Guest Blog By Shashin Bodawala, Director- Go To Market & International Business, Boehringer Ingelheim India

The field force of the pharmaceutical industry has always been under the spotlight because of its importance in driving growth. To elucidate further, just step in the shoes of a frontline officer working in a pharmaceutical company.

Imagine making visits to multiple physicians, pharmacists, and healthcare professionals in the area assigned to you, trying to sell a variety of new and existing therapies while showing how your drugs are superior from competition.

Furthermore, let us not forget the mounting pressure of achieving sales targets and attuning yourself to new channels to reach out to different segments of customers. In such a fast-changing and demanding sales environment, traditional classroom & even virtual training have left pharma companies with a major disadvantage.

An old study reported in the New York Times titled “Online Education Beats The Classroom” confirmed that self-study (either alone or in conjunction with some classroom time) was more effective than alone in the classroom.

The ‘Stale Detail’ Issue

With ground-breaking developments happening everyday, one major issue that drastically affects pharma sales is when the field reps lack the updated knowledge of new developments and resultantly, fail to communicate them to physicians, healthcare professionals and even patients.

This happens when field reps on one end, are using digital devices such as phones, tablets, et al. regularly but the content they are accessing is old and available only through traditional eLearning and long form videos.

The key to solving this issue lies in making knowledge available in a way that fits their workflow. As a result, pharma companies are increasingly adopting best practices of microlearning and gamification which enable their sales force to achieve that extra mile by enhancing their selling skills and focusing more on providing a client-centred experience.

Let us deep dive into how new approaches like microlearning & gamification contribute to sales productivity in the changing pharma landscape.

Re-Thinking HCP Interactions

Engaging in meaningful scientific dialogue with healthcare professionals has been a primary concern among field reps. They are expected to be able to better explain the patient experience, disease management and provide high-quality information about vaccines and medicines. To ensure this, pharmaceutical companies have invested in digital channels of learning aimed at delivering personalized information. Game-based microlearning content help the sales rep retain the right information about the right product and make relevant pointers readily available.  

We at Boehringer Ingelheim India realized this imperative when we partnered with Master-O in 2018 to create microlearning infrastructure to facilitate byte size learning, flexible & just-in-time learning content. The advances in technology and microlearning using Master-O has helped improve learning behaviors of the BI field force. Boehringer Ingelheim has benefited from major advances in learning  practices, culminating in 2020 where distance learning has been the sole means of learning & sales enablement for entire sales force.

Learning on the go:

In order to better understand the expectations and perceptions of field reps, it is extremely important to understand learning behaviours of the ‘New Age’ field force. Medical representatives are always on the go and hence, there is always a possibility that they might forget what they learned in their product training.. At Boehringer Ingleheim India, we did intense analysis on learning behaviors and identified key challenges that were contributing to poor learning outcomes in the classroom, namely:

·         Reduced attention span and

·         Poor knowledge retention

It is no secret that field colleagues are all fighting against boredom. This is where bite-sized learning has helped us. It offers a promising antidote to boredom and allows learning ‘on the go’. Instead of spending 60 minutes on a single course, learners are motivated to consume short, yet meaningful content using repetitive testing and spaced learning.

With the help of microlearning, Pharma companies are successfully overcoming the knowledge retention & application of learning hurdle. With all the information readily available in a new, mobile-first format, field reps can quickly go through the required information during their downtime or while waiting before a HCP meeting.

An Engaging Learning Experience

Product training in pharmaceutical industries often covers exhaustive amounts of information. Medical reps are expected to remember statistics, symptoms, and other related information which will help them make the right pitch for the right product. Game-based assessments play a pivotal role here. They make learning more of a spontaneous and engaging experience, what might otherwise be seen as a relatively dry experience. Moreover, learning through an interactive medium helps medical reps understand the real-life application of the information imparted.

Furthermore, aspects like game-based learning, gamification, interactive learning aids, video-based learning have addressed learner’s expectation and perception. Data analytics tools have enabled us to drive change further & strengthen the learning behaviour landscape of the BI field force. The ongoing analytics and insights empower the sales manager to have meaningful conversations to address knowledge and skills gaps, if any.

Driving Compliance

Pharma companies have been subject to a growing number of regulatory and compliance-related constraints. Hence, to mitigate risk and liability, it is important to ensure that the reps absorb compliance information. Microlearning acts as a refresher and ongoing training for these reps to ensure better retention of regulatory information. Furthermore, for the convenience of the reps, this information may be presented in the language the reps are better acquainted with.

The aforementioned points do contribute to overcoming the ‘stale detail’ issue and prepare the pharma field force to not only sell new and existing solutions better but also to get into the habit of continuous learning on the go. This aspect of repeatability is one of the key goals of microlearning and game-based training.

The growing impact of microlearning and gamification is not only limited to the pharmaceutical industries. More and more industries are realizing the benefits of adopting microlearning and gamification as an important part of their training and development plans.  

To understand this better, you can read more on the key selling competencies that can be developed using microlearning and gamification.