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Importance of Product Knowledge in Selling

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Importance of Product Knowledge in Selling

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.

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  • Dean Swanson

    I somewhat agree with your analogy, but not completely. I agree that buyers buy benefits, not features. However, in this competitive market, credibility is everything.

    First, you can’t sell anything unless you uncover a need. You can only determine a need by asking questions.

    Assuming I’ve uncovered a need, I would then list my products features, one-by-one, and after each feature I would add a statement to the effect of “and what that means to you is…”.

    Better performance, cost savings, longer life span, whatever.

    It does two things. It demonstrates you have product knowledge, you understand his business, and you can relate the feature to the enefit. In essence, you become an expert in the field, a problem solver.

  • Hi Asma,
    Product knowledge is where is all begins, put another way, you should be an expert on what it is your selling, that is what I would expect when buying and I like to ask alot of questions. Have all the answers and I’m thinking you’ve earned my trust and know I’m ready to buy………..almost.

  • A saleman must have more that just product knowledge. Application knowledge is needed as well to help the customer apply your product to their situation.

  • Anwar Saleem

    Hi Dean
    very much agree to what u said as uncover the need of the customer and relate the feature with the matching benefit and would make your life easy.
    However I would add here that in this competetive market where usually the sales person gets a very little time of a sales call, instead telling features and relating them to benefits, tell the benefits first and, if required, support it with feature. As products are sold on benefits not on features.
    This will save call time and provide more surity that the customers’ need is satisfied.

  • James

    I agree with some of what this article has to say, but if a salesperson is completely focused on their product, their sales methodology, and their company procedures, then there is no room to understand their customers needs and determine if their product is the right fit for that customer. It has been proven that some of the most successful salespersons are the “new guy”. The one who doesn’t know, but isn’t afraid to ask. They lead their customer down a path of mutual discovery that builds trust and a willingness to buy. The salesperson who knows everything often times spouts product expertise, in an effort to show they are an expert, when they think the know the customers pain, but have not finished complete pain discovery. A customer will think you are an expert when you ask them a question and they say, “that’s a good question, I don’t know” or “I never thought of that.” Now they think you are an expert.

  • very much agree to what u said as uncover the need of the customer and relate the feature with the matching benefit and would make your life easy.
    However I would add here that in this competetive market where usually the sales person gets a very little time of a sales call, instead telling features and relating them to benefits, tell the benefits first and, if required, support it with feature. As products are sold on benefits not on features.
    This will save call time and provide more surity that the customers’ need is satisfied.