Question: What’s one of the biggest problems in sales?
Answer: Over-training on product knowledge.
There you go; I said it. There’s a good chance my answer will make you angry, but I truly believe that most companies spend way too much time on product knowledge vis-à-vis sales-skill training.
I often have the opportunity to speak at annual conferences, sales rallies and SKOs. While I’m always there for sales training, I can’t help but notice that 80 to 90 percent of the agenda is typically devoted to product knowledge, company/departmental policies-and-procedures and “housekeeping items.”
Product knowledge is not unimportant. Sales professionals do need to know about their offerings. They need knowledge to answer specific questions and overcome objections. Prospective clients do expect sales reps to be knowledgeable.
But when product-knowledge training sucks up all the oxygen at the expense of sales training, it causes sales reps to think like traditional product pushers rather than value creators. In the complex, high-dollar, consultative selling world of 2021, successful reps create value rather than peddle the features and benefits of some product or service.
Too much product-knowledge training also causes sales reps to think selfishly rather than seeing the world through a client-centric lens.
Instead of memorizing product knowledge, it’s better to:
- Listen with intention and be fully present with your prospect in that place and moment.
- Discover exactly that the prospective client truly values without making assumptions.
- Find out how and where your company and the prospective client will benefit TOGETHER.
Product pushers are too quick to say things like this: “Let’s set up a time so I can go through our demo.” Guess what? Prospects don’t give a damn about your slide deck no matter how pretty the marketing department made it look.
What DO prospects care about? Themselves. They care about their own problems and goals. The way you get in front of prospects and compel them to share critical information with you is to share value, discover their motivational emotions and create new value for them Your product is not terribly relevant unless it specifically allows a prospect to achieve their goals and/or end their pain.
Remember, your product is NOT what you sell. Your service is NOT what you sell. Your offering is NOT what you sell. Products, services and offerings are commodities often available at a lower price somewhere else.
You sell the outcomes that the client desires. Your product only matters in so far as it helps deliver outcomes. That’s why you should never lead with your product, never lead with a pitch.
As you strive to improve your effectiveness as a sales professional – regardless of your level or title in the company – improve your ability to create and sell value. Product knowledge will always be subordinate to that.