When my son was young, he was fascinated by sports cars. Like a lot of boys his age, he liked to look at the models of the shiniest ones in the toy store, or point them out when we would see one on the street. Over time, he started to pick up assorted facts and statistics: this one went from zero to sixty miles an hour in so many seconds, another one had an engine with this many horsepower, and so on.
Now here’s a question for you: How successful do you think my young son would have been at selling sports cars at that age?
The obvious answer is that he wouldn’t have been able to do that job – children are usually better in the door-to-door cookie and candy type industries – but the truth is that he was almost as qualified as many salespeople that some big companies send out into the field. Granted, he didn’t know anything about sales, but he sure had plenty of “product knowledge.”
And that, of course, is the problem I want to highlight here. To many sales managers, training consists largely of getting the sales staff together in a room and forcing them to memorize marketing brochures and technical specifications. So long as the sales team knows all about the great things the company sells, and can explain all the ins and outs, the rest will take care of itself – or so the thinking goes.
Those of us who have worked as professional salespeople for a while know better. Being able to explain specific features is important, but it’s not nearly as critical as understanding the sales process, knowing how to read and react to different buying personality styles, and qualify potential customers. In fact, I would go as far as to say that product knowledge accounts for only about a third of a salesperson’s success – and sometimes even less.
Besides, product knowledge is more about memorization than it is skill. For that reason, it makes sense to do it in smaller increments, like morning or weekly meetings, rather than all at once in a sales training session. We all know the feeling of being overwhelmed by too much information, so don’t try to cram too many facts and details into your producer’s minds at once.
Key Sales Management Point:
Try to integrate the facts and details of what your company sells into regular sales meetings.
Use your training time to teach skills that will help your staff turn what they know into sales.
Product knowledge is critical to sales success, but sales skills are more important.