Turn medical reps into high performers with powerful onboarding

by | Dec 7, 2022

Nandakumar Chari

DECEMBER 7, 2022

The success of new medical reps lies primarily in learning more and selling fast. Learning about a pharma company’s products and services is a continuous process for a new hire to succeed. Medical reps have to inform doctors about ever-evolving pharma products. And they have to do so to doctors, who have greater knowledge than them about human physiology, diseases, and medicines. Hence, communicating with doctors is a different ball game altogether. It calls for massive investment by pharma firms to train their medical reps.

What does it take to be a good medical rep?

The primary job of a medical rep is to ensure that doctors are abreast of the latest developments in their specific practice areas and also to see to it that they stay on the top of mind of the doctors. Therefore, new hires should know the finer details of their pharma products and services thoroughly to win over the doctors. They should be as knowledgeable as physicians about human anatomy and the functioning of the mind and body.

New hires need to know various medical terminologies, chemical combinations of the drugs in question, and their side effects plus benefits. Their analytical, communication, and selling skills should be excellent. Immaculate onboarding of medical reps will sustain the relationship between doctors and pharma companies. This will ensure the success of their employer on the field. Hence, pharma companies should ideally provide onboarding for new joinees under specialized trainers and subject matter experts.

In the highly competitive healthcare industry, medical reps should thoroughly know their company’s and its competitors’ products. Additionally, they need specialized training on industry regulations. This will help medical reps have meaningful conversations with busy doctors to immediately catch their attention and sustain it.

What insiders say about medical reps

Phanish Chandra, Co-founder, and Chief Executive Officer, Darwyn Life Sciences has a lot to say about medical reps in India as published on LinkedIn. According to him:

  • Top pharma players in India employ around 5000 medical reps and set aside nearly 20% of their total expenditure on hiring and training them. 
  • Most pharma companies in India do not have a solid digital plan for medical reps though many doctors are at ease using digital tools. The majority of Indian medical reps feel disappointed as they are not provided with CRM solutions, meeting schedulers, and digital medical content.
  • In telling statistics, a Sermo survey points out that 87% of doctors wish that medical reps would talk about clinical studies and evidence-based medicine. They want better-educated and trained reps.  
  • The high churn rate amongst medical reps can create amusing situations. For example, reps talking to doctors about a particular brand of medical products, return the next month pushing a rival brand’s products. 
  • Many medical reps are inconsistent across different meetings while presenting information and literature on a pharma company’s products. It happens because they can’t refresh their memory with content on the go as they don’t have access to digital forms of content. 

All the aforementioned points paint a dismal picture of the onboarding and training of medical reps in India. And this is when, the Indian pharmaceutical industry is the world’s 3rd largest by volume and 14th largest in terms of value, according to the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Government of India’s Annual Report 2020-21. There are over 600,000 medical reps in India.

See Also: Speedup Sales Onboarding

Moving onto the situation in the U.S. as per the DRG Digital’s Manhattan Research survey data, doctors are visited by medical reps at an average of 6.4 visits per month which are of an average duration of 11 minutes each. The ground reality is that doctors find most of these interactions as falling short of their expectations.  

A study by ePharma Physician comprising 1,814 U.S. practicing physicians across 25 specialties generated some striking discoveries:

More than half of the physicians surveyed say that medical reps who visit them showcase information to them that they know already through online/offline research or prior meetings. These findings are more pronounced amongst oncologists and dermatologists. Interestingly 74% of the physicians surveyed search product information online frequently, while 52% use pharma digital resources regularly.
63% of U.S. physicians feel that medical reps who showed new or non-promotional resources related to a particular product would be more valued.

See Also: The 8 Best Ways of Onboarding Distributed Sales Reps Effectively

These revelations are consistent with the fact that the results of nearly two-thirds of all pharmaceutical launches are nowhere near the pre-launch sales hype. The blame is mostly on deficient onboarding and frequent training of medical reps. This is in spite of the huge investment in training. Presently, 36% of medical rep training budgets are spent on new joinees with onboarding averaging 32 days of training within the first year of joining. Meanwhile, senior medical reps are receiving only 10 days of training per year. It is also a cause of concern that only 16% of the training information received is retained by medical reps after three months. This can lead to a negative ROI for onboarding and training exercises within just one month.

Hence, it is very clear that there is an acute need for continuous learning and training of medical reps in a digital format, which goes beyond the initial onboarding or induction.

The right onboarding methodology

Onboarding which has its heart in the right place will definitely ensure good ROI from the process. Heartburn ensues from the fact that generally 47% of sales reps quit due to incompetent onboarding.  Hence, it is interesting that a report from Salesforce Training states that, “Top-quality sales training will improve the performance of a sales rep by 20% on average.”

Below are certain fundamentals of a well-defined onboarding:

  • Control: A sales manager should have a bird’s eye view of the onboarding process by tracking data related to the activities of each of the new medical reps. This can address the issues of knowledge, skill, and performance gaps. 
  • Milestones: Sales managers should also create digital career roadmaps which outline the short and long-term goals for a new joinee. This enables them to reach expected milestones over the first month, first six months, and a year after hire.  
  • Phasing: Once milestones are demarcated, phasing these milestones into time periods must be done. A common phasing plan is for 30-60-90 days. It is better to pair the onboarding program phases with the average sales cycle so that new medical reps learn on the job and involve themselves with customers too.
  • Buddy or Mentor: A senior team member can be assigned to each new medical rep or a defined cohort of new medical reps as the go-to person for addressing any issues that they may face. 
  • Self-Paced Adult Learning: Pedagogy, which is the manner in which children learn is usually done under supervision. This is also true for traditional sales learning. Whereas, modern medical reps will benefit from heutagogy or self-directed independent learning which is actually how adults learn.  

Benefits of well-defined onboarding:

  • High Quota Attainment 
  • Quicker Ramp-Up  
  • Decreased Churn 
  • Increased Employee Satisfaction

Productivity solution: Move away from traditional onboarding

The way medical reps deliver on their goals and objectives can make or break the organization’s balance sheet. A positive situation can result from the right type of onboarding. Onboarding in the traditional manual manner happens using pen and paper resulting in sourcing and storing of documents in the form of hard copies. This long-drawn, error-prone and tedious process is hardly efficient in terms of time, effort and results.

To make matters worse, sales managers expect new medical reps to absorb the humongous amount of information sent their way, much after the marathon traditional onboarding sessions. They think that medical reps can effectively practice the know-how gained during onboarding, on the job, without any follow-up or knowledge refreshers down the line. Thus, the long ramp-up time for new hires results in high churn leading to revenue loss.

See Also: Why is Measuring ROI from Onboarding Sales Reps so Critical

Moreover, in traditional onboarding, training is often not continuous especially when medical reps are out on the field. The access to resources on-the-go is not possible if training material is not available on a mobile for the medical reps. If so, they can’t refresh key concepts just before meeting doctors. This calls for modern technology powered onboarding which can provide both content and coaching in a seamless automated always-on mode. It would do well to extend beyond the formal onboarding or induction period.

Technology powered onboarding

Pharma companies that are technology savvy in onboarding retain competitiveness in the market. This is enabled with the adoption of sales enablement and readiness platforms. It ensures vast information being drip fed to medical reps in bite-sized chunks over a period of time beyond the classroom induction session. This means extending their onboarding and hand-holding them on the job. Video recording of the role plays of medical reps practicing communicating with doctors is possible. It ensures course correction after sales managers analyze the video feed.

Using tech-based analytics and artificial intelligence helps to understand what is working or not during onboarding. On-demand information on sales enablement platforms is also available in a gamified form for interactive and entertaining learning. Game-based learning helps with flexibility and customization. Quizzes, leaderboards, and rewards for medical reps make coaching fun, engaging, and incentivized.

Last Word

Learning is a continuous journey. A journey characterized by many milestones. To reach each milestone requires a medical rep to have gained knowledge and put it to effective use on the job. Hence it is imperative to not just know more but to do more. Therefore, an impactful onboarding program for the concerned medical reps is required to enable them to perform powerfully. This can happen with a technology-powered onboarding program.

If you aspire for a data-driven, AI-enabled, mobile-friendly, personalized, and gamified sales readiness and enablement platform; then the StreamzAI Sales Onboarding Platform can be useful for your needs. To discover what StreamzAI can do for your pharma company, book a demo with us.

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