Product knowledge is critical for a sales representative’s success. However most sales managers product training sessions don’t teach how to use that product knowledge to sell. Here’s how to turn your product training into sales training that actually produces sales results.
Stop Making Your Sales Team Memorize Technical Specs
Every sales representative must understand the product or service they are selling, otherwise they couldn't sell it. The mistake most sales managers make however, is they conduct long product knowledge sessions, sometimes lasting for days, and all the time is spent memorizing features and specifications.
This will not make your sales representative more successful. In fact, speaking from personal experience, this will actually do more to confuse your team than it will to help them.
Does your sales team really need to memorize your product's technical specs? Think about it. When was the last time you bought a car based on information like how many gallons fit in the gas tank or the thickness of the rubber used in the windshield washer blades?
Benefits, not Specs, Turns Product Training into Sales Training
In depth and intense training sessions are sometimes necessary. For eample when launching new products or when a sales representative first joins the company. However to be truly effective, product training has to go a step further.
It is important to ensure that all technical information given is from a sales value point of view. Don't discuss features and specifications without directly relating them to the benefits they provide the customer. In fact, it is far better for your sales people to know how the specification relates to a customer benefit than to know the specification itself.
For example, stating that a machine operates at 60 cycles per minute is just useless trivia unless the customer has identified the need and will benefit from faster cycle speeds.
What Are Your Competitive Advantages?
Taking this a step further, take the time to show your sales team which specifications are your true distinct competitive advantages. Your reps will drastically increase their chances of winning the sale when they can show their prospects that they can identify and solve their problems better than your competition can.
Product training should also include training on how to conduct discovery meetings. Your reps need to know how to uncover specific problems customers might have and how the products benefits can solve them. For example, add questioning techniques to your product training sessions. What questions to ask to create “must-haves” product features in the clients mind. After all, you will win the sale when you and your prospect find problems you can fix better than your competition can.
Sample Fact Find Questions to Win More Sales Faster
A Better Way to Do Product Training
The bottom line is salespeople cannot remember a huge amount of technical information compressed into a short period of time. In reality, salespeople tend to only remember product knowledge when they have a vested interest in doing so. In other words, only when it is relevant to a current sales situation and their commission is on the line.
Along with long product sessions for product launches or new hire training, informal ongoing training meetings are a great way to keep your sales representatives learning and developing their skills.
Shorter Product Training Sessions Are Better
Why not conduct a half hour product training meeting every day at 8:00 am? That way the meetings are over before the sales day begins. There is no need for a formal agenda. You could just let a sales representative’s product question dictate the topic for the day. Or you could focus on one specific product feature every morning. That way you can ensure the sales reps convert the feature into the a customer benefit so they can actually use their new found knowledge in a sales situation properly.
I have used these type of training meetings successfully for years. The key is to keep them short and informal. I didn’t even make attendance mandatory, just those who wanted to learn showed up. Interestingly enough, as the sales results of the representatives who attended these meetings improved, so did the attendance.
For detailed instructions on how to plan a complete training schedule for your sales team, check out our online webinar sales management training video, How to Create your 90 Day Sales Rep Success Plan. The instructions, as well as automated worksheets and templates, are also included in my book Action Plan For Sales Management Success.
Product Training vs Sales Training – The Bottom Line
Simply put, product training is important, but it NOT sales training unless you make it so.
As a sales manager in charge of product training, you need to remember this general rule. If it's listed on the back of a brochure, your sales reps don't need to memorize it. They just need to know how to recognize a prospect for it.
After all as Albert Einstein once said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” More motivational quotes here.
“… what I can tell anyone, is simply this – If you want to learn and understand sales, talk to Susan.”
Do you sales reps ask you a lot of questions about sales? Ever get the same question twice? Sounds like a great topic for your next sales meeting. For the most common questions asked by sales reps and how to answer them check out my book, Ask the Sales Coach-Practical Answers to the Questions Sales People Ask Most.