Recently I was talking to some people on a sales training course and one of the participants asked me do you need to know everything about the product before you can be sent out to sell.
My goodness what a question, it made me think back to when I started in sales and the sales training I received in my first sales role. To be honest the sales training was virtually non-existent. In saying that I was given a small amount of product knowledge, but it was a small amount. I should add that was over 30 years ago and I do believe that companies now see a much greater benefit in spending time on induction type sales training which will include an element of product knowledge training.
Going back to the question do you need to know everything about the product before going out, I firmly believe the answer is no you don’t, although I remember many years ago there was a salesperson and sales trainer that I knew who used to say ‘knowledge is power, learn your products’
There can be no doubt in the world that product knowledge is important and without reasonable product knowledge we can fall at the first hurdle. In sales training courses it is often said that knowing your product is important but knowing what the product will do for your customer is vital.
This means that we really need to understand how the product will or can solve the customers problem. We need to be able to relate the product to the customers needs and offer it as a solution.
We do not need to know everything, but we do need to know where to get information if we do not have an answer there and then. There are certain product ranges that you can’t possibly know every little detail about each product. Someone once said to me that if product knowledge alone made good salespeople then the person who designs and develops Ford cars would be their greatest salesperson.
Generally in sales people want to know what will this product do for me? It goes back to the idea of the WIIFM principle and WIIFM stands for ‘What’s In It For Me.
On sales training courses it is often said that the key thing is understanding the benefits of the product and using the benefits to sell the product. There is also another point to note about product knowledge and that is that we really need to use it sparingly.
Over many years of coaching and teaching salespeople in a classroom scenario like sales training and also in the field working with salespeople on real calls and live prospects, it is amazing how many sales people see the sales role as one of educating the prospect on the product.
Often when this happens the salesperson will keep talking about the product and miss buying signals and opportunities and then lose the sale as they have missed the chance to close or just talked to much without asking questions.
The above is very true of new salespeople as they feel they need to tell the customer everything. Always remember the important thing you need to know about product knowledge is how will it provide an answer or solution to what my customer needs.
Sales is all about asking the correct relevant questions and listening to the answers, it is not about product selling. Also a point worthy of mentioning for new sales people is they are often afraid that the prospect will know more about their product than them and yes this can happen but it is very rare.
If this does happen and they are asked a question they stumble on they are far better to say ‘that’s a good question will find that out for you’ rather than try and answer the question themselves and give misinformation that can create a stumbling block for them later in the sales process.
The reality is that product knowledge is important and you should have a reasonable idea before going out visiting potential prospects. The positive of having good knowledge os it gives the salesperson confidence and belief and it is often said on sales training courses that confidence is vital, to give you the drive to call on prospects.
Belief is a great word in sales and I often say you need belief in 3 key areas:
- Belief in yourself as a person and as a salesperson
- Belief that the product will solve the customers problem
- Belief in the company you work for and their reputation
People often on sales training course say things like, if only we had the best product on the market or if only we had our price point for the product lower than our competitors. I do not doubt these would be good things to have, however there is no company that I know that has the cheapest and best in everything they sell.
We also have to remember that price and product are important, but are only part of the decision making for customers or prospects. Generally when people buy they buy because of 2 kay areas:
Fear of Loss
Desire for gain
These are the main motivators that make people buy, along with that then comes what are known as the 3 Ps which is Price Product Person, we have spoken about the price and product but the third part is the person and all salespeople must remember ‘People buy People’
So is product knowledge important, yes it is but on its own it will not make more sales for you, what will make the most sales is having a sales process that works for you and then making sure the product provides a solution to your prospects needs.