One of the key contributions that a Product Manager can make is to provide regular, bite-sized input to the sales force about product benefits and competitive advantages.
So often, sales reps are thrown into quarterly (or even less frequent) product training sessions consisting of more than an hour’s worth of material poured into a single hour’s worth of time. Nobody wants to take up too much of the sales reps’ time with training when they could be selling. And force feeding a bunch of information in one sitting may simply be counterproductive.
So what can be done to remedy that? A Product Manager can send regular dispatches about the product, geared to sales reps’ need to understand product benefits and competitive comparisons. Instead of Dispatches from the Front Lines, these are Dispatches to the Front Lines, where the sales force is engaging prospects as the competitive bullets whiz by.
Read on for guidelines on what to include in these training tools to help your company sell more.
Present the information in a brief meeting, concall, or webcast, ideally as part of a regularly scheduled sales meeting. Sales reps probably won’t bother to read the information on their own, unless it’s really short.
Choose a single topic of limited scope, and organize it into the sections listed below.
Note: The suggested sections are based on Solution Selling(tm) methodology and concepts.
Begin by explaining your prospect’s pain, in other words the frustration, struggle, or difficulty that will motivate them to buy your software.
This is a one-sentence explanation of a business difficulty, such as not meeting revenue targets, difficulty staffing and training for technical support, slipping profits, etc.
This section gives more specifics about the problems causing the pain(s) you describe in the previous section. A brief background might be in order, with a description of how a problem tends to progress and where the difficulty is most evident.
Provide a set of questions for a sales rep to ask in order to determine the scope of the problem and the financial impact. For example, if the problem is not meeting sales goals, here are some questions:
- How many sales reps do you have?
- What are their quotas?
- How did they do last quarter relative to quota?
- What percent or dollar amount over or under?
These questions help the sales rep engage the prospect in a thorough discussion, first to understand the prospect’s problem and second to measure the potential value of a solution in terms of savings, profit or revenue.
Focus on the business benefits of the associated product capabilities. This is very different from the features described in the next section. Limit this to a description of the positive results for the business of using a specific feature.
These are the specific features, functions, or capabilities leading to the benefits described in the previous section.
Want to get a sales rep’s attention? Use the C word: Competition. It ranks up there with Compensation and Commission.
In this section, provide whatever you know about the comparative capabilities of your competition. Also, explain how to position your product against each important competitor.
Finally, there’s vision. Provide some sentences that reps can use to paint a picture of what would happen when your prospect used the feature. It’s important to provide details that register with the prospect, using familiar terminology.
In Solution Selling ™, these take the form of what-if questions that structure the information in a “What-if, When, Who, What” format.
“What if, when hiring new call center reps, your supervisors were able to have them independently take training for the applications they must support, at their own pace and right from their own workstations, with tests that measure progress and report scores to team leaders? Would that help make your support reps productive more quickly, cutting the normal ramp-up time from two months to less than one?”
Building Product Knowledge
By providing regular dispatches to sales, you can build up product knowledge, specifically as it relates to benefits and competition, to give your sales force an advantage over the competition.
— Jacques Murphy, Product Management Challenges