It is a known fact that around 30% of Trainee Medical Representatives leave the class room training programmes midway, in any Pharma Company, either on their own or otherwise, mainly due to the following reasons:
- Unable to put up sincere efforts and hard work
- Afraid of meeting targets/budgets consistently
- Lack of communication, i.e. unable to memorise detailing story of products and verbatim reproduction of the same.
- Non-science/pharmacy stream graduates find it difficult to understand products
Therefore all Pharma Companies, Training Managers, and the Line Managers are mentally prepared in advance that if there are 20 candidates present in a batch, only 14-15 will come out successful at the end of the programme, rest will drop out, due to one reason or the other. However we can make sincere attempts to bring down this drop out rate in the training programmes, as discussed below:
1) The current crop of candidates, barring a few exceptions, come with a mental make up to work for a few months, see how it works, and then will decide accordingly to continue further for many years or not. Under such a mental frame, if we put them under a lot of serious scientific and product training, make them sit attentively and grasp whatever is being taught in the class room from morning 9 am till 8 pm, then go back to the room memorise detailing stories, and prepare for next day’s written test, upto 11 or 11.30 pm, they may not be just mentally prepared to digest this type of a rigor. Symptoms of this are, low level of participation, grasping, and poor reproduction. They may not be able to answer properly to most of the questions being asked. We can reasonably expect that such candidates are more likely to leave the programme midway.
One way to tackle this issue is to set right the mental make up/attitude of such candidates. We should make them see reasons and appreciate that this job is worth and rewarding as a long term career option. We can explain to them how this industry is robust, doing very well and growing consistently, as against other industries which are prone to economic ups and downs. We can also give them examples of many successful MRs in the industry, who have started their career as a Medical Representatives at the beginning, but are now at the top, such as, Managing Directors, Vice Presidents, Chief Executive Officers, General Managers, National Sales Managers, Country Managers, Group Product Managers, Marketing Managers, etc. through consistent performance at every level.
Many may not be comfortable with the long hours of field working – from morning to night (may be from 9 am to 10 or 10.30 pm normally) – which can probably prompt a few of them to opt out. This can be put across in a different way, i.e. as we are basically meeting and detailing to customers (Doctors), our working time also is the same as that of their practicing hours, i.e. morning to night, with a few hours gap in the afternoon. This may be more palatable, soothing and acceptable to the Trainees. The above ‘cleansing’ should happen on day-1 in the training programme.
2) Any stress on achievement of targets/budgets during the training session is likely to put them off, therefore, will increase the chances of ‘drop outs’. It is better we can tell them the process involved in it – proper implementation of strategies – and if they do each step involved in the process sincerely and passionately, then they can convert lot of Doctors every day, leading to lots and lots of sales, thereby incentive earnings and career growth accordingly, to them. For example, we can explain to them that if they are very methodical in selecting right Doctors for right products, verbatim detailing effectively for all products, conversion of atleast 3-4 Doctors every day, POB on daily basis, all these right steps will enable them to get the best sales for their hard work.
3) Many are unable to memorise and reproduce verbatim detailing of products, hence such candidates are more likely to drop out midway, as they fear, they are not up to it. To such candidates, instead of putting pressure for verbatim detailing, we can explain to them that it is very important to have good detailing ability to convert Doctors which will only help in generating long standing business, for their hard work in the field. It is not a difficult task, if they practice and do more practice, it is possible for anyone to pick up and improve on this skill. If anyone is lacking in detailing of only one or two products, they can try ‘deliberate practice’ to tide over the crisis. If the candidates understand this, and the message gets into their mind, then they themselves will show lot of enthusiasm and put in lot of efforts to memorise and master this important skill. We can also quote examples of candidates from previous batches, who have come out on top in detailing at the end of the programme, though they were nowhere at the beginning. This should give them the confidence that they too can come on top with efforts and practice.
4) Another point of friction, leading to drop outs, is Product Knowledge. Due to paucity of Science/Pharmacy graduates and also in our eagerness to fill up vacancies fast, we do recruit non-science/pharmacy graduates as well. Such candidates will feel like ‘fish out of water’ if we go into lot of science/biology while taking up products. Already they have come to the programme with a feeling of low, knowing fully well that they are non-science graduates and may find it difficult to understand products. If we don’t take conscious efforts to make them feel comfortable and make it easy for them to understand products, they are more likely to leave midway. Product knowledge can be imparted in an ‘easy to understand way’ for all, on the following headings: a) Positioning of the product, b) Category of customers for the product, c) Mode of action, d) Composition, e) How it is better than similar products available in the market?, f) Important competitor brands, and g) Price – PTS, PTR, & MRP.
In addition to the above, a) The Line Managers concerned should talk to their candidates in the programme, keep motivating them every now and them to minimize the drop out rate, and b) Don’t compromise on the important eligibility criteria during selection so as to ensure that we select the good quality candidates only.
The above steps, if implemented in all sincerity, will have a synergestic impact, leading to significant drop in the ‘drop out rate’ in the training programmes. If we are able to retain all the Trainees, without any drop out during the training programmes, it will be a great help to the Line Managers as well as to the organization. I have personally implemented many of these whenever I handled Training, and experienced very good result.