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.
Getting Sell-throughI 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 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 TRAINING1. "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."
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 salesenablement at salespeople doing their own thing and disappointing new product sell-through, there is a much better way of introducing new products.
GET THE SALES TEAM TO DO THE PRODUCT TRAININGIn our typical Visual Storytelling training session, each person will either see the Visual Confection, or whiteboard presented up to 10 times and give the presentation a minimum of six times each in the training session.
They will be able to meet new clients the next day, engage buyers around their issues and use the visual confection in a conversational style.