Not everyone in the organization requires the same product knowledge. While a CEO needs to know what products their company sells, they don’t need to know about them in great detail. Similarly, the product information essential for salesperson is different than a service person. While service staff must know the ins and outs of the product, sales reps just need the information that helps them make the right pitch to sell products, overcome objections, and answer queries during the sales call.
But do sales teams get the right product knowledge? Not always. In the report, "Why Product Training Often Disappoints, and How to Make it Better," Dr. Gregg Collins, vice president of instructional design at Cognitive Arts, explains that organizations often have the same product training for employees with different roles, from the sales force to service personnel. Worse still, the focus is all “about”’ the product, rather than helping individuals in their specific roles.
If you want to enable salespeople to make the right pitch to prospects and achieve their sales quotas, you need to make sure that the content in product training addresses these aspects. It would hardly help a salesperson if the product training content consists of a deck of PowerPoint slides filled with technical specifications and jargon related to the product.
So, how do we identify the right training content for the sales force? The answer is content analysis.
Content Analysis for Product Sales Training
Content analysis is an important step in any training, and product training is no exception. You need to collate all the available content related to the product, keeping in mind the information that a salesperson will require when selling the product. Ideally, a salesperson needs to have a thorough knowledge of:
- market segmentation
- product portfolio and the position of the said product
- customer profile and motivation for purchase
- product features, benefits and value it brings to the customer
- competition’s product against which this is pitted.
- up-selling and cross-selling opportunities
- service conditions and AMC benefits.
When training salespeople on products, you need to align the training to these key knowledge areas. How do you do that? By analyzing the available content and ensuring that it covers all the essential knowledge elements for a sales person to achieve his or her target. It might seem obvious, but this process is often overlooked and has to be done systematically. It involves three stages.
Stage #1: Collate Available Content
The first step to content analysis is to gather the content itself. You might get product information and literature from the product department or marketing department. You could also find content scattered across the organization in the form of product specifications, brochures, manuals, tables, charts, and product demos. You also can collect existing content in the form of PowerPoint slides or training manuals used by sales managers.
Any input from the marketing department about initial research or feedback during product launches, and customer objections could also be a valuable asset. in addition, information about competitors’ products also need to be part of this content collation exercise. All these resources will form the content inventory that provides the raw material for the training program.
Stage #2: Assess the Content
Once you have all the relevant content at one place, you need to assess it to see if the information available is adequate and consistent across multiple sources. You need to evaluate if the available content is relevant to the training objective—to see if it covers all the knowledge inputs, from market segmentation to service information. If not, you might have to source relevant content from product managers or subject matter experts.
Salespeople will need to know about the profile of the target audience. In other words, who is likely to benefit from the product? For example, do they belong to the same industry or do they belong to different industries? If so, the industry knowledge must also be part of the product training: how the particular product is being used in a particular industry. The idea is to ensure that there is complete training material that pertains to the products and can prove to be a valuable resource for sales force.
Stage #3: Separate the Essential from Non-Essential
With the training objective in mind, you will have to prioritize content. For example, a salesperson does not require detailed description of the product design and technical functionalities. However, a salesperson does need to know the problems that the product will solve and the value it brings to potential users.
Any information that helps in making a pitch and convincing a prospect is useful to a salesperson. Records of customer objections and pre-conceived notions about the product are important inputs relevant to salespeople. The training program will have to address how a salesperson can counter the objections or handle difficult customers.
Additionally, there may be such info as basic troubleshooting tips, or typical problems faced by customers when using the product. This may not be directly relevant to making a sales pitch, but it could be handy when dealing with questions that might crop up during the sales conversation. These details can be set aside as “nice to know” content and can be shared separately.
Once you identify the essential content, you can structure it into modules that address the training objectives. There is no point in overloading salespeople with too much information during the training. The training should focus on the typical sales situations and provide input and ideas on how sales reps can handle these issues for positive results.
If you start developing the training curriculum with content analysis, you will be able to confine yourself to essential information that leaves salespeople with product knowledge that helps them achieve their sales quota.