Betting on SMEs for Training Wins
By David Braca, Business Development Director
When someone says, “I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth,” you know that the knowledge received is dependable and reliable. That’s because it is information from someone with direct or firsthand experience. The phrase is derived from horse racing dating back to the late 1800s, and it referred to bettors going directly to the horse handler and stable hand to find the age and condition of the horse just prior to placing a bet.
Today, pharmaceutical and medical device companies can greatly enhance the training experience for their commercial teams by utilizing subject matter experts (SMEs) or thought leaders (TLs) to ensure that the content and tactics align with real-life diagnosis and disease management. It’s an opportunity to confirm the medical relevance of scientific content based not only on clinical guidelines, but on actual clinicians’ personal experiences, thus hearing it “straight from the horse’s mouth.”
Enhance the training experience for commercial teams by utilizing subject matter experts or thought leaders to ensure that the content and tactics align with real-life diagnosis and disease management.
Here are a few examples of enhancing current training resources through the participation of SMEs and TLs that companies might consider:
- Foundational content: provide a clinical perspective by having SMEs or TLs either validate or contribute to the development of foundational content, especially in areas devoted to patient care and treatment management, which would encourage a greater empathy and understanding of the patient
- Situational or case-based selling scenarios: incorporate real-life clinical experiences and preferences by walking the commercial representatives through a clinician’s critical thinking, such as hearing the reasons that influence decision making – why did the clinician choose treatment X versus treatment Y for the patient?
- Specialized workshops: host “Hear From the Experts” roundtable discussions where SMEs or TLs are interviewed, or host an expert-moderated Tumor Board where commercial teams are challenged to think like a clinician
- Supplemental learning: offer podcasts or digital magazine articles that explore “A Day in the Life of a Clinician” with interviews of SMEs or TLs, further helping commercial representatives to understand clinicians and their contribution to patient care
- Surgical vignettes: conduct short 2–3 minute interviews of surgeons sharing their own experiences with a medical device and offering their best practices around the surgical procedure, helping commercial representatives go beyond a product’s features/advantages/benefits by gaining an understanding of clinical decisions through the lens of a surgeon
An obvious challenge to the approach of incorporating SME and TL contributions into commercial training is a company’s medical and regulatory review, which determines what content is acceptable and usable. When training teams involve their medical and regulatory teams very early in the process—including first drafts, story boards, etc.—the overall approval process can be a positive one with minimal complications.
Creating an enthusiasm for training content and resources has always been a challenge for sales training departments, especially with more experienced, seasoned commercial representatives. By contributing clinical content and subject matter perspective, the effective inclusion of SMEs and TLs can improve overall program participation, add credibility, and elevate the overall training experience. As a result, commercial teams will be better prepared for field discussions and constructive interactions, especially after hearing it “straight from the horse’s mouth.”