How Much Product Knowledge Is Enough?

I know an Executive Vice President of Sales who doesn’t believe that it is important for his salespeople to know the product they sell. He believes that they need only a minimum understanding of what they sell and that they should rely on subject matter experts to help them engage with their prospective clients. He doesn’t care so much about product knowledge.

I understand his thinking. He believes that the salesperson should be calling on the business owner and that the subject matter expert should be engaging with the prospective client’s technical people. That makes sense. Except when it doesn’t make sense. And when it doesn’t make sense the salesperson fails to create an opportunity.

How Much Do You Need To Know

Theory doesn’t always work out so well in practice. The real world is very different than some of the premises we have when we organize a sales force or design a sales processes. Ideas that look good on paper don’t always work out well when you are sitting face-to-face with a prospective client.

As a salesperson, you need to know enough about your product that you can create value for all of the stakeholders you routinely meet with as you call on your dream client. Period.

There is no reason to abdicate your responsibility for creating value to someone else on your team who may or may not be there when you need them. I’m not suggesting that the salesperson should have the deep technical expertise of a true subject matter expert, but there is no reason not to learn so much about your product and your solution that you can hold your own with anyone who may happen to be sitting in the room with you when you’re making a sales call.

Every Sales Call Is An Education

The longer you work in your role, the more you should know. If you’ve been on hundreds of calls with subject matter experts, you should have collected a list of the common questions that your dream client is going ask you. You should also have learned what the most common answers are to those questions.

Great sales people are great mimics. They learn to mimic what they hear other salespeople—and technical people—say, gaining a fundamental understanding of what they need to know to create value for their prospective customer during a sales call.

You cannot create value or trust by not knowing enough about your product to engage in a meaningful conversation with your dream client. What you need to know should drive your understanding, not your title.

You still need chops.

Filed under: Sales Acumen, Sales Training, Situational Knowledge

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