Knowledgeable employees are the key to closing more sales. According to research, 91% of baby boomers and 79% of Gen Z agree that knowledgeable store employees make in-store shopping more appealing.
Whether you’re in real estate, retail, software, or any other industry, knowledge is power. Sales reps can only go so far with persuasion – they need to have deeper insights and know-how to address questions and concerns, pushing the customer to “yes.”
Why product knowledge increases sales
Reps need to know the product inside and out. It’s not enough to have the basics down, reps need to have the real-world knowledge to put the product in context and show the customer how it fits into their lives and provides benefits.
Having a thorough understanding of the product can help your reps use different tactics to present the product to customers.
When they’re comfortable with the product, they can communicate it effectively and adapt their sales skills to suit different customers.
Train your employees to sell the benefits, not the features. They should be able to identify what the customer needs and how the product can deliver it, instead of what they see in it.
Enthusiasm about the product
When your reps are enthusiastic about a product, the customer will be enthusiastic about the product.
Of course, fake enthusiasm won’t get them very far, so the easiest way to get them enthusiastic is by showing them why the product matters. They’ll believe in it, and that makes selling more effective.
Confidence in the product and sales
If a customer is on the fence about a sale, the thing that gets them to “yes” could be the confidence the sales rep has in the product.
Conversely, a lack of confidence could kill a potential sale – if the rep isn’t buying it, why should anyone else?
Countering concerns and objections
Objections and concerns from customers are really just questions.
If a customer objects to a product, the way to steer them back is by showing them why and how it’s the best solution for their pain points. This can only be accomplished with product knowledge.
Knowledge also helps in positioning a product as favorable over its competitors.
If the customer is unsure about your product or the competition’s, a knowledgeable rep will be armed to counter objections and show the customer why your product – not your rival’s – is the best choice for their unique needs.
How to gain product knowledge
This can be done using:
- More experienced sales reps: These reps can help greener reps appreciate the types of questions they’ll get from customers and understand how to position the product effectively.
- Testimonials: Customer testimonials will provide insights into different aspects of the product in a real-world context – things the reps may not have considered. They also show them how the product benefits customers and how it’s typically used.
- Training sessions: Training your reps on your products is beneficial for increasing product knowledge, but it’s essential with complex or niche products. Train your reps to understand the product with enough proficiency to upsell it.
- Role-playing: One of the most effective methods, role-playing puts your reps in the sales and customer roles to mimic a real-world sales pitch. As both parties play their roles, they’ll develop a deeper understanding of the product from the customer’s perspective.
- Hands-on, practical use: Using the product directly will help your reps learn how to use the product correctly, which can be communicated to the customers. Think of this like a customer testimonial – your rep will be more enthusiastic when they’ve seen what the product can do and are able to talk about it more easily.
- Marketing and sales materials: Marketing materials are designed to teach customers about the product, and they can do the same for your reps. Show them whitepapers, case studies, demos, sales pages, and other literature that illustrates the product’s features and benefits.
It’s important for reps to understand how the product is made, its value, how it can be used, and what other products or solutions it complements.
Information to learn about the product
As reps engage with customers, they can use their product knowledge to guide the customer through the sales process and make the experience an enjoyable one.
Successful sales reps know the product features, how they translate into real-world benefits, and how to communicate that to customers.
Here’s some vital information your reps should learn about your product:
The pain points or problems your customers have
All purchases come from a need – even impulse purchases. Do they need to save money? Get more free time? Fix a problem?
The most common pain points relate to money and productivity, but customers also experience inefficiencies in processes, a lack of accountability among staff, and inadequate customer service.
It’s important to understand what these pain points are, so the rep can showcase how the product is intended to solve them. That brings us to the next point.
How the product solves the problem
Your product exists to address a need of the customer, no matter what that need is.
Your reps should be trained to understand how the product is used and how it can be most beneficial to the customer, so they can successfully show its benefits.
How to use the product correctly
Sales reps should have knowledge of how customers use the product, as well as practical knowledge of how they use it themselves.
Case studies and examples can show how a product works in action, but having hands-on knowledge gives them plenty of information to address questions and concerns. This also helps reps make the product look effortless to use, assuaging any concerns about complicated or frustrating features.
The competitive landscape
Selling a product is not only selling the product itself but positioning it as the better option among competitors’ products.
It’s important for reps to know what current products are competition for yours, and what makes yours the superior offering.
Real-world benefits or features
Customers don’t always care about the bells and whistles – they care more about what a product or feature can do for them. In other words, they want to know how a product or feature provides a strong return on their investment.
Features are virtually meaningless without context, and it’s up to the rep to provide that context.
This is another area where testimonials and case studies can help.
The rep will be armed with examples of how real customers have used the product successfully and the results they got, allowing them to respond to the customer’s objections quickly.
Available options for the product
If your product has a lot of options or customizations, your rep should be trained on how it can be tailored to the customer’s needs and how it fits into their world. This could be as simple as different sizes or colors or as complex as customizations that can make the product appropriate for different business sizes or industries.
Product development and history
If you developed a product because of a personal story that inspired you, or your brand has a unique story, that can be a selling point for your product. It not only shows that the product solved the problem, but that your brand understands and empathizes with the customers’ problems.
Make sure your rep knows your brand story and how your product was developed and can convey it to customers.
Sales reps need to know the cost of the product, which isn’t as simple as a flat price.
Your product may have tiered or package pricing, subscription-based pricing, and more. Reps should also know the cost-to-own, where applicable, and the ROI a product can bring to its customers.
Statistics like these can show customers how the product is a worthwhile investment that generates profits.
Unique manufacturing processes
This won’t apply to every product, but if your product is developed or manufactured in a way that’s noteworthy, that can be a selling point.
Maybe your manufacturing process supports local industry or adopts green practices that are a rarity in your industry, both of which can be the “cherry on top” for your customer.
Repair and Warranty Information
Customers are making an investment in your product and they want to know that it’s reliable and high quality.
Your rep should understand the repair and warranty information and processes to reassure the customer that they’re covered if something happens.
When they have this peace of mind, they’re more comfortable putting their hard-earned money into your solution.
Product distribution and delivery
Your reps need to know the entire sales process to seal the deal, which includes product distribution and delivery.
The distribution and delivery have an overall impact on customer experience – too slow or unreliable, and an otherwise excellent product can still leave a negative impression.
Your rep should know the standard process to reassure the customer that the product will arrive safely and efficiently.
No matter the product, it may take time for your sales reps to become confident and articulate in their product knowledge.
Over time, they’ll become more comfortable and enthusiastic in providing beneficial information to customers, and in turn, closing the deal.
Increase sales with product knowledge
Knowing a product inside and out is a key factor in top-performing sales reps.
With product research and training, you can empower your sales reps to adapt their pitch to suit the customer and address their questions and objections in the sales process.
If the rep believes in the product and has confidence, the customer will, too.
Michael Farino, Founder of New Era Communications is a proven strategic marketing and communications executive with over 10 years of experience in lifestyle, entertainment, and technology sectors, in both domestic and international settings. His company caters to high-tech computing hardware and software B2B and B2C companies that sell to government agencies, like Dynabook Americas, Inc., IOGEAR, Hiperwall, and others.