productframeworkOne of the fundamental things a growing sales team needs is a “product framework”.  Whether you are selling goods or services, treating both like products helps to create a set of itemised part codes and establishes guidelines on what the sales team should be selling.

Particularly for companies in the Service industry, one of the issues they can face is that their sales team will inadvertently sell outside the scope of service they can deliver.  Often the problem isn’t with the sales person, although they’ll more than likely cop the heat for over-selling or out-of-scope selling.

The problem may be simply a lack of understanding about what the scope is.  Establish a product framework and immediately the sales team will have clear guidelines that dictate how to stay within scope.

How do I create a Product Framework?

Think about the customers you service.  What needs within their business are satisfied by your products and services?  Are there stages within their processes that you can clearly identify?

Create some high level categories that your products and services fit into.  For example, our product framework starts with the high level sections of what we call our clients’ Technology Lifecycle.  These categories are:

  • Plan IT
  • Grow IT
  • Manage IT
  • Support IT

Once you have your high level categories, map out the various goods and services you deliver to your clients.  For each good or service, clearly define what “products” you will sell; as an example, you may have three different hourly rates that each dictate what level or type of service you are providing.  Give these hourly rates part codes, and clear descriptions…treat them as products.

You may already have the vast majority of this done in your inventory and invoicing systems, but the key is to map it out in a document that can be defined as the “Product Framework”.  Once you have mapped this out, group the goods and services together in each of your high level categories.

Create “types” and sub-categories to further define the classifications.  These assist in visualising how the goods and services you sell fit together.

We classify our products under the following “types”:

  • Service
  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Utilities
  • IT as a Service

We then further classify them under the following sub-categories:

  • Backup & Disaster Recovery
  • Business Continuity
  • Hosted Solutions
  • Internet & Web Services
  • Managed Services
  • Network Discovery
  • Network Infrastructure
  • Security
  • Service & Support
  • Software Licensing
  • System Administration
  • System Utilities
  • Telephony
  • Training & Productivity
  • Workstations

Creating a Product Framework is a useful exercise for both the sales team and also the teams that need to deliver the services your company provides.  In summary, use the product descriptions to clearly define your service scopes and you’ll greatly reduce the friction that out-of-scope selling generates between the sales and service teams.  Product classification also helps to generate meaningful reports and metrics around what is being sold and targets for growth.