Does Your Company Have the Right Pharma Sales Rep Training?

Corporate sales training is a constantly evolving and difficult issue for companies to tackle. In pharmaceutical sales, the stakes are high as nearly two-thirds of all pharmaceutical launches don’t meet pre-launch sales expectations. Additionally, sales teams are shrinking and the need for technology-savvy pharma sales reps is more apparent than ever before.  

Knowledgeable pharma sales reps can greatly increase the success of a pharmaceutical launch.

The challenges of pharmaceutical sales training include adapting to emerging and evolving technologies, information retention, engagement, and effective communication. As pharmaceutical giants invest more money into training programs, the future of training has evolved to include mobile gamification and progressive engagement driven courses.

Pharmaceutical Training Elements to Drive Long-Term Success

According to the The Association for Talent Development, US companies spend approximately $20 billion on sales training each year. In the pharmaceutical industry, large budgets are allocated to train pharma sales reps. ROI is calculated using different metrics such as retention through assessments and quarterly sales figures.

With resources available and results measurable, what should your company focus on to achieve the best training results?

  • Focus on Retention to See Maximum Results
Despite the massive amount of money poured into training, only 16% of sales training is retained after three months. Information retention, as seen in the graph below, is a problem that can result in a negative ROI for sales training programs in as little as one month.

Information Retention Over Time

% of Retention that occurs over time. Half of the content of an event is forgetten in 5.1 weeks on average.Source:

The good news is that information retention can be improved across pharmaceutical companies. The key is to focus on proven sales techniques and adapt those strategies to different learning styles. If you can create a system of engagement and incentives aligned with constant active learning, employee motivation to learn will increase.

Currently, 36% of pharma sales rep training budgets go to new hires who average 32 days of training during their first year. Veteran pharma sales reps, on the other hand, will only have 10 days of training per year. In a market that is constantly adapting, training should include a heavy technological component and consistent refresher content to propel information retention. The challenge is keeping the content relevant, engaging, and fun.   

  • Implement Gamification and Mobile Technology
Mobile applications have officially arrived in the pharma industry. A study found that 81% of pharmaceutical companies train with a mobile or tablet device. In the field, both pharma sales reps and doctors are adopting mobile technology to help add convenience to the sales process.

The vast majority of pharma sales reps are currently using iPads when interacting with doctors.

With the favorable adoption of mobile technology, mobile gamification apps have emerged as the frontrunners in engagement and information retention solutions. A survey of 28 sales leaders from the world’s top 25 pharmaceutical companies revealed that 38% of participants are currently using or planning to deploy a game-based application for pharma sales rep training. Product launch pharma, medtech webinar


Games, as an e-learning tool, can be geared towards both sales trainings and product launches. The power of game based applications is their flexibility and customization. Content can be produced to target specific learning goals.

An iPhone displays a question that would appear on a gamification app.


  • Consider Long-Term Spaced Learning

Spaced learning is the concept of extending training over a longer period of time to improve retention and motivation. Compared to intensive training, spaced learning allows pharma sales reps to move at a pace that is comfortable with their learning abilities.

Spaced learning works best with e-learning and can be implemented with a gamification app. These apps pull previously tested information into new lessons to improve retention. The process of repeating information gradually over time has been proven to slow the forgetting curve and increase long-term retention by 200%.

The forgetting curve for spaced learning is much less steep than that of normal learning.

In pharma sales rep training, the benefits of implementing digital spaced learning training include more personalized training at a lower cost and more engagement. Another benefit is the ability to easily measure the results of each training session, as data is refreshed and organized immediately. This allows for a leaner approach to test different methods and find what works best for the learner, training coordinators, and the bottom-line.

Read the other articles in this series:

Why 66% of drug launches miss sales quotas

Why a lack of attention to detail is killing pharma launches


Optimizing Pharmaceutical Sales with Mobile Technology Optimizing Pharma Sales with Mobile Technology

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  • 5 Benefits pharma companies seek in mobile apps
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Topics: Sales, Pharmaceutical Industry, Sales Enablement

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