Product training cannot be given in isolation and is definitely not confined to product knowledge. What should a sales person know first in order to sell a product? He needs to know about his company including the products it sells. He needs to know about his target customers and also about the competition. These are some of the fundamental concepts that form the basis of product training, particularly in the way content should be presented during product training for sales people.
Here is a content outline for product knowledge training that will help you develop quick product knowledge training for your sales personnel.
Here you can introduce the product and provide key functions of the product with respect to the end user i.e. how the product is beneficial to the end-user. This helps sales people map a target customer profile.
Position of the Product in the Business Portfolio
Depending on the size of the company, the number of products in its portfolio varies. However, it is important that a sales person understands where in the product portfolio does the said product falls. Therefore, product training needs to start with the clear message about the position of a product in the company’s business portfolio. This helps the sales person understand a lot of things such as the target segment, profile of potential customer or business and so on.
An article in Harvard Business Review talks about how Hewlett-Packard reorganized its sales functions around defined sales opportunity portfolios. The article adds that, “The portfolio approach divides potential sales opportunities into four categories-repurchase, replacement, expansion, and innovation-and then supports sales reps in ways that maximize their performance for each type of sale.” (Ref: A Portfolio Approach to Sales). Therefore, this needs to be part of product training curriculum.
Sales people waste valuable time chasing leads who don’t need the products, who can’t afford them or who are simply not interested in them. This happens when sales people do not have a clear profile of their target customers. Knowing who he can sell his products to helps sales people make right choices and follow up qualified leads. For the purpose, organizations need to do a detailed customer profiling to understand the persona of their target customers for a product, the potential market segment, business size and type. As a part of product training, this information also needs to be shared. Sometimes, buyer personas can be different for different product segments and therefore as a standard practice every product should have its individual customer profile.
Features and Advantages of the Product
Ultimately, sales people need to impress upon the customers the features and benefits of the said product. Typically, you can include about 3-4 distinguishing features of the product and the key advantages it has over other products. Most traditional product training programs concentrate only on this aspect. While this is important it is not good enough for selling in present dynamic market conditions. In fact, this information is usually obtained by a prospect from the internet, and more often than not, is not adequate to clinch that all important deal. Therefore, you need to talk about the benefits the product provides to customers.
Benefits of the Product
In a research done by Forrester, they found that 88% of executives who have had experience with sales people observed that while the sales personnel were able to talk about their company’s products, only 27% of them actually understood the customer’s business and what the customer was looking for. It is important that product training for sales people includes BENEFITS that the product brings to the customer. What is the inherent value in terms of money, time or anything else that the customer gets as a result of using this product? The focus has to be on selling solutions rather than features.
Accessories, Bundling & Cross Selling
Products come with some default accessories. For example a computer comes with a CPU, Monitor, Keyboard and Mouse. External speakers, Additional hard disk space, higher ram, network card are other accessories that can go along with the computer as additional products to enhance user experience. An enthusiastic sales person educates his customer with these bundling options. Similarly, printer, scanner or projector could be other products that the company may be dealing with. The value these products can bring to the customer is another aspect that a sales person should know and is essential for cross-selling.
A good product training program for sales people should include such bundling and cross selling options.
AMC and Service Information
Selling a product is not the end as backing up sales with good service is equally important. Sales personnel need to provide this information to customers and it can sometimes be a deal clinching factor. When organizations buy equipment for their offices at multiple locations, they may be keen on checking out the service backup available at all the locations. Similarly, information about warranties and benefits of annual maintenance contracts are other aspects that are vital for product training programs.
Remember that these aspects are very important to increase sales and retain customers.
Comparison with Competing Products
Customers today are well-informed and research about products even before meeting a sales person. They would have compared competing products, features and their individual values. A sales person needs to be ready with convincing answers to any query posed by the customer. For the purpose, he needs to know about the products of competitors and the specific model his company’s product is pitted against. He needs to know a feature by feature comparison of products and how his product fares against competition.
Tips for Selling
It is a good idea to share some case studies or scenarios with sales people that help them during a sales pitch. They could be given a list of ice-breaker ideas to elicit the interest of a potential customer. Case studies also help them with some leading questions that enable them to understand customer needs and pain-points. It always helps to share actual experiences faced by sales people on field. Such exchange of information helps sales people to anticipate situations and be prepared suitably to get the best out of the available opportunity.
It is important to end the session with a summary of key points covered during the training session. This helps learners to recall key information and reinforces important points. You could also include a checklist to verify if all the course objectives have been attained by the learner.
A training program should ideally end with an assessment so that the extent to which the course has attained its objectives can be evaluated. This helps in modifying and updating future training programs. Assessments should be structured to judge the application knowledge of the sales person. There is no point in testing the recall capability of sales person about factual information. For the purpose, scenarios and case studies can be used and learners can be questioned about the best strategy to be adopted in a given situation or the best way to present a product to a particular customer.
Customers these days are better informed about and more selective in choosing their products. Therefore, sales people need to be trained to respond to customer queries effectively. Product training should enable sales people to provide correct advice to customers and help them make informed decisions. Ultimately, the course should instill confidence in the sales personnel in selling which ultimately will lead to an increase in business.