Why Product Managers Should Include Training in Their Launch Plan

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Everyone like surprises – at least good surprises like surprise birthday parties, surprise company lunches at work, finding a surprise twenty dollars in your jeans, etc. Then there are bad surprises… like when you take that first sip of coffee and it’s way too hot or when your computer crashes at work and you lose everything.


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And then there’s the really bad surprise when you’re a product manager and you find out your company’s sales reps are misrepresenting the product you so carefully developed!

When sales reps don’t have the knowledge and skills they need to sell your new products, all the time and money you spent goes down the drain. So how do you avoid bad surprises when you’re planning your next product launch?

Training. More Training. And reinforcement, too.

Most sales reps don’t receive sufficient training on new products they are expected to sell. They rely on marketing collateral and PowerPoints to learn, which barely scratches the surface. And when sales reps don’t know how to effectively articulate the value of a new product, they wind up missing opportunities with buyers.

However, the right training can make a significant impact on the success of your launch. It has to be designed in a way that helps learners remember by teaching and reinforcing key skills and knowledge. You have to identify what you want sales reps to learn and when to introduce each learning objective in the curriculum. Then decide how and when to reinforce this knowledge.

We recommend a three-phase product launch training model:

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Product launch training examples

Keeping with our theme of three, here are three examples of product launches where we worked with product managers to help them create and sustain a successful product launch:

1. Gamified Product Launch uses the power of story

Our client partnered with us to design a gamified blended learning curriculum for the launch of its innovative medical product. In addition to custom eLearning and instructor-led components, our Knowledge Guru platform was used to engage participants, reinforce knowledge and assess knowledge transfer prior to the launch events.

The Goal: Sales reps and accounts managers can effectively uncover unmet needs and convey the value proposition of the product to meet those unmet needs through the use of powerful and compelling stories.

The Results: The training curriculum has driven strong business results and has set a new organizational standard for product launch training at our client’s organization.

See the curriculum

2. Launch with innovative theme connects learning through all three phases

A life science company was about to have a global product launch with a highly complex product. The product launch training curriculum we developed used a three-part framework to drive knowledge retention long after launch. The training used a fun racing theme throughout.

The Goal: Sales reps can confidently communicate the points of differentiation that drive the value of the product based on each customer’s needs.

The Results: The client is getting ready for another global product launch, and is using the same structure and methodology because of its “proven success.”

See the curriculum

3. Global launch uses performance support, video, and games to support reps

We worked with a life science company to create a three-phased launch with easy-to-access performance support tools and engaging pre-work.

The Goal: Make sales reps both confident and competent.

The Results: Sales reps were excited by the training and launch countries invited to the pilot chose to use the materials, translating the global versions with minimal customizations.

See the curriculum

Product Launch Training Template

We have created a simple worksheet that allows you to go through the process of planning a product launch curriculum using the three-phase launch model pictured above. At the end of the worksheet, we included ten characteristics of a successful product launch curriculum to help you visualize what type of learning solutions might be used in each phase.

The worksheet is available for free download here.

10 Steps to Successful Product Launch Training

We often support clients with complex products to bring to market. The product launch training can be even more complex. With so many different customer types and messages, it can be a lot to cover.

So if you want your training to drive results, it must be carefully designed and implemented. Doing one without the other is a sure way to fail.

Careful consideration must be made to identify the right goals during the design phase, get necessary buy-in and design solutions that help the right groups of learners acquire the right knowledge and skills at the right time.

Characteristics of Successful Product Launch Training

Every product launch curriculum design project is different, but certain characteristics remain consistent across most projects. Product launch curriculums that have these characteristics are much more likely to contribute to a successful product launch.

1. Performance-focused

A successful product launch curriculum will have a clear, measurable, actionable performance outcome. Also, the outcome typically focuses on a specific metric the organization desires to achieve.

2. Instructional goal(s)

In addition to a performance outcome, the curriculum should have a clear instructional goal. The goal will guide the creation of learning objectives for the various solutions in the curriculum.

3. Organized into topics

Since most product launches are complex and relate to multiple different job types, the content must be chunked into topics. Branding should be created around each topic that is consistent throughout the curriculum. This will help learners make easy connections.

4. Organized into phases

We design most product launch curriculums around three main phases: pre-launch, launch, and post-launch. Pre-launch materials present introductory concepts, product knowledge, and competitor information. Launch provides an opportunity for hands-on practice and a time for building some “buzz.” Finally, post-launch focuses on reinforcement and usually includes just-in-time reference tools.

5. Includes multiple learning paths

It’s highly unlikely that all of the employees who will take your product launch training have the exact same role or position. Make sure your product launch training materials are relevant and customized to each target audience: managers, sales, support and sometimes even the end user.

6. Broken into chunks

You likely have multiple topics to cover in your product launch training. Consider breaking the topics into manageable chunks, and spread them out in the different phases. Varying levels of detail should be present in each phase, but the content must all connect.

7. Blended

New product launches, especially when the product is complex, are too important to deliver through a single format. So we recommend a blended learning approach that combines eLearning, games, video, apps, instructor-led training, and performance support tools into a cohesive collection of learning solutions.

8. Supported throughout the organization

Your L&D department or an external vendor cannot create effective product launch training materials without buy-in and information from your marketing and product development departments. Sales will also want buy-in on the approaches used to train reps.

9. Helpful to on-site trainers

You will need to include “train the trainer” sessions in your curriculum so that individuals are prepared to lead the on-site activities at your product launch event. These learners will have special needs that differ from those of individual reps.

10. Measured with assessments

It is important that facilitators can accurately determine the progress learners make. You can also show learners the progress they have made throughout the curriculum with an assessment, which helps motivate them to continue. Finally, you can show stakeholders that the product launch curriculum has been effective.

Putting it all together

By executing on these ten characteristics, you can be sure that your product launch will be a success. Sales reps will go out with the confidence and competence they need to succeed.

But some of these tips can be harder to implement than others. It’s important to communicate the value that this training can provide to all stakeholders. We know it can be hard to drum up the extra resources needed to reinforce the learning, but what’s the alternative? Sales reps forgetting that customer type B has no need for product feature A and blowing a six-figure sale.

So now that we’ve covered the bases, reach out to us if you need any help planning, creating, or implementing your own product launch training.

Need help getting started? Our Product Launch Training Template will help you identify learning objectives and practice structuring a product launch curriculum.