When developing a product training curriculum for sales people, can we transfer the content from our brochures or specs sheets into course modules? Of course, these are the basic documents and perhaps good reference material but they cannot by themselves be sustained as a training curriculum.
In face to face classroom sessions, the sales trainers or product training managers provide value added insights about products based on their experience. They are also physically present to respond to practical queries raised by sales people. However, when developing online product training, how can we fill the void created by the absence of a physical instructor? Absence of an instructor necessitates developers to ensure that nothing is left to the imagination of learners. All possible situations that they encounter on field while interacting with customers are addressed during product training courses. This is possible by choosing the right content for product training, which typically covers information about products in the context of Company, Customer and Competition.
A well planned product training curriculum should ideally cover the following:
Position of Product in the Product Portfolio
Depending on the size of the company, the number of products in its portfolio varies. However, it is important that a sales person understand where in the product portfolio does the said product falls. Therefore, product training needs to start with a clear message about the position of the product in the company’s business portfolio. This helps the sales person understand a lot of things such as the target segment, profile of the potential customer or business, and so on.
Customer profiling is an important part of product training. It includes a description of prospective customers with specific information about their buying patterns, creditworthiness, and purchase history. The information about the CUSTOMER refers not just todemographic, geographic, and psychographic characteristics of the prospects but also to a clear idea of their specific needs. They need to know the alignment of the features of the product with customer benefits – how the said product is relevant TO THEM.
Features, Advantages and Benefits of the Product
Next come the features and advantages of the product. Typically, we can include about 3-4 distinguishing features of the product and key advantages it has over other products. Most traditional product training programs concentrate only on this aspect. While this is important, it is not good enough for selling in today’s dynamic market conditions. In fact, this information can usually be obtained by a prospective customer from the internet, and most often is not adequate to clinch that all important deal.Therefore, you need to talk about the benefits the product provides to customers.
In a research done by Forrester, they found that 88% of executives who have had experience with sales people observed that while they were able to talk about their company’s products, only 27% actually understood the customer’s business and what they were looking for.
It is important that product training for sales people include BENEFITS that the product brings to the customer. What is the inherent value in terms of money, time or anything else that the customer gets as a result of using this product? The focus has to be on selling solutions rather than features.
Accessories, Bundling & Cross Selling
Products come with some default accessories. For example a computer comes with a CPU, Monitor, Keyboard and Mouse.
External speakers, Additional hard disk space, higher ram, network card are other products that can go along with the computer as additional products to enhance user experience.
An enthusiastic sales person educates his customer with bundling options. Similarly, printer, scanner or projector could be other products that the company may be dealing with. The value these products can bring to the customer is another aspect that a sales person should know and is essential for cross-selling.
A good product training program for sales people should include such bundling and cross selling options for better value for the customer and better revenue for the company.
Selling a product is not the end as backing up sales with good service is equally important. Sales personnel need to provide this information to customers and it can sometimes be a deal clinching factor. When organizations buy equipment for their officesscattered in multiple locations, they may be keen on checking out the service backup available for all the locations.Similarly, information about warranties and benefits of annual maintenance contract are other aspects that are vital for product training programs.
Remember that these aspects are very important to increase sales and retain customers.
Comparison with Competing Products
Customers today are well-informed and research about products even before they meet a sales person. They would have compared competing products, features and their individual value.
A sales person needs to be ready with convincing answers to any query posed by the customer about competing products. For the purpose, he needs to know about the products of competitors and the specific model his company’s product is pitted against. He needs to know a feature by feature comparison of products and how his product fares against competition.
Tips for Selling
Finally, it is a good idea to share some case studies or scenarios with sales people that help them during a sales pitch. They could be given a list of ice-breaker ideas to elicit the interest of a potential customer. It also is useful to add some leading questions that enable them to understand customer needs and pain-points. It always helps to share actual experiences faced by sales people on the field. Such exchange of information helps sales people anticipate situations and be prepared suitably to get the best out of the available opportunity.
To summarize, the right content for product training needs to contain much more than just information, features and description of products. Sales people should have good knowledge of the people they can sell their products to, have god FAB strategy, know about cross selling and bundling options along with the services provided. Additionally, they need to be told about competitors’ products and armed with some selling tips and performance support tips with reference to their product.