It goes without saying that if you don’t know your product well enough, you can’t sell it. Here, I am talking about a complex product, rather than simple ones that don’t demand any great explanation of their workings or have become so common place that everybody knows how they work.
So, if you take, let us say, a toothpaste or a safety pin or for that matter even a cycle or a two-wheeler, now people have used them so much that you really don’t need great product knowledge to sell them. But there are products where you need product knowledge.
I think product knowledge is one-third of what a salesperson needs to sell a product. The first third is product knowledge; the second third is how he sells his product or the psychology of selling he uses and last third is the knowledge of his company’s sales procedures and processes. I don’t mean they are of equal importance or more or less important, I am just making some generalizations. But, if you just have product knowledge, it is not enough because people don’t buy features. Product knowledge is mainly knowledge about features. For example, while buying a PC, people are not interested in specific features like screen resolution or battery backup and so on. They are more interested in the benefits of each feature.
I remember reading about a salesperson who was trying to sell lorry tires to a very large transportation company but wasn’t able to make a breakthrough. He was “selling” on all types of features on cost, on technology they use, on the kind of rubbers they use, the long life they give and so on, but he was never able to make a breakthrough. After deep thought, he changed his strategy and tried to find out the benefit that his buyer would seek. When he made a call to that customer again, he found out that the customer was interested in the safety aspect of tires. So, he immediately translated the feature into the benefit for the customer and made a sales pitch for the treads of the car’s tires on the plea that they were scientifically designed and have proved to reduce skid rates and thereby enhancing safety. Not surprisingly, he got the order.
Here is the lesson for everyone in Sales-people don’t buy products, they buy benefits. A carpenter is not interested in drill bits but in the holes they make. He buys two-inch holes, not two-inch drills bits. Thus, people are not interested in the physical products. From this, the lesson to be learnt is that just having product knowledge is only half the story. Being able to convert them into benefits which the customer wants is very important. A successful sales person translates features into benefits very well and always talks in those terms.