E-Learning in Sales Force Trainings

Eighty five % of sales training budget is spent on travel and logistics and only rest 15% are spent on training content. That was a situation in 2001 as reported by Per Lofberg from Merck Capital Ventures during the 2001 ePharma Summit in Philadelphia.

The last decade shows that implementation e-learning in sales force training increased the cost of content development, decreased the cost of travel and delivered total savings up to 50 %.
E-trainings can reach more people in a shorter period of time than traditional training events and reduce the total costs incurred from related travel, hotels, meals and administration.

But cost-savings is not the only driver of e-learning implementation.

E-learning takes less time hours to train people. The goal of any sales pharma organization is to get highly trained people in the field as quickly as possible and to minimize time spent away from selling activities. That is especially critical when large numbers of reps must be trained simultaneously to launch a new product.

Advances in medicine and new information about competing products create an environment of constant learning for sales people and a need for fast, efficient delivery of relevant information. Tools that meet those challenges must contain highly sophisticated, engaging content that can be quickly disseminated and absorbed, and this is a natural application for e-learning.

Distant training can enhance employee performance by delivering job-related content right to their notebooks, available when they need it. This is especially appealing to dispersed sales representatives.

Multimedia-based training is highly flexible and, because the course material is self-paced, employees can use it anytime, anywhere. Most classroom-based instruction is designed to meet the learning rate of an average attendee, but not all program participants learn at the same speed. The individual training is highly efficient because accommodate any speed of learning and allows multiple replays during or after the course and skipping the fragments already learned.

E-learning content is consistent, which eliminates the failure in content delivery created by instructor attrition or varying teaching styles. A well designed course can also appeal to many learning styles, something that classroom-based training with standard textbook materials fails to address.

E-training course gives an opportunity to track results and determine the training materials' overall effectiveness. Built-in practice assessments can provide immediate feedback to each participant, and online graded tests can inform managers about participants' progress before they begin any classroom sessions.

Pharma companies can adapt sales force training e-content for physician education or patient education, and marketing communications. Development of sales force training course may become part of a company-wide offering of continuing education, patient outreach programs or may be adapted to branded websites.

The research undertaken by the UC Irvine Graduate School of Management showed that individuals participating in e-learning can perform significantly better than those taught in a traditional classroom.

The effective e-learning course should combine multimedia lectures, interactive communication, and electronic testing, and have incorporated the following design principles:


Multimedia must engage participants, facilitate understanding and present accurate information.
Participants' knowledge and experience. The learning built on participants' background knowledge and on familiar situations improves their retention of new information. Analogies and case studies that place new science-based information in a real-world setting are highly effective.


Pharma companies need to present complex science through 3-D and 2-D animation, molecular modeling, and video.
Various learning styles. Multimedia and instructional design allows companies to address different learning styles. It is possible to use in one course the text for participants with preferred cerebral learning style and audio, images and animations for participants who need to listen or visualize things to fully understand them.

Project-based learning.

It is easier to understand science-based material when the learning simulates the investigation of a problem. The e-learning methods allow creation of these simulations and facilitate fast and effective comprehension of very complex scientific concepts.

Emphasis on participation.

Interactive multimedia is a fundamental of e-trainings. It involves students into active participation in the learning process.

Class-room training

  • More cost-effective for small groups
  • More personal interaction between trainer and participants
  • Trainer’ live performance is more engaging to some trainees
  • Travel opportunities are sometimes considered as benefit for employee
  • Less Investment in content development


  • More cost-effective for large dispersed groups
  • 24/7 access and no need to wait for training
  • Consistent delivery of training material
  • Less time away from work and less total time for training due to greater efficiency
  • Provides more individualized instruction

E-learning should not completely substitute class-room training, it is a significant component in sales force training programmes and leads to a higher level of retention than classroom learning alone. It is important to understand the benefits and deficiencies of both methods and combine them in a blended approach.

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