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Best Methods for Product-Based Training
“In the pharmaceutical industry, training departments tend to work at a very fast pace between the approval of a product by the FDA and, ultimately, the training of the field forces,” said Michael Capaldi, associate vice president of sales training and leadership development at pharmaceutical company sanofi-aventis U.S. “You do as much as you can leading up to the approval stage, but anything related to the product itself really has to wait until the label is approved before it can be developed [to meet legal requirements].”
Product-Based Training Is More Than the Product
Learning initiatives shouldn’t end at the product. They also should delve into the skills needed to sell and support that product. Unfortunately, most companies aren’t training sales reps on the skills, but instead are concentrating all of their efforts on the product itself, according to Nancy Stephens, president of international management consulting firm PI Worldwide.
“We always ask and talk with a client first about product knowledge,” she said. “Most companies that we interview tend to say that they feel that their folks are most equipped in [product knowledge]. The product knowledge is critical to the sales process and sales presentation, but it is not the only piece. Companies can do a fantastic job at product training, but if they’re not teaching the surrounding skills, they’re actually not completing what a sales rep needs.”
An enhanced learning initiative would cover product training in sync with sales training. Steelcase University does just that in its training programs.
“We don’t want to make our training all about product,” Dutkiewicz said. “Our training is about what the underlying customer needs are. If our people can understand that, then they can start applying our product in a way that will get the maximum for the client. If you do a great job of selling, if your skills are wonderful, you may need little product knowledge, but when you need product knowledge, it better be really good. If I get to the end of a process and a person wants me to say how this particular file is built, I better be able to tell them. Otherwise, I might lose the credibility that I’ve gained through my consultative process.”
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