Product training—or medical sales training—is an essential ingredient in bringing new medical devices and pharmaceutical products to market.
Pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies spend enormous amounts of time and money implementing medical sales training when launching new products or when products are approved for new indications. Creating medical sales training materials is a growing opportunity for medical communicators who can leverage their skills and experience to help bring better products to healthcare providers and patients.
The goal of product training is to create a shared understanding of the product and the marketplace so that the team can confidently and expertly communicate to external stakeholders as soon as the product or indication gains regulatory approval.
Who is the intended audience for training? Why is product training important? And what are the current trends in medical sales training?
Who Needs Product Training?
The Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network (LTEN) addresses the question of audience in this article in their member magazine. Author Mary Barlow, senior director of media production at Encompass Communications and Learning, includes “Training Audience” as part of a list of critical elements in a strategic training plan.
It’s important to keep in mind that the objective is a successful, timely product launch. Anyone who helps meet this objective is the audience, and they each require different types of information and product training. Medical communicators need to know for whom they are creating the materials and the critical information each particular learning audience needs to know about the product and the marketplace. The following team members will require some or all of the product training to understand the sales strategy, the product, market access, the competitive landscape, and more.
Key account managers
Marketers and marketing leadership
Medical science liaisons
A Learning Journey
Another feature from LTEN emphasizes the important role that product training plays in successful product launches.
Excellent training is a result of strategic planning that aligns the learning journey with the business vision. In most cases, medical communicators are not involved in strategic planning or in designing an entire training program. These tasks generally fall to the medical education company that supports the product launch. Medical communicators are engaged to create specific content and varied deliverables within the learning journey. The article suggests that the best training programs include the following 8 elements, which medical communicators need to consider when developing content:
Vision. Think about the big picture. How will the product change the business and customers? What unmet need does the product address?
Audience analysis. Getting to know the learners is important to creating learner‑centric experiences that focus on the key information learners need to know.
Instructional goals. What are the goals for the launch of the learning journey? How do they connect with the business goals?
Learning objectives. Determining the learning objectives means identifying the critical information the learners need to know at the end of the training process.
Organization. Content should be organized into categories, such as product knowledge, disease state, customer focus, and competitor claims, with corresponding learning objectives for each category. This also means paying attention to the order in which content is presented. Do sales reps need to understand how the product works before they can practice conversations with customers?
Design. One approach is to think about designing the learning journey as a progression through engaging, deepening, and reinforcing.
Engage learners by building their foundation of knowledge. This can happen independently, online.
Deepen their knowledge and skill by offering opportunities to work with their peers in live, in‑person workshops.
Reinforce new skills and knowledge with post‑launch activities.
Mapping. Educational content needs to be interesting and varied. Find opportunities to keep learners engaged and interested in the topic.
Localize. Even when launching a global product, think about how activities can be relevant to particular regions by creating region‑specific worksheets, workshops, scenarios, and content. Find regional champions, and include localization standards as part of the launch style or formatting guide. For example, training materials should avoid lengthy titles, regional slang, and contractions. Images should include scenarios and characters that represent racial, geographic, and ethnic diversity.
Trends in Training
In this video, Gail Flores, PhD, Principal Writer, Encore Biomedical Communications, LLC, discusses trends in sales training.
Flores has spent 20 years as a writer in the pharmaceutical and biotech sales training space. She writes educational modules about disease states that include content from anatomy to disease pathophysiology to clinical trial results.
“It’s a lot of information, so delivering it in the most efficient and effective way is always top of mind,” says Flores. “Sales reps are adult learners, just like you and me.”
In the video, Flores shares her understanding of some of the current learning trends in the world of medical sales training that medical communicators working in the field need to know.
Streamlined and Chunked
According to Flores, educational content is getting more concise. “When I started out, 75‑page modules with lots of factoid boxes were common. Now, smaller mini‑modules and backgrounders are the norm."
All extraneous content is out.
Writers must focus on the content that learners really need and ensure consistency between smaller chunks of content.
Like much content, sales training content is becoming more visual. Deliverables have more infographics and other graphic elements. Even simple pie charts can make learning more effective. Medical communicators are making decisions about what content pieces make the most impact visually and are passing that information along to graphic artists and designers.
Today’s sales training e‑learning content is using fresh, state‑of‑the‑art technology to deliver messages in challenging and fun ways.
Product training requires thoughtful planning and strategic thinking. Medical communicators play a critical role in creating educational materials that engage adult learners and instill a deep understanding of the product so that teams can effectively communicate with external stakeholders.
One important point bears repeating: Medical sales training is not just for sales team members. Everyone, including marketers, account managers, sales managers, and reimbursement specialists, need to be prepared for a product launch.
This shared learning journey will create a confident and successful team approach to a successful launch.