Product training is important. You can’t sell without knowing what your solution does, where it fits, how it makes a difference, and why your clients should change what they’re doing. While a sales kickoff provides an opportunity to do some training, product isn’t normally the area where salespeople need help.
If you are going to work on anything, the first place to start is mindset.
I’ve seen good companies get this right, and I’ve seen them get this wrong.
Let’s look at how they get it wrong first. They spend half a day on reviewing the numbers. Let me give you an example. At one SKO, I watched the CEO speak, where he reviewed the numbers and talked about shareholders. Then the CFO spoke and did a deeper dive into the numbers. Right after his speech, the head of sales reviewed the same numbers, just broken down by category.
At another SKO, I watched a senior VP announce 9 products. After I spoke, the salesforce spent a half hour in 9 breakout sessions to explain the new products, and that checked the box for training. That isn’t training.
One client I have spoken for a number of times gets things right. They spend an outsized amount of the time speaking to their team about who they are, why they do what they do, how it makes a difference, and why it is important that they deliver the value that only they can deliver. They are working on improving the engagement of their team. They are using the chance to get the team together to build an army of believers.
Another company I have spoken to more than once makes their clients the center of every presentation and conversation, using their stories and sometimes having them speak to share how what the sales force and company does helps them with their mission.
Most of the product training that is done doesn’t really help the sales force to sell more. There are exceptions, especially for companies with complicated solutions. But generally, this isn’t why or how salespeople lose.
Salespeople lose because they lack the skill sets.
They don’t know how to prospect, or they don’t do enough of it. Improving this one skill improves results more than product.
They don’t know how to control the sales process, leaving their client to try to figure out what comes next and how to improve their results. Commitment-gaining is a critical skill set and salespeople are missing this skill.
Whenever I hear sales leaders suggest their salespeople can’t negotiate, I push back, telling them that I believe that their salespeople are terrific negotiators. The only thing I would change is that I would have them negotiate with the client instead of negotiating a concession with their sales manager.
Selling is more difficult than ever, and in many ways, selling is in decline. In many ways, we are getting worse. A good part of the reason for poor salesmanship is the complete lack of development in the new competencies the sales force needs, like commitment-gaining, controlling the sales process, and building consensus.
If product is allowed to crowd out these outcomes, you can have a really nice meeting, show off your new products, and send that same sales force back out into the world no better equipped to create value or deliver results than they were when they showed up.