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.

How to Design a Complex Training Curriculum in 10 Steps

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We’ve barely gotten past the title and this article is already misleading. Make no mistake: there’s nothing simple about designing a complex training curriculum. And it takes more than 10 steps.

These days, we find ourselves working with more and more clients who need support with a major product launch or another rollout of some kind. These projects are huge in scope. Hours of training must be created for a wide range of learner roles.

Situations like these can make tools like our learner persona worksheet a little less useful, to be honest. What’s the point of spending lots of time analyzing the target learner and creating a persona when there are 10+ personas that need to be created? Who has the budget for that? When we took participants through a learner persona activity in our Sales Enablement and Beyond Webinar, the feedback was “We don’t have time create personas because there would be too many. Training can never be designed to meet the needs of all of these personas!”

These challenges are real. But they don’t change the fact that organizations have major product launches, and they need to teach a wide variety of roles (sales, support, customers, etc) how to use these products. For example, a medical device launch needs to include training for sales reps, support technicians, MSLs, every HCP who interacts with the device, and sometimes even patients. Oftentimes this only scratches the surface. For example, a recent medical device product launch we supported had 14 different roles that needed training!

Here is a generalized version of the steps we take when designing a complex training curriculum for a client.

1. Clarify the process

Most product launches have aspects of their timeline that are already set. Is there a launch meeting already scheduled? When is the medical device first used with a patient? These touch points should be included in the curriculum design, with learning solutions created to support them.

2. Identify the roles

Make stakeholders agree on what roles are impacted by the product launch. As I mentioned above, it’s not uncommon for a medical device or pharma launch to have 10+ roles that need some form of training. It will take time to winnow down what training each role really needs, but listing them all out is a good way to start.

3. Look for ways to group similar roles

Every role probably has its own unique characteristics. But are there any obvious groupings? For example, you could group all employees of the medical device company together as one group and all HCPs as a separate group. To get more granular, try separating sales roles from service roles, surgeons and doctors from RNs and healthcare support staff, etc.

4. Figure out who does what, when

This is where things get a little more complicated. You’ll need to map out all the steps each role takes when interacting with the product. How do they sell it, support it, or use it with patients? Are they already slated to attend a product launch meeting or separate training event for HCPs?

5. Decide what success looks like

This part of the process is pretty standard for most learning and performance consulting methods. Before going further, you need to know what your overall training goal is and what learners must know, do, believe or avoid doing to reach that goal.

You might easily have over 100+ individual learning objectives for a complex product launch curriculum. You can reduce the complexity by grouping similar learning objectives into sub-topics.

6. Look for overlapping objectives

Once you have defined learning objectives for each role, you will probably notice some commonalities. For example, Role A, B and C might all have some learning objectives in common. These objectives can be covered in a single learning solution that all of the roles take. For solutions like these, it is important to think about how to branch the learning by role. For example, pre-work eLearning can allow learners to self-select their role and see content that is relevant to them.

7. Map out solutions for one key role

Start with a role that has the most learning objectives to meet. Map out a learning pathway that works within the product launch activities already scheduled, such as the product launch meeting or a training event for HCPs. Consider how pre-work can be used to introduce key objectives, and how training reinforcement tools can sustain the learning.

8. Continue with a second role

Now that you have mapped a learning path for your most hands-on role, try the same process with a second role. This time, look for ways to use the training events and modules you envisioned for the first role to also meet the needs of the second role. Is it possible to make the eLearning role-based, so learners select their role when they begin and take a personalized version of the training? For in-person meetings, can breakout sessions be used to split learners into relevant groups? It’s possible that the modules you imagined for the first role might change to accommodate the needs of another role.

9. Add other roles, opting out as needed

You’ll now be working down a list of learner roles who most likely need less training than your primary roles. Look for places where the learning objectives for these roles overlap with the primary roles. If a module exists with objectives this role does not need to meet, let them skip it. If they have unique objectives that have not yet been covered, consider a learning solution that can help them meet these objectives. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a course; a reinforcement app or tutorial library might do the trick.

10. Create a curriculum map

Sound like lots of information to organize? It is! If you put the learning path of every role on a single chart, it would be almost unreadable. This is why we often create an interactive curriculum map to show the product launch phases and training modules for each role. An interactive map is advantageous because you can click a specific role to only see their learning path.