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Importance of product knowledge
My morning prayer “God please help me keep my big mouth shut before I know what I am talking about.” Amen.
My first job in sales was working at a computer store in the Silicon Valley called Computer Attic. Without a formal training or knowledge of the products, having only a desire to learn and succeed I spent my time trying to find out as much as I could about what we sold. Selling in retail for $8 dollars an hour did not require a college degree or much education. At times when foot traffic was low in the stores I would spend my time not by the water cooler but reading the information on the back of every box. I was trying to learn about the features of each product on the shelf.
At that time my manager’s advice was always to carry a clip board and walk fast. That way it would look like I was busy. I did carry a clip board on occasion but instead of walking fast I would linger and try to engage customers. My technique was simple. I would greet every customer who came within reach and offer to help. Since at first I had no idea about the products or the features of items on the shelves, I wrote down the questions on a clip board and asked my managers and senior sales reps for answers.
After the first couple of weeks I no longer had a need for the clip board. With my newly found product knowledge, my enthusiasm towards the work increased. Product knowledge became the corner stone of my confidence and enthusiasm. As others avoided the geeky customers who clearly knew much more than they ever did about the products I would rather engage them. I saw these customers as a wealth of knowledge and experience and most of them shared that experience with me. They taught me about the products that we had on the shelves and helped boost my confidence to engage the next customer.
This gave me the ability to have the personal satisfaction of knowing what I was selling. It was a huge boost of confidence. In the first month I sold over $100,000 dollars for the store and was given the employee of the month award.
More importantly, looking back I learned that product knowledge made me an expert. How else can you sell to experts if you do not know about the products? How can a sales rep effectively overcome valid objections without knowing the details of the product? It is a fact that product knowledge is necessary in overcoming objections effectively. Without this knowledge I could not communicate the advantages of the products.
The most effective sales professionals are not only familiar with the details of products and offerings in order to effectively communicate and engage prospects. They also spend time becoming experts in the industry so they can differentiate between various offerings and not just the products that they represent.
Product knowledge is the corner stone of effectively dealing with competition. Remember, product knowledge is not a tool to try to beat a geek at his own game. Selling is not about ranking your knowledge set versus your prospects but knowledge is rather an important pillar to communicate effectively and gain the respect of your prospects.