Product Training Doesn't Work- Get Sales to DO Product Training
Plenty of conversations at the excellent Sirius Decisions
marketing event earlier this month lead me to believe that there is a major problem in the way companies approach product training.
I asked 10 people in B2B product marketing or product management the same question "How long after new product training does it take for you to get meaningful sell through of the new product?"
Sell-through varied from 6-12 months and in one case, 18 months, with a lot of head shaking, groans and frowned expressions from responders. This was a very unscientific poll and in some cases the product marketers did get sell-through earlier from a few of the top reps, but in general it took a lot longer than they expected to produce the revenue.
In a more detailed conversation, I spoke this week with a prospective WhiteboardSelling client running sales operations in the medical software field, regarding their planned sales training and certification program.
I asked if they had introduced any new products in the past year and if they had issues in getting sell-through. He mentioned that they did introduce a new product in their November sales training event last year, that they believed was a clear winner for clients and had a high value proposition that was easily understood.
This is his response, " We introduced the product with a strong message and clear value-prop into a market we are represented in strongly. Unfortunately we have only achieved 40% of the $3.4M we expected to sell in the first 6 months after introduction".
I asked if he could describe their product introduction process....does any of the following sound familiar?
THE OLD WAY OF PRODUCT TRAINING
1. "Our Product Management team had worked for months to create and package the new product, ready for training at the Kick-off in November.
2. At the event, the product was presented in a PowerPoint presentation, followed by a demonstration. This was followed by presentation on use cases and ROI impact analysis. It was a strong launch.
3. Subsequent regional training and group Webinars were held to ensure the sales team understood the product.
4. Product management created supporting PowerPoint presentations, .pdf's and created a resource center in Salesforce.com to support sales efforts.
5. The Website product messaging was consistent with the sales collateral."
I then asked what went wrong and why he felt they had they fallen so far short after such a strong launch.
"Some of the sales guys have gotten it and are doing well with the new product. The majority are not hitting their numbers, and these reps have a tendency to rely on PowerPoint to do the selling and their conversations are all around product instead of getting the business conversation on the table."
These comments were unsolicited, but read like the challenges I call out in my own Whiteboard presentation of "Why WhiteboardSelling".
If the old (current) way of product training doesn't work, what does?
Having been through many of the traditional product training events described above in my career, and for the past six months, experiencing the new way of product training with some of the smartest sales enablement teams in the industry, I have some good news.
Instead of frustration in product management and sales enablement at salespeople doing their own thing and long lead times for new product sell-through, there is a much better way of introducing new products.
GET THE SALES TEAM TO DO THE PRODUCT TRAINING
In a typical WhiteboardSelling Symposium each person will either see the Whiteboard presented, or give the Whiteboard presentation up to eight times in a four hour period. They will be able to meet new clients the next day, engage buyers around their issues and present their products on a Whiteboard in a conversational style. They won't be perfect, but with practice they will quickly gain confidence.
If you want the sales team to learn a new product and get them to sell it quickly, then get them to DO the product training.
- The time it takes to prepare the Whiteboard story is about a month and we need a half a virtual or in-person training day per product or solution Whiteboard, except the sales team in general love it VS. hating the PowerPoint presentation method.
- In the first 2 hour training session we typically see a lot of push-back, as sales people and presales engineers are exposed to their managers and peers doing something new in a medium that is unfamiliar and that makes them feel uncomfortable. Getting salespeople out of their comfort zone is critical in the learning and training phase.
- After the break however, there is a huge lift in confidence and quality of presentation as salespeople learn from each other, learn the story, relax and have fun with it.
- Visual Story-telling is the future of presenting, we can help create the story with you and train your team to deliver it. Your prospects - and customers will thank you for it....and did I mention that you will reduce ramp-time to sell-through.