

Q1: What sorts of product launches have you been involved with during your career?

As head of a training department I have participated in launch training for 2 novel oncology product candidates, and line extensions for existing oncology products

Q2: What were some of the most effective and impactful elements that you’ve seen in a drug launch process?

One of the most impactful elements can be vendor selection. Choosing the right vendor can make all the difference on so many levels. For example, do they have a medical writer that understands your product and the disease entity your dealing with? This can save you thousands of dollars and a tremendous amount of time you could be wasting on rewrites. Along the same lines, is the vendor responsive to your needs? Are you called back and are emails answered promptly, or are you wasting valuable time tracking down your contact?

Q3: If you could pick one thing that dooms a drug launch from a training perspective, what would it be?

Simple: bad planning. I’ve seen a number of launches go awry simply because training waits until the last minute to put a launch plan together and begin executing on key tasks such as module development, legal approval, etc. The biggest favor any good trainer can do his/herself is start planning a year out, and executing along the way.

Q4: What have been the chief characteristics of good vendors that you’ve worked with during ramp-up to a launch?

As I mentioned, good vendors can make or break you. Some of the characteristics that separate the best vendors are:

  1. Prompt return of phone calls and emails
  2. A “can do” attitude, especially with regard to last minute changes requested by others in the organization
  3. Having a team in house that is experienced in the disease entity you are dealing with

Q5: If a training manager has just found out that she will be working on a launch that’s about a year away, how do you suggest she get started?

A good start would be to read my article in FOCUS. That provides an excellent overview with timelines. But remember, the devil is in the details, so the article is just a primer.

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Impactiviti recently interviewed John Talanca, Head, Learning Technologies, Novartis Global Sales and Marketing. The topic of this Impact Interview is Global Training, an area of growing concern for many pharmaceutical training organizations.

John’s chief responsibilities include setting distance learning strategy, global LMS management and integration, championing instructional design and blended learning, implementing electronic performance tools, and overseeing interactive module development. An 18-year veteran of the pharmaceutical industry, Mr. Talanca has held numerous Learning & Development titles on both the client and vendor sides of the table, as well as roles in field sales and brand management.

Q1: When developing and rolling out training, what are the three biggest differences you’ve seen in working with a global audience, compared to a U.S. audience?

First, global audiences are much more diverse than U.S. audiences, especially when your learning efforts have to span multiple countries or cultures. Therefore, one must be more sensitive to how the training effort communicates information. Second, the uptake and receptivity of alternative ways of learning (i.e., e-learning and mobile learning) by learners is much greater overseas. Not only does this provide training professionals more design flexibility, but it also reduces resistance to piloting news learning tools or technologies. The third (and most unfortunate) difference, is that budget amounts assigned to global learning efforts are typically lower than the U.S. This presents challenges at times, especially when the training effort requires travel and overnight costs.

Q2: In what ways has technology helped your efforts to roll out global training?

Undoubtedly, the biggest impact it has had is increasing access to learning, mainly via e-learning. The ability to post an e-learning course on our LMS and have 90,000 employees have access to it seconds later is all the justification needed for combining technology & training. When you also consider how more and more training needs to be tracked and validated, it also easy to see how technology has made this chore much easier. I also think it’s important to note that technology has not only aided the deployment of learning, but also the development of learning programs. Continued improvements in authoring platforms and web technologies are now enabling higher cognitive learning efforts to be addressed. Examples of these include simulation-based learning, workflow-based learning, and programs where complex algorithms guide learners down a path of mistake-making and educational recovery.

Q3: Can you identify one trend that you think will have the most impact on global training in the future?

There are many trends, so it’s hard to identify only one. Given that, I believe that tools that allow for quick, easy, and affordable localization and internationalization of training courses (WBT & ILT) will be very big. Globalization efforts by corporations over the last two decades have resulted in an openness and willingness to better share and reuse existing training materials, especially across countries and regions. As budgets get tighter and profitability scrutiny increases, companies and training groups that can easily and affordably modify courses across languages and cultures will have a significant advantage. This will be true whether a company is modifying an existing course or creating it for first time use.

Q4: Have you had any strange or amusing incidents stemming from your work in a cross-cultural context?

A few months ago a colleague and I became locked in an underground parking garage in Switzerland at 11:00 PM in the evening. Due to my weak German language skills, we didn’t realize that once we entered the garage, we couldn’t exit until 7:00 AM. (I’m still trying to understand the rationale of that garage policy!). After about 90 minutes of aimlessly traveling about the garage, we managed to find a manageable (and highly illegal) way out of the garage. This wouldn’t be quite as funny a story if it didn’t happen again last month in a parking garage in Germany!

Q5: What has been your biggest challenge so far in this role, and how have you dealt with it?

The biggest challenge has focused on developing strong personal relationships with the global counterparts I interact with. Specifically, I’m referring to the importance of relationships among co-workers. Few would argue that employees that know each other well, work better together. When your colleagues are located in the same office or city as you, it is very easy to accomplish this and leverage it. When 90% of the people you interact with live around the globe, the fact that you don’t see them often means that it takes longer to develop these strong corporate relationships. While various communication technologies these days can help people more easily interact with each other, there is definitely a benefit to face-to-face relationship building. Throw in differences in language, culture, and lifestyle and this challenges becomes even more difficult.

Q6: What word of advice would you give to someone contemplating a move into a global training role?

Despite how globally-focused your organization may be, someone entering a global role needs to be open-minded from many different standpoints. You can’t assume that different cultures or nationalities approach projects with the same thinking as you or other countries. You also have to realize that some global stereotypes and assumptions are incorrect while others have some truth to them. Most importantly, you need to be able to adjust your leadership, project, and personality skills to maximize your interactions and successes with global counterparts. Your ability to be a “corporate chameleon” is very important.

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Impactiviti recently interviewed David Currier, Director, Professional Education, Endius, Inc (Endius is a medical device company located in Massachusetts). The topic of this Impact Interview is Training in Pharma, Biotech, and Devices – Dave has experience in all three areas, and can uniquely shed light on the similarities and differences.

Dave currently leads the company’s sales training, and surgeon training programs. He has over 15 years experience in field sales, sales training, and organizational development for for pharma, biotech, and medical device companies. Over 15 years experience in field sales, sales training and organizational development for (big) pharma, biotech and medical device.

Q1: What made you decide to focus in on training as a career path?

After 5 years of sales as a territory representative and a hospital representative I was promoted into my company’s training department. I joined a wonderful team of professionals and we instructed, guided and coached hundreds of new and experienced representatives.

Do you know that “high” you feel when you have a really great interaction with a physician or have a great day in the field when everything went well? Well, training gave me that feeling on a regular basis.

I also enjoyed collaborating with other training managers and had a lot of fun designing curriculum and being creative implementing it. As my career progressed I realized that I had reached a fork in the road. One direction meant that my brief experience in training was to be treated as a stepping stone toward another discipline within commercial operations. The other direction meant that I would make training a long-term career.

Many individuals who arrive at this situation decide to move into field sales management. Those who choose to stay the training route then hone their craft by obtaining professional training certifications. I am happy that I set off in this later direction because as my training career has evolved I have found that my business acumen has evolved as well. As a Director of Training you take a seat at the table with other Directors of the commercial operations of a company such as Sales, Marketing, Regulatory, Medical and Managed care. Now I enjoy being able to make an impact on a company on a strategic level and also to continue making an impact on people’s skills and knowledge at an individual level.

Q2: Did you find much difference in the learning/training needs between pharma and biotech field forces?

Yes and No. I have always been a strong proponent of the fundamentals of selling to the medical community. Irrespective of whether you are Big Pharma or specialized biotech you still have to understand anatomy, pathology, treatment options, your product and competitor products. Both groups still need to know how to utilize sound principles of selling such as questioning, listening and handling questions and concerns.

One difference that I have found is that the expectations for the specialty rep are higher for the application of the fundamentals. Specialty reps are expected to possess a higher level of proficiency in clinical understanding by their physician customers, and are expected to maintain a higher level of adeptness in selling and key account management skills.

Not to say that the Big Pharma reps don’t attain these levels…many do, and those reps are very successful. I have always found that representatives who invest in the skills of their craft by continuously learning tend to perform at high levels in the long run. Successful reps want to constantly be better. I have found that many specialty reps have chosen their career paths to remain in field sales… the vast majority of them view their professional development as very important.

Q3: What are the unique training challenges in the medical device field?

Representatives need to know the company’s instrumentation extremely well so that they can effectively support their customers intra-operatively. Needless to say, device representatives need to know anatomy, pathology and the techniques for implanting devices extremely well also. It is quite common for surgeon customers to ask representatives technical questions during a case – they must not only anticipate these questions, but also must be very confident in their responses.

Of course the company must also train the physicians in how to use the devices, instruments and implants. Very often this involves the implementation of “surgical skills” or “bioskills” programs. These are programs that allow surgeon customers to practice using the company’s products in cadavers and are taught by surgeon faculty with extensive clinical experience.

One of the biggest challenges is the frequency in which new products hit the market in device. Instruments and implants are modified quite often and there are always line extensions to deal with.

Q4: Are there major differences, or mainly common ground, in the compliance issues among the three industry sectors?

Mostly common ground. All training curriculum that is produced and implemented must also be reviewed in the same fashion you find in all medical companies…medical, marketing, sales and regulatory. Ensuring that the company is marketing to FDA “clearances” for the devices is always a priority (“clearance” is the term typically used in device world, wherein for pharma it is “indications”).

In the medical device field there is ADVAMED which is an organization comprised of all the leading device manufacturers. They also provide an ethical code of conduct for sales and marketing that is quite similar to Pharma Code.

Q5: What made you feel strongly enough about sales training to write a book about it?

I was involved in a meeting one day brainstorming ideas for a product launch and we were discussing all the important factors that need to be considered in successfully selling the product before, during, and after the launch. A colleague of mine, Jay Frost, who is a professional writer said to me…”you know all this stuff so well you should write a book.”

We discussed the idea and concluded that there were a lot of people who we believed would benefit from a book that gave an accurate accounting of what successful pharmaceutical selling was all about…the good, the bad and the ugly. Such a book would be great for people interested in a career as well as those who were just hired into the position of sales representative. I believe in selling products in a way that involves integrity and respect for the customer and this was a great vehicle to get the word out.

I just wrote and wrote. When I was done I handed over my resulting manuscript to Jay. He then turned the text into a professional and polished product…also adding terrific information on subjects that he knew quite well. I was lucky to have Jay prod me along to do this and since its publication the reviews have been terrific and it has been consistently the best selling book in its category (note: review of Be Brief – Be Bright – Be Gone here).

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