B2B and B2C businesses alike have been shifting to sales models based on customer needs. At each stage of the buyer journey, the marketing team and sales team must closely coordinate to deliver value.
In most sales contexts, value is derived from sales reps acting as experts. Their critical sales function is reliant on their exhaustive business and product knowledge to guide customers to answers. By receiving accurate and relevant product information, customers enjoy greater buying confidence and a streamlined experience.
In businesses focused on KPIs, product knowledge training often takes a backseat to sales process and skills training. What gets lost is that the target audience cannot immediately see great product features or benefits. Sales reps have to translate how the product works, its best practice and what it means for customers.
It seems obvious that product knowledge should be a primary concern in sales training. But while many sales managers perform knowledge management to a degree, few fully appreciate the importance of comprehensive training. From using a role play to creating on-demand sales resources, product knowledge needs to be continually refreshed and reinforced.
What is Product Knowledge?
Product knowledge focuses on more than just features. Product knowledge training certainly covers product elements and uses but it also entails what it means for customers.
Customer-facing teams need to be able to talk confidently about how a product fits into a customer’s situation. How do the features translate to relieving pain points? How will the product accomplish the customer’s goals?
Thorough product knowledge holds the answers to these all-important questions. Salespeople need to be skilled at effectively communicating product information and connecting them to unique customer needs. When customers know exactly what they will gain from a product, they make decisions faster and with greater confidence.
Types of Product Knowledge
Product knowledge covers a lot more than just the product. Products exist in specific contexts, which affects how they are perceived and used. Knowing the situational elements surrounding your business and your market provides better frameworks to communicate features and benefits. To that end, all of the various types of product knowledge need to be considered and coached.
Product knowledge training creates results when it supplies actionable information. Cover these five types of product knowledge in your training sessions to ensure your team offers the most value.
1. Target Audience
Every salesperson should understand the characteristics of their target audience. When they know who might use the product, reps can make better arguments relevant to their needs and circumstances. They can connect the features to the customer’s unique challenges and problems, while staying attentive to their expectations.
During the qualification stage, a better understanding of the product will lead to better questions. Salespeople will be able to assess the product fit, knowing if it is a viable solution for the customer’s needs. Recognizing a strong fit is crucial in keeping the sales pipeline full of actual sales opportunities. This increases conversion and keeps salespeople from wasting time with poor-quality leads, benefiting themselves and their prospects.
2. The Brand
Understanding your position in the market goes hand-in-hand with creating a better experience for your customer. There needs to be a cohesive understanding of your brand image and how it comes out in your product. When your whole organization perceives the brand and represents it the same way, you strengthen your position.
Salespeople should know how to talk about the product in a way that aligns with the brand. The customer experience will be enhanced, as the customer develops trust and comfort from the consistency and predictability.
3. The Features and Functionality
Product knowledge begins with a complete understanding of a product’s features and function. Salespeople need to know the full array of design specs, features, benefits and applications to speak intelligently and confidently.
Salespeople should also have experience using the product to develop their own opinions about its purpose and function. In answering questions, their testimonials can reinforce perceptions and include unique insights that make for a more educational interaction.
4. The Customer Journey
Product knowledge not only shows up in qualifying and closing but also in post-sale support and maintenance. Salespeople need to know how the product was meant to be used. After the sale, what will the customer’s experience be like with the product? How long will they use it? Will its application change over time?
Knowing the customer journey will direct what information to highlight during the sale. It will also guide how you perform customer follow ups and pursue add-ons and future sales. Understanding the product within the customer journey keeps the relationship positive and productive for everyone involved.
5. The Common Queries
Training sessions should include salesperson feedback. Being on the frontlines, salespeople have the best vantage point on how customer’s view product advantages and limitations.
What questions are frequently asked? Do customers have the same issue with a particular feature? Are there any objections that consistently pop up during presentations? Having on-hand, automatic answers keeps salespeople ready to positively address any customer query.
Some of the Best Practices for Product Knowledge Training
Sales managers have a huge opportunity to push the needle through better product knowledge training. When salespeople are enthusiastic and confident in their product knowledge, they become more productive. Here are some of the best methods to keep your team focused and customer-ready:
Focus on Teaching Needs-Assessment
Product features are only valuable if you can communicate associated benefits. It wastes time trying to exhaust every feature and hope that it is attractive to the customer. Doing so signifies a gap between your value and the customer’s needs, which can hurt your chances of closing.
Instead, you can reverse engineer conversations by starting with the customer’s needs and wants. What business challenges do they face? Do they have any competitive threats? What is keeping them from reaching their goals?
Letting customers communicate their priorities, frustrations and visions helps salespeople target relevant solutions. In value-based selling, qualification improves and reps can create a sales strategy around delivering value throughout the relationship.
Offer Different Ways to Practice
Practicing real-world situations is one of the best ways to get comfortable with wielding product knowledge. Using simulations in meetings or role plays in one-to-one sessions will prepare salespeople for expected questions, objections and conversations. They develop essential techniques and scripts to clearly communicate benefits and strengthen their authority.
As products become more intricate, learning everything about them can be confusing and overwhelming. One recommended method of mitigating the mental strain of product training is microlearning. In this approach, learning is segmented into smaller chunks, usually involving a single module for individual products, services or features.
Limiting information in each module makes it more digestible and memorable for salespeople. Using modules to supplement training sessions can reinforce concepts and enhance understanding. Videos are especially useful in microlearning for visually communicating ideas and making complex concepts easy to grasp.
Provide Ongoing Product Training
Product knowledge needs to be refreshed on a regular basis to keep reps updated and prepared. Buyers go through cycles, and not every product will be addressed every single day. If out of season or off sale, products can see long periods of low sales.
Salespeople should regularly refresh and update their product knowledge. Not having on-hand answers can make you look unprofessional, unprepared and unworthy of a customer’s business.
Collaborate with marketing
Sales enablement is only made possible when sales and marketing are on the same page. Marketing produces the material that holds much of the information and value that salespeople and customers need.
Engage sales and marketing in two-way communication. Marketing has to understand what customers need and salespeople need to know what resources are available from marketing. When the departments are in sync, salespeople can quickly identify and secure relevant content during customer interactions.
Reasons Salespeople Needs Profound Product Knowledge
From a customer standpoint, it is easy to see how product knowledge is beneficial in coming to a decision. We do not often think about the implications of greater product knowledge for the business or the salesperson. In loose terms, we know that it is better to have product knowledge than to not have it. But, what exactly are the benefits for the salesperson?
Here are eight key ways that salespeople benefit from profound product knowledge:
It Generates Excitement
It is a lot easier to be enthusiastic about something when you understand it. The product you sell is no exception. When you know more about your product, you become confident in it and excited about it as a solution.
If customers have questions or voice specific needs, better product knowledge will lead you to faster, more reliable answers. Connecting needs to product benefits will get you excited to offer valuable information that truly helps the customer.
It Hardens Your Resolve
Customers have a way of throwing curveballs at you. Salespeople do not want to be blindsided by a question they cannot answer. Gaps in product knowledge weaken interactions, and being exposed is a little bit of a shot to the ego. It is a normal fear that can be substantially reduced by a more comprehensive understanding of your product.
Advanced Product Knowledge Makes You the Expert
Career individuals possess unique skills that make them the right person for the job. A successful sales agent requires particular social skills and personality traits, but knowledge about the product never gets credit. It is true, though, product knowledge makes salespeople the experts at what they do.
Being an expert makes you indispensable to the company and the customer. You can overcome outside influences to guide their decision-making because you are the certified pro.
You can Keep up With Other Experts
B2B sales has professional sellers and professional buyers. Sales reps need to keep pace with the knowledge of industry experts. If a prospect has advanced product knowledge, they know what questions to ask to gauge the salesperson’s competency. This can give them key advantages in negotiating deals. A knowledgeable salesperson presents themselves as an authority in their conversation. That way, the prospect will rely on you for your expertise.
It Improves how You Handle Objections
Product knowledge encompasses the brand, the target audience and the product features. Working together, they give you a firm grasp on handling objections.
If you know how your product fits competitively in solving customer needs, you can identify benefits and communicate value. This will allow you to address objections before they arise throughout a sales marketing demo. When they do arise, sales reps will have the reflexes to supply the right information and the right answer.
You Gain a Better Understanding of the Competition
Product knowledge should include your competitor’s products as well, so you know how yours compares. With a list of competitive advantages, you can focus and position your pitch to make your product stand out.
You Become More Confident
Knowledge about your product leads to understanding and trust in it as a solution. This is a powerful combination for a salesperson needing confidence to sell it. It is easier to sell a product you believe in. When you know your target customer has a need that matches its benefits, you will emphatically pursue the sale.
It Gives Your Prospects Confidence in You
It is not just your own confidence that grows from your expert product knowledge. Customers trust those they perceive as experts. Sales reps who can effortlessly address questions and objections earn that trust, increasing the likelihood of a sale.
Product knowledge training is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve your bottom line. There is little nuance to product knowledge — the more you know, the more you will improve. Unlike skills training, managers do not necessarily have to cater to personal style or strengths to make it effective. It simply takes effort.
Through consistent group training and resources for self-paced learning, managers promote a better customer experience and higher close rates. The Selling Revolution creates custom training strategies for our clients, boosting their team’s product knowledge and much more. Our approach targets opportunities in hiring, training and sales execution to achieve sales goals and maximize revenue generation. To learn how we can help your team reach the next stage of growth, contact our sales experts today.