Sales teams that are trained well on the product can not only pitch it well to clients, but also pitch the product correctly. Many times, bad trainings result in sales folks either not being able to sell the product at all, or promise clients features that the product cannot deliver. Hence, a Product Marketing Manager needs to ensure that the product knowledge is dissipated correctly across all regions and the sales teams are equipped with the information needed to make successful deals.
However, product trainings are prone to numerous challenges and problems resulting in sub standard training. A few of the training challenges that are faced by Product Marketing Managers in today’s IT companies are:
- You have new products or features being released very often which require very regular trainings
- The sales teams are global and training sessions might have to be conducted remotely
- The global field teams include non-english speaking markets as well
- With the job market improving rapidly, you get new employees regularly who have not been trained on the previous products
- Attendance of product training is not mandatory and hence turn-out may be lower than optimal
And the list goes on…
So, how do you ensure that with our highly agile environment, product trainings continue to be effective and useful across the globe?
Since this is a rather large and complex topic, I will be splitting the blog into following three parts covering:
- Preparing for the training in advance
- Delivering the training
- Archiving the training for future use
However, even before you jump into these three sections, there are some ground rules on training that I will cover in this blog.
1. Scheduling Strategy
The first thing to consider is how often would you have product training sessions. There are many options to consider and you will need to think of the option that best suits your organization.
1.1 Weekly Trainings
You could schedule 30 minutes training every week to have a predictable schedule. All new topics will be covered in the training slot closest to the product launch date. The rest of the topics can be refreshers for previous topics.
- New employees have a way to get trained on old topics as well
- There is predictability in schedule and hence field folks can accommodate for these trainings accordingly
- When new products are released, you have a fairly quick window to accommodate for this training and do not have to ever wait for more than a week to conduct the training
- The PMM team will need dedicated resources to conduct these trainings on a regular basis
- Teams might miss out on a new product training since they have begun ignoring the other repeat trainings
- You need good insight into the release calendar in advance to be able to schedule a solid training calendar and share with the teams
Conduct product bootcamps for 2-3 days in each quarter where old and new topics are covered. These can be half day sessions for the whole week or full day sessions for 2 days. Since these trainings are over a span of a few days, the trainer can travel to the different locations and do the training in person
- You get dedicated time from the audience for these sessions and usually full participation if planned in advance
- You do not really tend to miss out on critical product feature training since they are all clubbed over just a few days
- In person training can ensure that the topics are delivered well and the attendees are able to grasp the content
- Product feature releases need to be timed close to the bootcamp date so that the teams are trained just before the product launch or just after
- Sales pretty much comes to a standstill for this duration which means that the timing needs to be during a dull period
- Can be pretty stressful for attendees to be cooped up in a classroom all day long causing a dip in attention
1.3 Adhoc trainings
These trainings are conducted when new features are about to be launched and sales teams need to be trained in order to sell. These trainings are recorded and can be watched again at a later time or can be used by new employees to catch up on old products
- Does not take up too much time as the trainings are conducted just in time
- New product features can get its due training immediately and is not dependent on a predetermined timeslot for the training to occur
- Since there is no predetermined time slot, the field teams might not be available when the training is scheduled
- New employees do not get the focused attention that is usually given in live trainings
2. Training Delivery Mechanism
Before conducting trainings, you need to figure out the mechanism to deliver these trainings. You could either train the regions yourself, or identify a regional trainer in each market and train the trainer. In my experience, it has worked out well to train a trainer rather than conduct trainings yourself. The advantages of this approach is:
- In non-english speaking markets, your trainer will be able to deliver the training in local language. This of course means that your trainer should be bi-lingual and speak English as well as the local language
- Having an in-field expert decentralized information making it much more scalable to dissipate information as and when it is needed
- In-person training is much more effective than having remote training sessions and can only be achieved with local trainers
- Trainings can be repeated in region as and when there is a need (refresher courses, new hire training etc.) and the local trainer will be able to assess the need better than a central team
If you are going to be having local trainers, you need to make sure that the trainer is fully equipped to conduct successful trainings. This would mean that you make each of these trainers a partner while prepping for the trainings. This means creating the training deck together for each market, keeping the trainer updated on product adoption and product feedback, any issues or known limitations of the product etc. Make the trainer an extended arm of yourself to make this method work.
3. Additional Points
There are a few additional points that you might want to think about and plan ahead before you being your trainings. It is important to decide these factors in advance, but you also want to revisit them after a few training sessions so that you ensure that it still works.
- Conferencing Tool: If you will be doing remote sessions, try a few tools in advance to test which tool gives you the functionalities you need (such as screenshare, recording functionality, muting capability etc.) and are of good quality. In my experience, Go To Meeting has worked brilliantly and I can vouch for its effectiveness. But there are also lots of other products out there that you can use (moreover, your company might already have a corporate license for a conferencing tool).
- Attendance: While it is great to assume that good trainings will get attendance automatically, be a bit practical about this too. If possible, you might want to talk to your regional heads and try make X number of trainings mandatory for field teams. While this might sound like going back to school, it can result in better product knowledge.
- Reminder: Whether you choose regular scheduled trainings or ad hoc trainings, important product feature trainings will require a heads up. Build up interest about the training and give people time to make time for the training. It is easy to forget about the training when you are scrambling to meet targets.
- Repeat trainings: Having just 1 training for each market might not be ideal since there will be unforeseen circumstances when interested folks will not be able to attend. So, have at least 1 repeat session within a few days of the first training where folks who missed can attend.
- Feedback Process: Find a way to get valuable feedback for your trainings. This could be a quick 5 question survey you run on how good was the training, clarity of the conferencing tool you use (in case it is remote session), quality of the presenter etc. Always good to get this feedback as well as give people the confidence that their feedback is being heard
- Testing: You could possible conduct a quick 10 question test after each training to assess how well the information was grasped. Or you could opt in for larger certification programs once a quarter covering all product features.
- Product Feedback: After a few weeks of the launch of the product, see if you can have a session per market to get feedback on the product itself or the collateral you created for the product. It will be fresh in people’s mind and they might even have additional questions about the product that comes out during those sessions.
Now that you have the initial plan for your product training chalked out, in the next three blogs, I will cover the details of the training itself.
Training is the first step of product adoption and as they say, “a job well begun is half done”.