"Three may keep a secret… if two of them are dead."--Benjamin Franklin
Poor Robin! Kevin, the world's worst sales rep, convinced Robin to go on a sales call to a government agency. Kevin filled a three-ring binder with product literature for the client. Included in the binder were a number of confidential documents including the product roadmap, a competitive assessment, and the beta plan for the next release.
Kevin handed the binder to the CIO of the agency who looked at it briefly and promptly returned it. "I can't see these documents," said the buyer. "They are marked confidential."
Quite the clever one, Kevin said, "Oh, you don't know what confidential means. It just means you cannot show it to people."
"Actually," said the buyer, "I work for the government; I know what confidential means. Confidential means that you can't show it to people."
Afterward, Kevin complained to Robin, "Why do you distribute documents to me that I cannot use for selling." And there's the disconnect. Robin thought that the sales people should know the product strategy, the competition, and the next release so that they would understand it. But Kevin doesn't want to understand; he wants to sell. To Kevin, any document is product collateral.
Robin's new rule is "don't give it to a sales person unless you want it to go to a customer."
This came to light when Robin's company was bought by their arch-rival competitor. As part of the product integration team, she met her product management counterpart who said, "It's a pleasure to finally meet you. I have been reading your work for years." Robin learned that her competitor possessed a folder filled with confidential documents--every document that Robin had distributed to her sales force. The most common scenario is that the sales person used the confidential document after the sale was lost but before the contract was signed. Kevin uses confidential documents in desperation. And the lost customer forwarded the documents to their preferred sales person.
What's Robin to do? If she really understands her sales people she will see that some can be trusted and some cannot. Assume that sales people will distribute confidential documents and write accordingly.