My last blog addressed the question of which is more important: sales training or product training. Given the right organizational processes, the argument was made that sales training can have significantly more impact than product training. As you can imagine, my blog generated healthy debate, many from people that believe I was suggesting organizations severally limit product training. To the contrary, product training is critically important. However, I see consistent problems with most of today’s product training.
Product Training Pitfalls
Product training typically focuses on what the product does and how it works. While this is a good start, most sales reps simply learn this product information and spew it forward to their prospects and customers. To understand why this is a problem, we have to ask this question: What does a prospect or customer really care about most, what we call our product, how the product works or how it impacts their business? Obviously it’s business impact. Unfortunately, this means that the one thing prospects care about most is often left out of product training. Now don’t get me wrong, it isn’t intentionally ignored, it is merely assumed that the sales people will add that when they get to the point of sharing the information with customers. And while the sales people may instinctively know they should, rarely are they able to invest enough time to really do this properly and so they default to repeating what they learned – leaving it to the prospects to try to figure out how the product will impact their business.
By the way, showing how the product impacts a prospect’s business IN A COMPELLING FASHION is the true objective here. Even if a product would benefit a given customer, if that person isn’t motivated to buy it the solution really has no impact at all. So what really motivates human behavior? As Sigmund Freud observed, the avoidance of near-term pain is a far more powerful motivator than the pursuit of distant pleasure. Unfortunately, most product training focuses exclusively on the benefits of the product, not on the potential problems prospects may experience by not having the product. As a result, prospects will often delay or avoid potential product benefits because they believe the near-term pain of acquiring a new product outweighs the potential future benefit.
The next problem I see with most product training is what I call the “what happens next” issue. Once the sales team completes their product training, they need to fill their funnel with new opportunities – if we didn’t want them to sell it, we wouldn’t have trained them on the product. So, in an effort to fill the funnel, sales reps often schedule as many appointments as possible so they can demonstrate their newfound product knowledge. If these demonstrations are to prospects that don’t have problems the product can solve, or if the sales reps are demonstrating the product to someone that is not responsible for solving the problem, the demonstration becomes a complete waste of time.
Strategies to Improve Product Training
To ensure the above problems are avoided, organizations should incorporate four key elements into their product training:
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- Make certain to clearly tie the product to meaningful business impact
- Describe in detail the problems prospects and customers can avoid by using the product
- Provide sales people with an ideal customer profile for the new product or service and questions they can use to determine which of their prospects would be helped so that they can quickly identify new opportunities
- Introduce new products in a format that aligns with the sales methodology
By implementing these strategies into your product training the sales organization will be much more productive find more and higher quality opportunities and bring greater value to your prospective customers ultimately resulting in more sales.