Context Drives Confidence
Allergan’s commercial teams gain new perspectives through firsthand insights into care experience
Pharmaceutical commercial teams must demonstrate specialized advanced knowledge and empathy for their customers, all while closely adhering to strict regulations; for instance, companies are required to restrict their sales training to the content of an FDA-approved drug label. In an increasingly complex and competitive environment, commercial teams are seeking out more immersive training experiences.
Closely tied to the company’s strategic priorities, in 2016 and 2017 commercial leaders and trainers from Allergan—which was recently sold to Abbvie in a $63 billion deal—participated in a series of custom executive education programs designed and delivered by Harvard Medical School.
The goal of these programs was to provide critical insights into the perspectives of patients and physicians, as well as state-of-the-art updates on specific disease conditions of interest (from pathophysiology to natural history to therapeutic options). Participants from Allergan’s commercial teams included field specialty sales representatives and managers, marketing and training teams and senior management.
Shawn Peter was a key stakeholder with Allergan. At the time of the programs, he served as Vice President of US Sales Training, Leadership Development and Partner Integration, and directed executive and operational strategies for commercial sales training, market access, new product launches and field strategies for products supporting $4 billion in sales.
“We were trying to better equip our field force to understand how specialists think and the inner exchange they go through when they see a patient,” said Peter. His team worked with HMS Executive Education to design an advanced custom learning experience that met the company’s training needs and strategic objectives, while also fulfilling rigorous regulatory requirements.
Harvard Medical School served as a trusted convener for faculty experts who led interactive classroom sessions, including patient case vignettes which were discussed in small groups.
“It was eye-opening in terms of how complex it can be to treat patients,” said Peter. “There are so many considerations that physicians have to think about as they’re sitting across from a patient.” Explorations of patient symptoms and experiences (including simulations and videos) provided a visceral reminder of important unmet medical needs and the special nature of the patient-doctor relationship.
“Sometimes our teams are more narrowly focused…Harvard Medical School gave them an invaluable foundation of advanced learning and built their confidence by growing their competency around specific disease areas, how physicians assess and diagnose patients and providing them with firsthand perspectives on health care delivery.”
Peter added that the programs helped position Allergan’s commercial organization to better meet the needs of our customers.