Author: Dee Mahoney
The majority of pharmaceutical and biotech companies rely on their compliance departments to conduct compliance training for their sales teams. Compliance training needs to cover much territory: all the standards and regulations that govern pharmaceutical sales, including good promotional practices. However, we have seen compliance departments routinely underfunded for design and implementation of sales training. As co-founder of DMH, a consulting firm that specializes in behavioral-based compliance training, and a seasoned veteran of this particular struggle, I have observed five reasons why it occurs:
- Considering the 100+-year history of pharma companies, compliance is a relatively new functional department. Compliance lacks the historical record of success tied to budget monies which other departments have. Additionally, new compliance budgets are funded by taking from another department’s budget, making that a difficult sell.
- Legal and regulatory professionals typically staff biotech and pharma compliance departments. In their previous roles, sales training was funded by sales. So, they are unaccustomed to fighting for the amount of money necessary to conduct effective behaviorally-based sales training that sticks.
- Compliance is perceived as a non-revenue generating department. Hence, their training budgets are small in comparison to sales training budgets. Because compliance is considered a “cost center” vs. an opportunity to better the company and the sales department, it is usually among the last to see any money.
- While compliance professionals are experts on the laws and policies that govern the industry, they are usually not too well versed in their company’s brands, adult learning theories or the behaviors and motivations of sales colleagues. As a result, sales professionals often see compliance training as irrelevant or unimportant and are unwilling to fund it from the sales budget.
- Lastly, to complicate matters further, many pharmaceutical and biotech manufacturers have experienced budget cuts and layoffs in recent years.
If a company is truly committed to integrating Good Promotional Practices into the business and delivering effective training, then compliance needs to be a collaborative effort. Sales leadership, training professionals and regulatory experts must work with compliance to develop and fund compliance training for sales professionals. So what can you do to better support your compliance department?
- Executives: At budget planning sessions, allocate “earmarked” resources for compliance departments to ensure funding for behavioral-based compliance training for your sales teams.
- Sales: Since field sales representatives are responsible for the majority of off-label compliance violations, sales should be willing to support this funding. In addition, commercial leaders should know that they could be held liable for unlawful promotions committed by sales teams, and even face misdemeanor or felony convictions.
- Compliance: Be bold. Familiarize yourself with the company’s branding culture and brush up on some effective training and communication methods to motivate your sales team to participate (see related articles). Make sure your corporate leadership understands the importance of your role and the resources you need (be realistic) to do your job.
Compliance can save companies from ruinous publicity and potentially millions of dollars in fines. It is time for everyone to get on the same page and realize that a compliance department does not ensure sales compliance unless they also have the support and means to do so.
- Short Discourse on Adult-Learning Theory: Andragogy (work911.com)
- Maintaining a Culture of Compliance (pharmaexec.com)
- Training Transfer (about.com)