Approach training of customer-facing teams with just-in-time information.
Instructional designers will tell you that 75% of what is learned is forgotten if not applied within six days.
What do you really remember from your college classes? I once knew how to program a recursive sort. But having never used it in real life both the logic and syntax are now lost to me. Nowadays, I leave notes to myself reminding me how to do tasks I rarely perform.
If you don’t use it, you lose it.
How does this apply to your product training for sales, support, services, and success teams?
Training the customer-facing teams is an important activity for product managers and product marketing managers but also a common area of frustration. They hold launch meetings and sales kick-offs; they run a few webinars; they create an enormous FAQ. But then they seem to always answer the same questions again and again, over and over.
Here’s why: most of the information shared in training is stuff that can (and should) go in the sales portal. Nobody remembers what was said and can ever find emails after the fact.
Sales teams need just-in-time information. Provide the sales team with high-quality materials such as brochures, case studies, and product guides as well as sample RFPs, FAQs, and cost-justification worksheets. And make sure you have an index of sales materials so they can find them when they need them.
Don’t waste too much time training them on the product and its capabilities. Train them on how to find the information they need when they need it.
If they don’t use it, they lose it.
In the weeks before and after a launch, send out snippets of product information with links to the sales resources site. Provide short video lessons, podcasts, and pre-recorded demos. My friend Saeed sent a two-page PDF index to sales resources—which is great if you don’t have too many products. Another friend created a secret landing page on the website for sales resources—including problems their products could solve as well as product-related information such as ebooks, worksheets, brochures, sample proposals, and presentations.
Recognize that different sales team members will have varying levels of familiarity with the product, so you’ll want to design training sessions catering to these different knowledge levels.
The law of unintended consequences
One VP of product wanted to improve the visibility of his product managers with the sales team. They recorded videos featuring each product manager describing their background, areas of expertise, and how to reach them. The salespeople were so impressed with the professionalism of the product management team that they began booking them to go on sales calls based on their extensive industry experience. Before you knew it, the product managers had become sales engineers.
And since salespeople love their customers, they began giving links to those videos directly to customers. And the product managers became the go-to resource for customers.
I've often thought that product managers should tend to stay behind the scenes. When possible, feature your sales engineering team so they are recognized as the product experts, the go-to resource for salespeople.
Anticipate what the sales team needs to direct the client through their buying cycle. Give them videos, ready-to-use presentations, worksheets, ebooks, and more. Help salespeople find what they need when they need it.
I rarely do sales training live anymore. One company had monthly sales onboarding sessions, often with only one participant, yet these sessions required a whole day for the product manager, sales engineering manager, and product marketing manager. Not a good use of anyone’s time. Instead, create videos and web pages that can be referenced and reused.
One more trick for training sales teams. Don’t do the presentation or demo yourself. Get one of the salespeople to present the standard product pitch. Get one of the sales engineers to give the product demo. This will demonstrate that the product manager isn’t the go-to resource for product information.
Remember, the goal is not simply to provide product information but to equip the sales team with the confidence and skills they need to sell the product effectively. It’s not so much learning how to use the product as ensuring readiness for the team to sell the product.
Sales engineering and services teams need different information. Provide them with opportunities for hands-on experience with the product. Create simulations, demos, and scenarios for team members to implement and use. They need access to a demo system already populated with sample data. Develop realistic use cases illustrating how the product can address common customer problems. Challenge them with scenarios to implement the most important parts of the product.
Use these resources as key elements of your product training. Again, you're not trying to teach them to use the product; you're teaching them how to succeed when selling it.
Align Training with Sales Methodology
Product marketing manager
Marketing campaigns and sales enablement plans
Product marketing manager
Ideal buyer personas and scenarios
How the product solves problems for potential customers
Demonstrate key problems to solve
Competitive and sales obstacles
Feedback from successful salespeople
Product marketing manager
Customer testimonials (or even better, actual customers discussing their success, either live or recorded)
Notice: the product manager does not deliver any of this information although they may have created it.
Don’t think of product sales training as “a” training. Think of product training as continuous learning. Offer ongoing resources like webinars, articles, and workshops to support the team's learning and development.
Are you facing a product launch soon? Learn how we can help your team ensure Day 1 Launch Readiness. Check out our Product Launch Intensive.