Yesterday I sat in a doctor’s waiting room and watched two pharmaceutical reps make “sales calls”. Both were polite with the gatekeeper, trying to build relationships. And both were able to check/restock the samples room. Neither got to talk with the doc. This is a story often told. And many physicians, including the one I visit, have gone so far as to put a note on the door saying, “Drug reps – do not enter. We will call you when we need something.”
This interaction reminded us of the challenges pharmaceutical reps described in a WSJ article – pharmaceutical companies are reducing the size of their sales force and introducing digital tools – where physicians can ask questions about drugs, order free samples, and find out which insurers cover certain treatments by using, for example, an iPad app. When interested, these conversations can be elevated to a live chat. Companies offering iPad apps to docs include Merck, Pfizer, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, and Sano-Aventis. While digital marketing isn’t always as successful as a sales rep, it’s a way to have someone in the office as physicians increasingly are refusing to see sales reps – moving from one out of every five docs designated as a “no see” in 2009 to one in four in 2010.
We think this raises significant implications for sales training. Not only will pharmaceutical companies continue to look for new ways to gain access to physicians, they will find that many people who do not hold sales rep titles will become involved in the sales process. These people need to understand the customers, along with their roles and responsibilities in the sales process. This will require a new and different type of sales training for some new and different players. Some companies have acknowledged this reality and modified their sales training programs to include everyone in sales training who has interaction with the customer – from sales and technical support to customer service. More companies will need to get on board.
This is one of those times where the changes that are occurring are of sufficient magnitude that the end result will be transformational. It represents a time when sales training can make a difference that matters.
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