Author: Oleg Miroshensky
Ten minutes after he got on his new bike, my son’s overexcitement turned into extreme disappointment.
By the time he turned 4, my son had perfected riding his run bike. So he kept nagging us to buy him a pedal bike. When we finally bought him one, his excitement level reached its peak. He immediately hopped on his new bike, expecting to zoom around the block. Instead, he was moving at a speed of a sloth comparing to his run bike. After this terrible setback, he ditched his new pedal bike and kept riding the old run bike. It took him several months to get proficient and permanently move to a pedal bike. And so, unbeknown to him, my son went through all the stages of the hype cycle.
The hype cycle is a graphical model of product adoption.
Product adoption goes through three main stages: Inflated Expectations (the high), Disillusionment (the low), and Practical Application (the reality). After customers buy your product, they expect to make a smooth transition to the application stage. And not to “fall off the bike”, so to speak. If your sales team is knowledgeable about the product, they can help equip customers with the knowledge and tools for successful product adoption. Today we will look at how product training for the new salespeople helps avoid the disillusionment stage.
Product training for new employees can help salespeople understand the product value well.
Onboarding new salespeople is a complex task. Presumably, new salespeople already possess sharp selling skills. Still, to be successful, they need to understand the product value and business challenges a product solves. And then know how to communicate the product value to customers. Moreover, the understanding and communication pieces should be consistent across the whole sales team. Why is this consistency important? Because if all salespeople speak the same language, the probability of selling the wrong product to a customer is minimal. And if the sales team knows the product positioning well – they are more likely to go after the customers who are a good fit for the product.
A common mistake for onboarding training is to provide an overwhelming amount of technical product details.
The initial onboarding does not need to be technical. On the contrary, it is better to take out as much technical language and focus on the product value proposition instead. This content is usually available from the product management and marketing groups in the slide deck format. The slide decks work well as a supporting tool for presentations but usually contain too much detail to be an effective standalone learning material. Instead, using use-cases and conceptual animation formats is a very effective way to demonstrate product positioning.
Conceptual animation is effective at explaining business challenges and respective product solutions at a high level. It provides clarity for understanding the solution. After that, the use-cases help connect these concepts to the real-world product application.
But how about learning all the technical specs for the product, you may ask.
It is true, new salespeople do need to get up to speed with the technical side. Especially when they come from a different industry sector. Unfortunately, obtaining this knowledge takes time and effort. The good news is that there is a way to help the sales team here. The quick solution is to provide the sales team with job aids. Spec sheets, demos, how-to videos, and product simulations are all examples of such job aid tools. These materials allow salespeople to fill the technical competency gap when communicating with the customer. Without having to cram all the info in their head or getting themselves into awkward situations.
A few years ago I worked for a company that made customer management software. At some point, the company made a change to the database component of their product. From the existing customers’ perspective, the change in the database meant going through a data conversion process. But many customers were not aware of this step. So when these customers upgraded to a new product version, they immediately lost access to their data. The reason for this mishap was that some salespeople never brought up the conversion aspect with the customers.
Products can be very technical, while salespeople and customers are often not.
That’s why it is important to educate salespeople on the technical aspects related to customer experience with the product. The job aids described above will help new salespeople short-term. In the long term, it is best to have a continuous product education program. We will look into the principles of creating a continuous product training in the next articles. For now, here is a quick recap of what we covered.
First, we looked at the hype cycle model of product adoption. Then we identified why it is best to avoid the disillusionment stage of the hype cycle. Finally, we looked at how proper onboarding helps new salespeople obtain product knowledge quickly. And avoid customers’ disappointment with the product.