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Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

d-grazOver the years, I have had countless discussions with training leaders about training for specialty field forces vs. primary care. But my recent conversation with Dave Graziano (AVP, Immunology Sales) was particularly enlightening. Dave has held multiple roles in both sales leadership and sales training with several companies and he has strong views about how companies can – indeed, must – evolve to better equip their specialty sales forces.

Any good discussion begins with clear distinctions, and Dave had a very specific place where he wanted to draw the line between sales forces. For our purposes, “primary care” would consist of Pills/Creams/Prescriptions – the classic model of making enough calls to doctors who would generate enough volume to meet sales goals. This promotional approach involves little or no patient or process assistance, and focuses on the typical tools of influence that we’re all familiar with, including selling models, scripted messages, etc.

And – here’s the thing – it doesn’t necessarily prepare sales reps for success in a specialty market.

By contrast, we have Injections/Infusions/Buy-and-bill, including Biologics, Immunotherapy, and Rare Disease areas. These types of products will often require a company representative to roll up their sleeves and get involved in a process – as Dave put it, “owning the prescription all the way” to actual usage. As we discussed the skill set and activities involved here, it resembled what we might typically think of in a merged role of salesperson, account manager, project manager, and consultant.

Dave uses the analogy of a machine – the complex inter-relationships of the patient journey, the HCP/staff pathway, the specialty pharmacy, and the various other cogs involved in actually bringing together a patient and the specific treatment. Understanding and operating a complex machine (instead of just delivering messages) requires a whole different approach to training, because the nature of the role is more sophisticated and multi-faceted.

In fact, one area of best practices Dave underscored was better, and deeper, training on both the patient journey and the full HCP pathway for the use of these products. Simple sales call simulations cannot adequately cover the breadth of knowledge and situational awareness needed. Multi-stage scenarios which include the range of people and processes that are actually involved will prove to be of far greater value, and specialty training should adjust to those realities instead of mimicking the more basic primary care approach.

Many companies have given lip service to the term “consultative selling” (which may be little more than improved listening and questioning skills), but this part of the marketplace does, in fact, require that company representatives evolve into true consultants and active partners. The competitive advantage of becoming hands-on trusted advisors who understand the complexity of the landscape and who “own the prescription” as it moves all the way down the field should be quite evident.

Hopefully, our training will evolve to include a richer palette of business acumen, including environmental awareness (uncovering of client challenges and pain points), directed communications, and process facilitation. Specialty sales joined to consultative, operational implementation. That’s a real value-add.

One question that this opens up is quite interesting – how will companies alter their hiring practices to reflect the needed skill set for this type of client relationship? And should we be far more hesitant to shift primary care sales reps into specialty roles without a major shift in how we view transitional training?

Food for thought – feel free to add your input in the comments.

Impactiviti is devoted to improving the craft of life sciences training, through strategic consulting, vendor recommendations, and network-building.

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You have a product launch coming up – how do you get ready?

Early, says Bob Holliday, a veteran industry training professional who has been involved in training for over 30 launches. As early as 2-3 years before the anticipated launch, in fact, when budgets are beginning to be discussed.

bob-hollidayBob has worked his way up the training ranks with Novartis, MedImmune, Boehringer-Ingelheim, and Sanofi, and he has participated in product launches with long timelines…and very, very short ones! I asked him to share some hard-earned wisdom for colleagues who are facing their own product launch initiatives. We focused on two main subjects.

First, vendor selection. What is the best way to work with outside resources who will support a launch endeavor? Bob has settled on a two-pronged approach – select one vendor (with deep expertise in clinical knowledge and instructional design) to develop the core learning materials, and then also work with another vendor who will be responsible for the workshops and training activities for the pre-launch and launch timeframe.

Why two vendors? Well, it comes down to skill sets, and capacity. The skills needed to develop core learning modules have more to do with the steady and precise process of creating full-spectrum, approval-ready training. These materials can (ideally) be developed, iteratively and progressively, with the relative luxury of a longer time window.

On the other hand, the inevitable crunch that occurs just before launch requires a company that can move quickly, scale as needed, and turn on a dime as PI approval and marketing messaging often barely come in under the wire. Event companies, with rapid production skills, tend to shine in those panic-mode moments of overnight re-dos and tactical shape-shifting.

Bob has noticed what I have also seen over decades in the industry – event companies tend to be much better at live-meeting workshops and other launch events, but are often unable to maintain a full and well-rounded staff for the longer-term development of learning modules. On the other hand, many boutique training development companies simply do not have the capacity to execute rapidly-changing plans bumping up against a rapidly-approaching deadline. By letting each type of company focus on what they do best, the probability of success is increased.

So, having considered the vendor selection process, how much time do you need to properly plan and execute a launch? The short answer that everybody agrees on is: more than we’ve been given! However, depending on the nature of the launch (New company? New therapeutic area? New indication for existing product? Level of in-house expertise and resources?), the proper time frame might range between 9-12 months on the low end (an established company launching into a familiar area), up to 2 to 2.5 years on the high end. In Bob’s experience, very few companies budget enough time, enough money, and enough advance planning to make an outstanding launch.

(Note: if you’re launching with a co-promote partner, add even more time to the equation. And stock up on aspirin. You’re going to need it.)

This is sometimes because of a lack of company awareness of all the steps and variables leading up to launch, so I asked Bob to create a high-level chart showing the sequence of steps and events that need to occur for successful launch planning. Like an accordion, the actual timeline may be compressed or expanded, but everyone involved in launches should be pro-actively planning with this kind of framework in mind.

launch-sequence2

Because of the rotational nature of many marketing and training positions, and because there may be large periods of time between product launches, there is often a loss of corporate memory (and expertise) when a new launch sequence is initiated. Or, for new commercial companies making their initial foray into the marketplace, there may be no launch experience at all. This can lead to a compromised product launch due to poor planning and spotty execution. I met with one startup company recently whose initial product launch has resulted in very slow uptake, because the actual prescribing obstacles in the marketplace were simply not foreseen and planned for.

With the right level of time, resources, and planning, launch success can move from possible to probable. There is a great opportunity for training professionals to educate their executive leadership on just what is required to succeed.

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Who’s hiring for life sciences training positions? Here are a few listings I’ve come across:

California

Associate Director Leadership Development, CL&D, Gilead Sciences (Foster City)

Senior Director, Sales Training, Relypsa (Redwood City)

Lots of openings at Genentech (South San Francisco)

Director/Sr. Director, Training & Corporate Development, Aries (San Diego)

Training and Development Manager, Biotech (Calif)

Heading steadily eastward…

Senior Global Sales Training and Education Manager, Medtronic (Minneapolis MN)

Associate Director, Hematology/Oncology Sales Training Lead, Jazz (Philadelphia PA)

Director, Oncology Training, Medical Affairs, Janssen (Philadelphia PA)

Sr. Manager, Sales Training, Valeant (Bridgewater NY)

Sales Training Manager, Bracco Diagnostics (Monroe NJ)

Director, Sales Training, Allergan (Commack NY)

Remember – your company can always post (and you can search for) job openings at the LTEN Career Center.

 

 

 

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I’ve had two client discussions this week that are leading me to write this blog post as a public service to all my professional training colleagues.

lockPlease beware of getting locked into proprietary software platforms!

I have a long history with technology-fueled training, and I understand the appropriate place for software development. Many new systems had to be developed from scratch over the past 20 years, and I enjoyed being a part of that evolution when working with Pedagogue Solutions back in the day.

However – the software world has matured now, and when it comes to training applications and delivery platforms, if you have a fairly complex need, such as learning management, content management, on-line video training, event management, HQ-to-field information exchange – there are very likely some commercially-built solutions that you can license.

In the vast majority of cases, you do NOT want to have a custom shop (or internal IT people) re-invent the wheel for you.

One of my clients had some modules developed a couple years back into some kind of proprietary eReader software. Now, when it comes time to update it, what happens? They’re either stuck with the original supplier (with a very high price tag), or they essentially have to extract the content and have the modules re-developed using a commercially-available authoring tool so that it can be maintained and updated in the future by anyone they choose.

Another client told me about a pretty complex platform that cost an arm and a leg to develop from the ground up. After consuming all kinds of time and effort, it never really got off the ground in its intended form – while there were other commercially-available platforms that could have been quickly deployed, and would have been supported in an ongoing way.

Some thoughts, based on many years of experience in the industry:

  1. Developing new, complex platforms and applications is extraordinarily difficult and time-consuming. It should be left to companies that specialize in platform design and support. License what already exists!
  2. Training development companies that happen to also do some digital stuff are absolutely NOT the companies you want to take on the creation of an ambitious complex-system platform. They won’t have the resources to do it right, or to support it. I am especially thinking about overly-ambitious marketing/advertising agencies, who like to say that they can do anything.
  3. Every sophisticated software platform takes 2-3 times as long, and costs 2-3 times as much, as you and your development partner initially think. Trust me on this.
  4. Supporting a sophisticated software system custom-created for one client is enormously expensive. On the other hand, when a commercial software shop – say, a Learning Management System vendor – is spreading ongoing development and support costs across a larger number of clients, then it becomes a viable business model.
  5. It’s not just about the immediate need. You must think about sustainability.

One other thing: whatever software platform you choose to use for whatever purpose, make sure that it is written into the contract that you always have full access to all of your content and data, in a usable and industry-standard format, including the ability to completely remove your “stuff” and migrate it to another system.

I don’t want to tell you how many times I’ve seen this lesson learned the hard way. And I’d like for you to avoid costly mistakes. So here is my offer, for any of my life sciences colleagues who are considering training software applications and platforms: feel free to reach out to me ahead of time and let’s brainstorm a bit. I’m quite serious about this. I don’t charge you anything for this kind of advice, and I want you to succeed.

Just send me a note: AskSteve@impactiviti.com. I’m glad to chat with you.

Fifteen minutes could save you…well, you know the rest of the ad!

15 minutes

 

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In my discussions with dozens of training clients over the past year, one theme that came up regularly was the difficulty of finding long-term vendor/partners for POA meetings.

Here are the kinds of concerns I’ve heard:

“A training vendor will start off well, but then things get stale after a few quarters, and we move on to someone else.”

“Our partners do great with modules and workshops, but the POA training is often a mixed bag.”

“We’re not seeing much creativity.”

I’ve wondered about this problem/opportunity for quite some time, and while I think there are probably multiple factors at play, here is one thing that may be at the root: fundamentally, POA training is driven by last-minute scrambling.

Most of our training projects, which involve long cycles of design (including instructional design), review, and implementation, require a set of skills and practices that are more systematic and long-term-ish. But POA meetings are often marketing-driven, and marketers are used to a different agency type of relationship that regularly involves rapid change and quick turn-around. And a lot of stuff is going down in the couple weeks before a very hard deadline.

Are training vendors equipped for that? I think many are not.

Marketing agency relationships (retained AOR) and training vendor relationships (project-driven) run on very different business models. I wonder if this isn’t why it’s difficult for vendors to succeed with POA training.

Maybe there are some other reasons as well. What are your thoughts? What are you doing to make your POA training effective?

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I had some interesting discussions last week with training professionals in the Life Sciences industry, and one of the topics that came up was our approach to developing those rotating into (and out of) our training departments.

Some companies have a pretty well-defined training program for trainers, while other have good intentions, but not much of a plan (or too many time demands to carry it out).

As I see it, there should be (ideally) 4 “buckets” of emphasis when on-boarding and developing trainers from the field:

Training-specific skills (basic level) – such things as facilitation; basic ISD; adult learning principles; etc.

Operational/Functional skills – HQ orientation; MLR review procedures; project/vendor management; etc.

Corporate collaboration skills – influence with/without authority; communication (verbal, writing); networking; etc.

Next-role-prep – specific training as the employee gets ready to transition to a DM or Marketing or (whatever) role.

What do you think? Are these the right categories? What are other topics that you cover in your department?

The question also came up as to whether there should be defined competencies at the front and back end of training rotations – seems intuitive that there should be, but I’m not sure many departments have them (does yours?)

By the way, LTEN offers many of these topics in their Total Trainer Certificate Series. Joining those courses with other customized in-house and outsourced workshops should provide quite a strong foundation for the development of trainers into successful corporate performers.

LTEN TTC

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Leaders need to continually develop new skills (and improve on current ones). But there is one skill that, hands down, is more vital than the rest.

The ability to communicate clearly and effectively.

In sales, management, training, marketing, and executive leadership – in every career role – nothing matters more than communicating effectively with others.

That’s why I spent so much time writing about Clarity. And, that is also why I have a partnership with a company that specializes in communications training.

Led by a published author with a PhD, who lectures at Wharton Business School AND who has many years of experience in the life sciences industry, this partner does workshops (and keynotes) nationwide.

Squirrel_Standing

SQUIRREL!!

As we all know, attention spans are getting shorter and shorter….

SQUIRREL!!

…so it is up to us to train our colleagues in the whole range of communication skills (including facilitation, slide design, writing, and interpersonal collaboration).

If you’re interested in learning more, contact me (AskSteve@impactiviti.com; 973-947-7429) and I’ll connect you up!

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