10 Tips for Product Launch Training
By Steve Boller
It’s go time. You’re launching a new product, and hopes are high that the new treatment can truly improve patients’ lives. Reps are flying in from all over the world to learn how to discuss the new treatment with healthcare providers. They spend three days at a nice hotel listening to keynote speakers, sampling the buffet and trying to absorb PowerPoint slides packed with bullet points.
The home study modules were packed with useful information, and reps have studied hard to learn the disease state and method of action of the new drug, or the features and benefits of the new device. But after the excitement of the launch fades away, what will reps really take with them? When they are sitting in their car, waiting to walk inside and speak with a physician, lab director or other stakeholder, what are the three things they most need to remember?
Why Product Launch Training Matters
One decision-maker has turned into a committee. Quality, risk reduction, patient satisfaction scores and evidence based medicine are the new gold standards and reps must be adept at delivering the right message to the right stakeholder at the right time. Needless to say, the standards have been raised when it comes to new product launch training. It’s not just the sales function with skin in the game, either. Smart product managers are increasingly recognizing their role in providing training materials that help sales training leaders effectively prepare reps for success.
Now more than ever, product launch training must go beyond an event-based model. Every product launch curriculum design project is different, but certain characteristics remain consistent across most launches. Product launch curriculums that have these characteristics are much more likely to contribute to a successful product launch.
- Performance-Focused: A successful product launch curriculum will have a clear, measurable, actionable performance outcome. The outcome typically focuses on a specific metric the organization desires to achieve, like an improved sales forecast, increased market share or higher margins.
- Instructional Goal(s): In addition to a performance or business 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. Think: “In 30 days, sales reps can confidently and competently articulate the unique value of ABC device to customers.”
- Organized into Topics: Break the launch training down into distinct sections and fit them together into a cohesive theme. Branding should be created around each topic that is consistent throughout the curriculum so learners can make easy connections. The creation of topics is also a great opportunity to “gamify” product launch training.
- Organized into Phases: We design most product launch curriculums around three main phases: prelaunch, 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. Post-launch focuses on reinforcement and usually includes just-in-time reference tools.
- Includes Multiple Learning Paths: You likely need to train a variety of roles (sales reps, key account managers, medical-science liaisons, customer support specialists, etc.) as part of your launch. Make sure that product launch training materials are relevant and customized to each target audience.
- Broken into Chunks: Ensure that the topics you have created can be segmented into manageable chunks, and spread out in the different phases. For example, you may introduce features and benefits in a home study module and then have reps play a game at the launch meeting that builds on the foundational knowledge. Varying levels of detail should be present in each phase, but the content must all connect.
- Blended: New product launches are too jam-packed with important knowledge to deliver through a single format. We recommend a blended learning approach that combines eLearning, games, video, apps, instructorled training, mobile learning and performance support tools into a cohesive collection of learning solutions.
- Supported throughout the Organization: Your learning and development 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.
- 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.
- 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 use assessments as another way to show stakeholders that the product launch curriculum has been effective.
Steven Boller is marketing director for Bottom-Line Performance, Inc. Email him at Steve@bottomlineperformance.com.