I can already hear the distress from product managers and product marketing people. How could we possibly imagine putting an end to product training? How would sales people understand and be able to pitch our products?
Well, my response is pretty simple and crass, it doesn’t work! Billions of dollars (euro, yuan, yen, pounds) are spent every year in training sales people about products. More is spent in collateral, samples, materials. All it does is makes our sales people knowledgeable about our products. Very little helps the sales person solve the customers problems.
Perhaps if we turned things upside down and started thinking and training differently. What is we started training sales people on things the customer cares about? What if we started training on markets, customers, problems that customers have? What if we started training sales people on helping customer discover new opportunities to grow their business or improve their operations?
The only way we can get sales to have meaningful conversations with their customers is to talk about what they care about—their businesses. Telling them about all our great products doesn’t excite them, it doesn’t help them achieve what they need or want to achieve.
If we turned all our training upside down and focused purely on what is important to customers we would be much more effective in selling our products. If we positioned what our products do, in terms of how they help customers achieve their goals, we engage our customers in an entirely different conversation–one that’s important to them, one that catches their attention. What if all our training started this way:
- These are the customers we serve better than anyone else in the world.
- These are the things they are trying to achieve. These are the problems they have. These are opportunities they are missing. These are the things our customers should be worrying about. This is the impact of those issues on their business. This is what these customers need to do to win and outperform their competition. These are dreams they may have and why they are important……
- Here’s how our product [Insert name here] helps them address those issues. Here’s how our product helps them achieve their goals more effectively than any other alternative…….
It’s a very simple twist from what we do, but it starts with the customer–providing sales the knowledge, skills, tools to engage the customer with things they care about, not forcing them to listen to all the data about our products. They really don’t care that it comes in 10 different designer colors, or that it is cloud based, or that it is modular – flexible – upgradeable, or that it’s what all the “cool dudes” use. They don’t care that it’s bigger, better, faster, cheaper, and is HTML5 based. But this is typically how we train our sales people. Customers don’t care, so we are wasting our time and resources by training our sales people in this manner.
Executives–sales, marketing, and product managers need to start challenging people with different questions. Rather than challenging sales people to be capable of “Identifying three key features and three key benefits of our products,” they need to challenge people with “Identify three opportunities our customers have to improve their business and how our products provide them the capability to seize these opportunities.”
What do you think, should we be putting an end to product training?