A review of the practices and evaluation of sales training as perceived by representatives in the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland

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McCormack, Siobhan
Issue Date
MA of Business Studies
Dublin Business School
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Sales training is understudied in Ireland, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry where a company's competitive position is determined by the performance of its sales force. Training plays a major role in providing representatives with the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve the high levels of productivity and competitiveness needed to achieve sustainable competitive advantage. In this study, qualitative and quantitative research was conducted to establish the practices and evaluation of sales training in the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland. The major findings include: (1) Sales training in the pharmaceutical industry is considered very important. (2) Sales training in the industry is extensive and in general professionally employed, with all companies providing representatives with some fom1 of sales training. This is due largely to the nature of the products and the requirements of the physician. (3) The high level of product and disease knowledge required justifies the large number of Science/Nursing graduates employed in pharmaceutical sales. (4) Much of this sales training has a UK focus, with trainers not having sufficient knowledge and/or experience of the Irish market to satisfy the representative's training needs. (5) Wide variations on the duration, format and practices of both initial and continual sales training exist in the industry. In particular, the use of 'on-the-job' training in the form of observation and coaching, varies dramatically in the industry. (6) Acquiring product knowledge and selling skills are consistent as the main objectives for initial and continual training. (7) Market knowledge and understanding customer expectations and requirements is a secondary objective of sales training. (8) Pharmaceutical sales representatives do not regard training, although important, as the main attribute necessary for success as a pharmaceutical sales representative, with personal ability and experience considered more important. (9) The majority of sales training is initiated, conducted and evaluated by the field sales manager. The sales trainer has a greater input in initial, formal training. (10) The role of a medical representative has become increasingly challenging in recent years due mainly to increased competition and difficulty in gaining access to physicians. (11) Sales mangers are insensitive to the difficulties faced by "the sales force and current sales training practices are failing to address these challenges. A more Irish, customer orientated approach to sales training, coupled with greater attention to informal training, market conditions and representatives' sales training requirements will help ensure the high costs of sales training will produce a good return on investment.