Salespeople know what they sell, and they sell what they know. When it comes to salesperson knowledge, people know too little about their particular industry, their customers’ needs, and their company’s products and services to be able to sell the full suite of solutions. Without this knowledge they can’t:
- Ask the right questions to uncover the complete set of customer needs
- Match the right products and services to those needs
- Position the value of their company as superior to other options available to the customer
Indeed, they can’t and don’t hold masterful sales conversations with customers.
The result: Lost sales and missed cross-selling opportunities.
Some of you may be saying to yourself, “Wait. We provide knowledge training. We even hold a retreat each year and classes focused on knowledge topics.”
Perhaps you’re the exception, but most often even if product knowledge training happens, it doesn’t get the job done. If there is some kind of test for knowledge gained, it’s usually only for accuracy.
I got As in Spanish all through high school and college. I passed a lot of tests, but I still couldn’t hold a conversation in the language.
The problem is I wasn’t fluent. And that’s the same problem with sales knowledge. Salespeople must be fluent in order to be able to use knowledge appropriately in their sales conversations.
The More You Know the More You Sell
Ask 10 different salespeople at your company to describe the value your products and services deliver and you’ll likely hear ten very different answers. Some will be compelling, leaving you wanting more. Others will leave you disappointed and scratching your head.
When you’re selling complex products and services what you know drives what you sell.
According to Aberdeen Group’s research report, Optimizing Lead-to-Win, best-in-class sales organizations are markedly better in these success areas:
- Overall product and service knowledge
- Understanding clients’ and prospects’ business challenges
- Ability to map solutions to challenges
In other words, best-in-class companies have fluent salespeople. If you can build this kind of sales knowledge within your team, you too can experience best-in-class sales results. The more you know, the more you sell.
How to Train on Product Knowledge
The problem is most sales training focuses on building sales skills. While sales skills are essential, they are only one side of a very important coin: capability. The other side of the coin is sales knowledge. You need to build sales knowledge so your team can speak fluently about:
- The customer needs you solve
- Your products and services as solutions to those needs
- The current regulations in the industry
- The marketplace
- Your company and your value proposition
- The competition and how you win
Building the expertise of your team can have a huge effect on your team’s overall sales performance, ability to cross sell and grow customer accounts, and the success of new product and service launches.
How can you build this type of product knowledge in your sales reps? Start by following these 3 steps:
- Embrace the concept of sales knowledge fluency. If your people cannot speak fluently about your product and service offerings and ask the right questions to uncover specific needs that your solutions fulfill, then they are leaving money on the table and losing you deals. The first step to building product knowledge is to acknowledge the need for it.
- Build and manage a top-notch sales knowledge base. From the day a salesperson walks into your company to the day they retire, they are flooded with information – endless streams of PowerPoints, spec sheets, emails, brochures, and more. Typically, only about 20% of this information is essential for them to know to be able to sell.
And most of it is presented through the lens of your product or service – outlining the features, not through the lens of the customer – outlining the customer needs it solves and how to uncover these needs.
You’ve got to give your salespeople the information they need to be able to sell.
- Train to sales knowledge fluency, and get there quickly. The faster you can train to fluency, the faster your salespeople can take off the training wheels and step on the gas.
You’ve got to go beyond accuracy and train to fluency.
To this last point, many say, “Fluency happens over time. You can’t expect someone to become an expert right away.” Right away, true. But it can and should happen a lot faster than it does at most companies.
Build knowledge experts, and train to fluency. Otherwise, salespeople won’t be capable of leading masterful sales conversations, and capturing all the opportunities they can and should.