Every Sales professional is familiar with a common first order of business:  getting trained up on the products and services of their organization.

I’ve gone through many of these, and as a product manager long ago, created and delivered product training. I’ve seen good, bad, and everything in between.  Today, I’ve decided to share good:  some best practices.

There are several areas that good…and great product training needs to cover:

The Basics:

Yes every product must include the basic product features, standards, specs…speeds and feeds information. While compulsory, this is the least interesting from a differentiation/value point of view. Which means while it’s interesting to the product people and a few technically-oriented buyers, it’s the least relevant to top-performing sellers.

Common Advantages:

 All product training programs should also include advantages:potential benefits (here, I define benefits as advantages with personal relevance to a specific buying influence).  The job of sales is to provide each member of a B2B group buying decision with an individualized motivation to buy.  Product trainers need to share best practices of which advantages tend to turn into benefits for which personas, but the “boots on the ground” salesperson is responsible for a bespoke fit.

Common Applications, AKA Use Cases:

How is the product/service used by customers?  What problems or issues does it solve for them?  What outcomes does it help them achieve?

How does it make the customer more profitable or more competitive, and how much?

What hidden problems has it solved?.

Typical value networks (graphic representations of related value, personas, etc.)

CompetitionSpecifically, Value-centered Competitive Analysis

Basic product training usually gives a nod to major competitors.  Competent product training covers comparisons/differences from a specs/performance standpoint.

Best Practices: Value differentials.  Good product training can articulate not just differentials in features and capabilities, but how those advantages turn into benefits.  Great product training equips sellers to understand the customer implications – in financial terms.  A tiny component which reduces the downtime in a major industrial customer’s process can have value thousands of times its price.  Sellers need to know how to walk through that math with a customer…or be susceptible to unwarranted discounting pressure.

I work with some clients on product/marketing/sales alignment, and one of the tools I often uses is called product concept statements (some authors also call them product charter statements).  This is a 1 or 2-sentence statement of the outcome the  product produces for the customer.

Common Buying Personas/Buying Influences

 While I strongly believe that every customer makes every buying decision differently every time, there are almost always some recurring themes, plus a few common variants to buying decisions.  The more product training prepares sellers on what to expect, the better. A best practice in product training is to overview the common personas encountered in a typical sale. For each major market segment, sellers should leave product training knowing:

  • Typical buying ecosystems: personas, and role in the decision.
  • Common buyer Journey overviews
  • High-leverage personas: those who typically have high value-affinity for the product’s unique advantages.
  • Mapping advantages to common personas. Especially important:  how and when to expand the buying ecosystem to capitalize on additional value creation.
  • Creative additions to the buying ecosystem which creative sellers have uncovered, previously discovered unique value propositions/
  • My Value Network tool (contact me, or wait for my upcoming book) helps create and articulate how differentiated features/advantages map to specific, personalized value creation with a variety of personas.

Selling Resources

Playbooks.  In some companies with widely varied products, there can be different selling playbooks in place.  Introduce and overview all you have.

Selling resource libraries and policies.  Where are the brochures and white papers kept, and how do they map to specific portions of buying journeys?  A best practice is to capture common “sticking points” in typical buyer journeys, and to develop content which helps salespeople and customers navigate those sticking points more effectively.  Making it easy for sellers to do this is a hallmark of world class product training.

CRM, and collaboration tools.  Introducing tools for the sales force to become a “group learning organism”, and to disseminate challenges and success throughout the company  is also a best practice.

How does this differ with the product training your sales force receives?  What do you think those differences impact sales performance? What best practices would you like to add to this list?  Post below, or contact me directly.

To Your Success!

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