The other day, my friend Kelley Robertson wrote an outstanding article: Is Your Sales Training Putting Your Sales Team At Risk? The article prompted me to think about: Why is product and sales training separated? What would happen if we integrated our sales methodologies and training into our product training?
Companies invest lots of time and money in developing product training with every new product they launch. Usually, this training focuses on training the sales person on the product features, functions, speeds and feeds. Often, it includes competitive positioning, sometimes it includes elementary objection handling. Usually the training focuses on what the product is and what it does. Sometimes it addresses how it should be sold. However, in our experience, it seldom incorporates the processes, methods and approaches introduced in sales training sessions. There is a tremendous opportunity to accelerate the launch results and to reinforce investments in sales training by incorporating sales training into the product training.
Much sales training is oriented around certain processes (ideally, the vendor has adopted their methodology to the organization’s selling process—if not, well that’s a different post). As you develop your product training, incorporate this process into the product training. For example, in qualification, what are the target markets, customers, individuals within the customers for this product? What are we looking for to qualify whether this product will be a potential solution for them? Who should we be talking to and what should we be talking to them about? In discovery, what are the needs, problems, issues we address with this product? How do we question and probe to determine whether the product is a good fit for the customer? How do we determine if our product produces value for the customer? In presenting the solution, how do we best position this product to address the needs, priorities and requirements we identified? Leverage what you have learned in developing, communicating and delivering value into developing and communicating the value of this product. Use what you have learned in putting together a justified business proposal. If you’ve had training in objection handling, how do you use that approach in handling objections customers might have with this product? If you’ve had training in negotiation, how do you leverage this with the new product? I could go on, but I’ll stop here.
It’s such a simple step–merging the sales methods into the product introduction, but few organizations do this. But if your sales people are already trained in this sales methodology, wouldn’t leveraging this accelerate the launch and improve sales success? Wouldn’t doing this reinforce the sales training and continue to build skills and capability in execution? We’ve seen tremendous results with dozens of clients. Leveraging their experience base and the sales training they have already had, accelerates their understanding of the product and how to be successful in selling it. It establishes a tight connection between what they’ve already learned and practiced, building on that strong base.
To maximize the results you get both from product training and sales training, eliminate the gap between them.
Todd Youngblood says
So often, simple is so powerful. Excellent – and simple – suggestion!
David Brock says
Todd, I have KISS branded on my forehead 😉
Daniel M. Wood says
Very true indeed.
Most companies are very good at one or the other.
Either we give a awesome sales training or we focus everything on teaching our salesmen about our products.
Not very often we get both right and quite often we get both wrong.
I have always felt that sales training is the most important part of the development for a good salesman, therefore we always work long hours on both teaching them the ins and outs of our products, our competitors products and how to approach and present the solutions to our customers.
Thanks a lot for a great post here Dave.
David Brock says
Daniel, thanks for the comments. We so often treat sales training as an “event,” likewise with product and other training. We can really do a lot to reinforce the sales training, strategies and priorities by building elements of sales training into our product training. It’s so simple, but few do this (until I talk to them).
Thanks for the comments!
Tim Hagen says
Great insight …. training reinforcement is the missing piece in performance development
David Brock says
Thanks for the comment Tim!
Robert Koehler says
Thank you for the comments. I’ve long argued for the hybrid approach of mixing product with sales skills training. One does not exist in a vacuum without the other. Given the strong pressure to minimize time out of the field, this approach also optimizes the potential return on training investments.
Often corporate training/learning and development groups separate the ‘soft skills’ or sales skills group from the product trainers or group of subject matter experts in product management/marketing called upon to deliver product training. In many of these cases, the training design and development process or group does not wrap the product training in the context of the sales situation. Unfortunately the myth that ‘the better the sales people know the product and the more we tell the client about the product, the more we’ll sell’ still prevails. Better product knowledge definitely helps. Part of my sales success has stemmed from superior product knowledge. It can also blur our vision of the forest (the customer’s business goals and initiatives and answering ‘so what?’) through the trees.
Separating product training from context/skills training also flies against anecdotal evidence from the Gallup organization and others suggesting that many top performers have less in-depth product knowledge than their counterparts. As Gallup noted no relationship has been found between training and/or technical training and best performers. In my opinion the most effective way to improve sales performance is to integrate product and sales training.
David Brock says
Robert, you are right on with your comments! We invest millions/billions of $’s in training people feeds, speeds, features, functions of new products, but we don’t leverage the current sales processes, tools, methods and skills as part of the product training. One of the important measures your company has in its product launches is time to revenue/profitability. This is accelerated dramatically by incorporating sales training into the product training.
Also, think what a wonderful means you have to continually reinforce everything you have done, by incorporating sales training into product training.
Thanks for joining the discussion and for the great comment! I hope to see you participating in the future.