Virtual sales training:

Building digital engagement skills

Pharma customer engagement has been fundamentally changed by the COVID pandemic. No matter what happens in the post-COVID world, HCPs have now come to expect not only the ability to engage online but receive a high-quality experience. Customer teams’ digital competences – especially remote engagement – will be essential going forward.

To enable reps to make the best use of these technologies, a new kind of digital training model is required – one that is more relevant to the sales environment, more engaging and much easier to implement.


Key points

  • COVID has permanently changed HCP engagement
  • Customers now expect high-quality remote experiences
  • Reps need help to improve their digital skills
  • A new virtual sales training model makes this easy and fun

Rising HCP expectations for remote engagement

Despite skepticism that HCPs would switch to remote engagements, customers during the COVID pandemic have mostly responded positively.1 There is even evidence that HCPs who were hard to reach in person are actually easier to engage with online.1

It is anticipated that face-to-face engagements will be more difficult and decline post-pandemic.1 We may even be seeing the end of the ’field force era’ – as competitive advantage moves from field force size to the mastery of digital technology.

Now that HCPs have experienced digital technologies – webinars, remote detailing, social media, bot-facilitated chat – they see what’s possible. And the mere fact of being able to run some kind of virtual engagement isn’t enough.

The right technology is vital – a telephone catch up or a Zoom meeting is not the same as real remote detailing – but it’s the experience that reps deliver that ultimately counts. What’s next is a focus on the quality of the remote experience. The very best technologies in the hands of skilled reps is where pharma is heading. That requires training – particularly remote sales training.

Competitive advantage has moved from being about the scale and resources of the field force to the mastery of digital technology

The wrong way to do virtual sales training

Sales team training is an issue of which pharma is well aware. A recent Reuters Events report found that 72% of companies were skilling reps up to be able to engage remotely.2 But what kind of training is being provided? Is it happening in the right way?

For many companies, training is still often implemented though ‘learning management systems’ (LMS). These platforms, first introduced in the late 1990s, enabled companies to put educational materials online. While an LMS can be great for ‘compliance based’ learning – such as helping managers run employee reviews – they aren’t a great fit for upskilling customer teams:

  • Poor user experience and the low engagement: courses are long, look intimidating, and feel like an addition to daily workload
  • Slow and cumbersome: best practices in digital engagement are being worked out right now, making it impractical to figure everything out in advance, as the materials will likely be out of date when it’s finally launched

Another kind of digital sales training is needed.

Sales training designed for customer teams

Our virtual sales training solution rapidly develops customer team digital competences – while making the experience easy, engaging and fun.


A new model for digital sales training

To meet the real needs of the sales environment, a fresh approach is required. Fundamental to this new model is ‘microlearning’. This breaks up lessons into easily digestible mini sessions. Rather than hours of work, the microlearning approach delivers regular training that’s completed in a minute or two.

This is important because it makes training part of a rep’s regular day. Just as they check their emails, now training is equally ‘normalized’ – it’s simply something that everyone does.

Traditional model New model
Long courses on company LMS ‘Bite-sized’ courses on your phone
A major time commitment Part of your daily working life
Compliance-based learning Fun, interactive & engaging
Create everything & then publish Constantly evolve your content
Slow to create Quickly build & release

Engaging, interactive and on-demand

To make training a daily habit, it must be convenient. Rather than you having to remember to go find the training, it must come to you. Updates should be promoted via email, messaging, and other forums. And with an app you get the latest content right on your phone.

It should also be personalized, with adaptive features that automatically adjust content to user roles, skill levels, locations, and learning styles. What’s required is that the right learning materials get to the right person, at the right time, in the right way.

Most importantly, learning should be enjoyable. It’s simple human nature to do more of the things that we find fun and avoid activities that bore us. Virtual sales training needs to be compelling. That’s achieved by mixing content types to keep things fresh and adding gamification to increase engagement. Applying points, leaderboards, achievements and rewards to sales training enables people to track their progress and adds an element of friendly competition.

It’s simple human nature to do more of the things that we find fun and avoid activities that bore us

Sales training also benefits from coaching. Who better to learn from than someone who has been in your shoes? Coaches personalize the learning experience, sharing real-world insights gains from years of selling. Pairing microlearning assignments with 1:1 video coaching improves onboarding, pre-call/meeting preparation, and product knowledge retention.

Another benefit of the microlearning approach is that you quickly build a library of content. This can be ‘big picture’, describing your overall customer engagement approach. It can also be very practical – explaining how to achieve a specific objective or overcome recurring problems. When reps learn that the answers to their challenges are found in your virtual sales training system, it becomes a go-to resource.

Applying the new model

The most effective companies in the new commercial environment will be those who use technology to provide the richest customer experience. While challenging, this will also bring opportunities. If we are entering a ‘post field force era’, smaller companies might benefit from a digital-first environment, in which small teams of highly skilled reps can have an outsized impact.

One thing is clear: as the industry forges new go-to-market strategies, people need upskilling to deliver on them – especially remote sales training. New commercial models and technology should be matched a fresh approach to digital training.

This must be relevant to the sales environment and reflect how people actually learn and sharpen their skills. The new model for sales training – founded on microlearning and demonstrating continual improvement – engages people. And it keeps pace with change.

If it’s true that competitive advantage is now found in the mastery of digital technology, companies with the most digitally skilled customer teams will be the winners.


Sales training designed for customer teams

Our virtual sales training solution rapidly develops customer team digital competences – while making the experience easy, engaging and fun.


  1. COVID-19: Accelerating digital transformation in life sciences, Reuters Events Report, 2020
  2. Beyond COVID-19: Life sciences reimagined, Reuters Events Report, 2020
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