Product Training versus Sales Training – Which Matters Most?

graphic of two men in the same boat pulling in different directions to show the dilemma between Product Training versus Sales Training

Product Training Versus Sales Training – Which Matters Most?
Many of our clients who are moving from selling products to selling more complex solutions struggle with the concept of product training versus sales training.  If you really want your sales team to up their game, what kind of training is most effective?  Product training versus Sales Training?  While it depends, the short answer is highly targeted sales training.

Two Main Types of Sales Product Training
We have found two main types of sales product training.  One that focuses on product features and one that focuses on customer benefits.  As my old boss used to say, “Features Tell and Benefits Sell.”

1.  Product Features Tell
Sales product training that focuses on features outlines what your products can do.  Salespeople should know the basics of what they are selling.  But customers, especially for complex and solution-based sales, frequently report being unable to determine why a particular feature or function is meaningful to them or different from the competition.

2.  Product Benefits Sell
Product benefits create meaning and relevancy.  While buyers tell us that they initially have little interest in learning about product features, they are highly motivated to understand what the product can specifically do for them.  In a nutshell, product benefits training ties your product features directly to something important (better, faster or cheaper) to the customer.

While the two training approaches sound similar, they are completely different.  For example, over 35 million beds are purchased each year.  The sales reps that outperform their peers do not only share the commoditized features of the bed (e.g. firmness, size or price); they sell the customer benefits (a good night’s sleep).

Two Main Types of Sales Training
We have also found two main types of business sales training.  One that focuses on fundamental awareness and insight of key sales skills (Check-the-Box) and one that focuses on changing sales behavior and performance (Move-the-Needle).

1.  Check-the-Box Sales Training
Check-the-Box business sales training seeks to improve the awareness and insight of specific sales skills and knowledge in areas such as qualifying opportunities, recommending and guiding solutions, presenting options, negotiating and closing, coaching sales reps, planning for major accounts, etc.  Success for Check-the-Box sales training is typically measured by levels of participant satisfaction and attendance.

Check-the-Box sales training solutions are most often deployed as open-enrollment offerings for individuals and are used to satisfy the basic compliance, health and hygiene learning needs required to attract, develop, engage and retain sales talent.  From an expectations standpoint,
Check-the-Box sales training improves awareness and insight.  It does not change on-the-job performance.

Based upon over 800 sales training projects, well-designed Check-the-Box sales training, without other supporting interventions, will change the on-the-job behavior of 1-in-5 sales reps on average.

2.  Move-the-Needle Sales Training
Move-the-Needle sales training aims to improve the 1-in-5 average by improving explicitly identified sales behaviors and increasing targeted sales performance.  Success is typically measured by the adoption rate of new sales skills and behaviors combined with the corresponding lift in revenue, margin, win rate, portfolio mix, deal size or sales cycle.

Move-the-Needle sales training is treated as a sales change initiative, not a stand-alone sales training event.  Because of this, move-the-needle sales training is tied directly to the sales strategy and focuses on the critical few unique sales skills and scenarios that matter most for your unique situation.  It then creates high levels of accountability and support through frequent practice, feedback, sales coaching and sales training measurement.

The Bottom Line on Product Training versus Sales Training
Product-based training and selling focuses on the product…

  • what it can do
  • how it works
  • what it looks like
  • how much it costs in its different configurations

Solution selling, however, combined with product benefits training focuses on the customer…

  • who they are
  • what problems they face
  • what issues concern them
  • how what you have to sell will directly help them be successful

To navigate toward a more consultative sale, your sales team needs understand Product Training versus Sales Training to better acquire a different set of tools and skills than simply knowing the features of their offering or the soft skill sales basics.

To learn more about improving the performance of your sales team, download The 30 Sales Questions More Important Than Budget

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What a personal and professional pleasure it has been to Partner with LSA. They are truly a strategic partner with Wyse. For more than 5 years, LSA has been engaged in delivering various training and development solutions for Wyse, from custom on-site programs targeting specific core competencies, to working individually with clients to build job skills, and offering invaluable services to me and my team as we continue to build our learning programs. LSA’s representatives do more than sell a product, they offer a full service solution: they understand our business, our strategic initiatives, and the needs of our customers.

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Our company engaged LSA to do a specialized “train the trainer” program, and the consultant’s performance outdid our exceptionally high standards for such a program. Very crucial to the success of this program was the work done upfront to discuss our needs and to interview key members of our organization so that the program specifically met our goals. Our facilitators continue to comment on the success of the program. Thanks also for the follow-up.

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We value our relationship with LSA Global. We came to LSA because we wanted to improve overall behavioral based interviewing capabilities of our managers to increase the probability of both hiring top talent and future leaders. LSA designed a highly customized solution for our business and culture. We are currently rolling out this solution to our leaders. I would highly recommend LSA Global as a top quality resource.

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The Next Generation Management Development courses have helped me communicate more effectively with my peers and teammates. By utilizing effective communication techniques such as clarifying and confirming, and asking open ended questions, I have been able to clarify and understand information in situations where I would have otherwise asked limited questions and made false assumptions.

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We contacted LSA to help us with customized management development. LSA worked with me to identify a solution that would meet our exact needs. We decided to start at the top and ran the program for our executive team. It was such a great success that we hope to roll it out companywide. We look forward to a long-term partnership with LSA Global and their team of experts.

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LSA helped us design and deliver a blended learning solution for our leaders to help drive our growth plans in a way that aligned with our specific culture and values. LSA understood our business, had deep expertise in the content areas, tailored the programs to fit our specific needs, and delivered great results. They constantly strive to deliver business impact and align their solutions with our business initiates, culture, and performance management systems. I highly recommend them to anyone looking to take their leaders to the next level.”

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Thoratec

I’ve partnered with LSA Global at two companies now, and I consider them a valuable and trusted training and consulting resource. They recommended just the right solution to address our management development needs and have wonderful facilitators that match YuMe’s culture and style of our management team. I would highly recommend LSA Global to any company wanting to deliver quality learning solutions with a valuable learning and development partner.

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Intuit

We consider LSA Global our outsourced learning and development partner. We worked closely with LSA to customize a management development program to meet our growing business needs. I would highly recommend LSA to any company wanting to deliver quality learning solutions.

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LSA has become the gold standard in team building and management training at Genomic Health! I have a hard time finding facilitators that come close to their level of customization, expertise and experience.

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We recently partnered with LSA Global to offer our Supervisors and Managers a customized two-day management training program. Everyone who attended said it was by far the best management training program they had ever attended. The content was rich and highly interactive. The case studies were relevant. Each participant walked away from the training much better equipped to lead their teams.

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I am very impressed with the quality of work and talent. LSA did a great job of listening to my needs and providing the exact management training program expertise I needed to get the job done.

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LSA Global’s consultant brought a fresh perspective to our behavioral based interviewing strategy for two key executive positions we needed to fill, and their consultant helped us develop questions that produced a much deeper understanding of candidates’ capabilities. I am confident that the two new executives joining our organization have the right skills to add significant value. Throughout the process LSA was also very responsive in dealing with short lead time requests.

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