How to Get Knowledge Out of Your Product Manager’s Head and Into the Hands of Sales

Product Dossiers for MarketersWished you could on-board new sales reps more easily? Ever had a green product manager who needs deep product immersion? Here’s a simple tool to help you do both.

Creating a Product Dossier brings the sales team up-to-speed on new products and programs while helping unlock what’s in the product manager’s head

Product Dossiers Sales TrainingIt’s easy to overwhelm a sales team when launching many new products and programs at a rapid pace. The same is true for a new product manager or sales rep that’s unfamiliar with your product lines.

New sales reps need knowledge to gain confidence. Unfortunately, what they are given is a sell sheet or, worse, a 150 slide PowerPoint presentation. “It’s in there,” says marketing vaguely.

Truth is the sales team – especially the new guy – has to know all the details about the product, not just some specs and fluffy words. They need the knowledge that to have confidence to present the product and, more importantly, make the sale.

A Product Dossier can help the sale team drive more sales by:

  1. Providing detailed product, pricing, channel and support information to the field in an easy-to-use format.
  2. Delivering information to the field in a shorter period of time to enable them to start selling quicker.
  3. Improving the productivity of the sales force.
  4. Delivering the business proposition by audience and answers the question “why should I buy?”

A Product Dossier gets the critical marketing insights for a product line out of the product manager’s head and into the hands of the sales team

Product Dossiers TrainingIn other words, we were asking the product management team to take the time and write down all the key details about a product line. We call this document a Product Dossier.

The Product Dossier is for internal use only and always has these key topics in the following order:

  • Product Description
  • Product Performance
  • Application
  • Features and Benefits
  • Packaging
  • Business Proposition to channel
  • Business Proposition to end user
  • Pricing
  • Order/Ship/Bill
  • Stocking Plants
  • Market Description / Market Segmentation
  • Channel Positioning
  • Objectives
  • Competition
  • Sales Tools

The Product Dossier is distributed to the field sales forces by email and should also be posted on the intranet. This tool can also easily become part of the broader set of tools that any new product commercialization process already has.

While the Product Dossier is an internal document, a Program Sell Sheet can be created from it for use by the field as a customer hand out and as a quick read cheat sheet just before a sales call.

Program Sell Sheets are based on the Product Dossier and can be used as a customer product knowledge and training tool

Marketing Communications EffectivenessProgram Sell Sheets are simply edited, formatted and printed versions of the Product Dossier and always contain the following information in the following order:

  • Product Description
  • Product Performance
  • Application
  • Features and Benefits
  • Packaging
  • Business Proposition
  • Order/Ship/Bill
  • Sales Tools

Notice all the internal details are stripped out – it is a generic sell sheet now, but with far richer content. These sell sheets can be now be used as a customer education tool. They are particularly valuable when the customer’s sales team needs product knowledge and training.

Product Dossiers don’t write themselves…they take time and effort to become valuable sales training tools

Product Dossiers KnowledgeDon’t be deceived, this process takes time. It forces the product team to make sure they have all the facts. This process requires deep immersion into the product line – which is why it’s such a great teaching tool for green product managers.

Don’t be so bold as to say you’re going to knock off 20 of these in a short period of time. Maybe you can but the best process is to start with your new products and then roll the process out to the more established product lines.

Be sure to save the finished Product Dossiers electronically. They obviously need to be updated every so often to stay relevant.

By the way, this process works for products, services and programs. The headings are broad enough that they allow you considerable flexibility.

Do you have other great ways of bringing the sales team up-to-speed? Let me know about them!

Good Selling!

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10 Guidelines for More Effective Advertising

Marketing Communications EffectivenessFor most companies, advertising is used on a very limited basis.

Even when it is used, rarely does a company spend enough money to create the kind of exposure that would be sufficient to create high customer demand or brand recognition.

What’s more, companies struggle to be able to “measure” the success of their advertising. This is due in large part to the fact that unless the advertising is sufficiently strong in relationship to other marketing elements (price, product quality, packaging, convenience of purchase, economic climate, competition), it is difficult to show a positive relationship between advertising and sales results.

With so much on the line, why is there so much bad advertising?

106478240One reason is that many companies view advertising as an investment rather than an expense because it provides a continuing payout over a period of time rather than a recoverable short-term cost.

This tends to lull companies into having vague and even conflicting goals for their advertising. See my Channel Instincts post “5 Essential Tips for Effective Advertising.”

Creativity springs from tightly defined problems  

Advertising EffectivenessIt really boils down to not having clear goals that are articulated in a creative brief that everyone agrees to and understands.

The smaller you can define the problem to be solved, the more focused and creative the solution will be.

Follow these 10 guidelines for more effective advertising

  1. Know why you are advertising and what you want to accomplish.  Set clear goals and design advertising to meet these goals.
  2. Don’t try to do too much with too few advertising dollars. Don’t spread your efforts too thin.
  3. Don’t choose an advertising medium based on its low rate rather than on its cost per thousand readers or listeners.
  4. Advertising too infrequently is often no better than not advertising at all.
  5. Don’t make advertisements bigger than they need to be. This will result in overspending.
  6. Don’t imitate the advertising of other companies. Your advertising needs and requirements are special and need to be based on careful analysis.
  7. Always judge an ad layout in the size and context of the medium in which it will appear.
  8. Always keep the “purpose” of the advertisement paramount in your mind when determining copy, layout and placement.
  9. Always design advertising keeping in mind the particular advantages of the medium utilized.
  10. Always capitalize on the inherent nature and unique advantages of the product, services or company advertised.

If you are using an advertising agency, don’t try to tell them how to do their job

Granted you are the industry expert, but they are the marketing communications experts.

You can avoid this concern by choosing an advertising agency with the proper expertise to service your account. Look for a good balance between marketing and creative ability as well as an intimate knowledge of your marketplace.

Good Selling!

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8 Pointed Questions to Reignite Sales Growth

crossroads 1Congratulations – you’re the new CEO of a business that is in the red and heading the wrong direction.

Every turnaround situation is unique and is a high risk and reward scenario with the jobs of many on the line.  And every turnaround has a common theme that the status quo was pushing the business in the wrong direction – the need to change was obvious.  Another common theme?  That the current situation is someone else’s fault; another department, the past leader, the dog who ate your homework…

The reality is it doesn’t matter.  Your task is to fix the business.  To do this you need to drop the politics and focus on the future.  You need people who you can trust, who have opinions, and can engage in constructive debates.

The best way to start the debate is with pointed questions

HonestAssign these eight questions to leaders in the business and then bring the group back together for a couple of days of offsite meetings.  The hard part is getting past the finger-pointing.  A new leader has everybody jockeying for position and transparency is hard to come by.

One solution that worded behind expectation was when we brought a key customer into the strategy session.  While it was risky, it was the catalyst that brought honesty out.  We happened to pick the absolute right person, who for three days dropped his own identity and joined the team.

You need to be intensely honest in this assessment

business-devolopmentThese are the eight questions we answered over three days and led to the reversal of a share loss.  Could your business answer these today?

  1. How do our products compare?
  2. How does our price compare?
  3. How does our cost compare?
  4. How does our service compare?
  5. How does our marketing compare?
  6. How effective is our sales force?
  7. How does our sales penetration vary by region?
  8. Where should we rate in two & five years vs. competition?

The goal is to come out of the session with a clear picture of who you are, what you want to be, and where you are going to focus first.

Here is a scorecard  that we used to illustrate our intentions.Graph

This is another post written with my colleague Doug Thompson, General Manager Rockwood Manufacturing at ASSA ABLOY.