Product Knowledge: How to Train Sales on the Thing They’re Selling

Product Knowledge: How to Train Sales on the Thing They’re Selling

Knowledge is power — especially in the world of sales. Reps’ sales efforts can only stretch as far as their insight and know-how can take them, and product knowledge provides the basis for both.

That kind of information is important in any industry. With consumers knowing more than ever, sales reps need to understand their product inside and out — and basic product knowledge often doesn’t get them there.

According to German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, the human brain forgets information it recently learned if it isn’t immediately placed into practice — a fact that highlights the need for thoughtful, thorough, and engaging product knowledge training.

So, how can you train your sales reps on the product they’re selling and ensure they’ll remember the information when they’re making a sale?

Below, you’ll learn how to train your salespeople to sell your product better and faster.

Let’s consider an example. Say a rep is giving a product demo and the customer has a question about a certain functionality — if that rep wants to get anything out of that interaction, they need to be able to provide a quick but comprehensive response to whatever concern the prospect raises.

When sales reps have a consummate understanding of a product, they will have the confidence to discuss it in detail and combat objections in real-time. With more product knowledge, your sales reps can confidently answer questions and are truly armed to solve for the customer.

Having a sales team that can confidently speak to the products or services that they’re selling is essential. To ensure that your prospects receive a consistent message from your team, your product, marketing, and sales teams should all be utilizing the same playbook. Alignment amongst these three teams is critical for providing a consistent experience.

Types of Product Knowledge

Sales reps should be skilled and trained on everything about a product, including:

  • Price/ROI: Sales reps need to know the cost of a product, plus the ROI a product can bring for its customers. For example, reps can use statistics like, “Our average premium account customer sees 100% ROI within the first six months of implementing our solution.”
  • Customizations: Sales reps should be trained on how a product can be customized for the customer’s situation. It’s important to know how a product fits in the customer’s world, no matter their circumstances. For instance, if you sell an email marketing automation tool, your reps should understand how it can work for enterprise customers, startups, and agencies.
  • How to use it: Sales reps should be armed with case studies and examples so they can show how a product works in action. If you sell workout equipment to gyms, your reps might give a list of gyms that use your equipment, while also sharing statistics on how your equipment has increased membership sales.
  • Tech-savvy tools/features: Sales reps should be able to answer basic technical questions about a product, like “Can I go in the backend and customize the code?” or “When would I need to use the source code?”
  • Finding questions or support: Sales reps should know how to find answers to questions and support, for themselves and their prospects. For example, questions like “How can I contact support?” or “What’s the easiest way to find answers to my questions?”
  • Product road mapping: Sales reps need to know what the engineering team is working on over the next few months, a year, and more. If your team has a new product rolling out (like live chat), and a prospect asks about customer service, your rep can discuss current customer service avenues such as email and phone, but also mention that live chat will be coming out in the next 6 months.

1. Solve for the customer.

Sales reps should be trained in solving for the customer.

In product knowledge training, focus on these steps:

  • Providing answers to common questions like, “Will I have a dedicated account manager?” or “What’s the protocol if there’s a product outage over the weekend?”
  • Helping reps understand the features and how customers use them. If you sell industrial cleaning supplies in bulk, you might lead a training for reps in which they actually use each of the products they’re selling and read testimonials from customers who use these products every day.
  • Giving examples of how to conduct a proper product demo catered to the customer. If you sell directory management software, you might show your reps a video of a product demo for an agency and a small business so they can see the difference.

By following the steps above, your sales team will be able to empathize with their prospects, identify their pain points, and find a solution that your product can solve.

2. Save time for practice.

During product knowledge training, sales reps should have time to practice using the product or tool. If applicable, your sales reps should use your product for their job, so they have an intimate understanding of how it’s used throughout the day. The more they use a product, the better equipped they are to sell it.

For example, coders at Google go through Google Developers Codelabs — a program that provides guided tutorials and hands-on coding experience. This gives developers a chance to practice building an app or adding a new feature to an existing one.

Applying this idea to product training, you can produce tutorial videos that walk through how to use your product. At the same time, your sales reps can follow along and practice what they’re learning. Take this example, from Moz, in which Rand Fishkin walks the viewer through using Keywords Explorer.

In the next example, HubSpot’s Kristen Baker walks viewers through how to go live on Facebook. While this isn’t a HubSpot product-focused demo, it’s a great example of providing value to customers and potential customers through video training.

3. Provide hands-on training

Most people learn by doing. The best way for your sales reps to learn how to use your product is with hands-on training. Instead of only using lectures and videos in your product training, include short assignments and projects so sales reps can put those ideas into practice.

At HubSpot, all our sales reps (actually, all our new hires) have to complete a project as a part of their training. New hires need to play the role of the customer and use HubSpot to create a business online. By doing so, our sales reps have used every tool that HubSpot has to offer and can speak about those with future prospects.

4. Utilize a knowledge base or academy.

A knowledge base or academy is an online resource library for your customers. However, this is also useful for your sales reps. With quick access to educational content, sales reps have a comprehensive resource to answer unexpected questions. Plus, an online resource library makes your product easier to sell to prospects.

During product training, you can have your sales reps go over anything from the online library you want. At HubSpot, some new hires have to complete certification courses that are publicly available on HubSpot Academy. Many companies also have “required reading” for new hires, providing content they can bookmark and come back to at any time.

5. Supply consistent training.

Product knowledge training should occur consistently. It’s important to provide regular training when your product comes out with new tools and features. Again, your sales reps should be aware of product updates that are coming up so they can mention those during sales calls.

For example, Google uses whisper courses — bite-sized lessons via email — to provide continuous training to its managers. One of the courses Google provides is on building psychological safety, however, there have been courses across a variety of topics, from coaching to inclusion.

The same principle can be applied to product knowledge training. With quick email refresher courses, your sales reps can practice and keep product training top of mind.

6. Implement roleplaying.

A tried-and-true method, roleplaying helps your salespeople have a better understanding of the product. Have sales reps play both the customer and the salesperson. By playing the role of the customer, your sales reps can empathize and put themselves in a prospect’s shoes, making it easier for them to sell. Of course, it’s also important for them to practice their sales scripts.

Michael Pici, a director of sales at HubSpot, wrote about roleplaying extensively in this blog. He says, “Working through a hypothetical scenario with a team member or coach gives you a low-stakes opportunity to identify your strengths, weaknesses, and stumbling blocks.”

Pici explains that with roleplaying, sales reps can:

  • Practice dealing with extreme situations
  • Get comfortable breaking up with prospects
  • Challenge prospects on why they’re stuck
  • Overcome common objections

7. Use product training quizzes.

Product knowledge quizzes can provide an engaging educational format to supplement broader product training efforts. This medium can help keep reps on their toes and attentive when learning the ins and outs of specific products.

By issuing product quizzes, you can motivate reps to retain the information they’re learning throughout their product training. If they know they’ll be tested on the information they’re learning, they’ll be more inclined to actively engage with the material.

8. Play games.

Inundating your reps with dry, mundane lessons often has diminishing returns. Reps need to be challenged and even entertained — in some cases, at least. Games can be a fun way for reps to better understand and engage with product knowledge material.

For instance, at the end of my new hire training at HubSpot, we played a round of HubSpot-themed Jeopardy to help study for a final assessment. The game was active, engaging, and surprisingly competitive. All told, it was a fun, effective way of conveying and reviewing the product knowledge we’d been learning over the broader training period.

9. Use visual resources like videos and infographics.

Salespeople often benefit from product knowledge content that makes the learning process as straightforward and accessible as possible. That’s why leveraging visually engaging media can be an excellent way to capture and retain your reps’ attention while making your educational content more easily digestible.

This kind of product knowledge training content can also be readily accessible. Video and infographics are evergreen mediums that reps can easily reference — even after their actual product knowledge training is over.

10. Have sales reps sit in on focus groups.

Having sales teams see how actual customers use the products they sell can be an excellent way to inform more effective sales efforts. If reps can see how actual consumers leverage and think of the products they sell, they can better understand their product’s appeal and practical applications.

With that insight behind them, your salespeople can pitch your offering more thoughtfully. Knowing why consumers like your product — in addition to how it operates — helps reps zero in on the specific points, features, and value proposition prospects will be most receptive to.

11. Give case studies.

Examples put things into context — and reps are often receptive to that kind of clarity. Case studies make it easier to remember features and tools because sales reps understand how the product is used in practice (not just theory).

Also, your sales reps will be able to use case studies in their sales process. Leslie Ye, a senior content marketing manager at HubSpot, says, “Case studies allow you to highlight specific aspects of your product or service that will positively impact the prospect’s company. This helps you build credibility and further develop trust.”

The same idea applies to product training. Giving your sales reps case studies highlights specific ways your product can positively impact their prospects.

12. Evaluate film reviews.

Film reviews are the act of salespeople listening to and providing feedback on a recording of a sales rep on a call. With actionable feedback from their peers, sales reps can use specific tips to facilitate their sales process.

Aja Frost, a senior SEO strategist and former Sales Blog writer at HubSpot, wrote about it in this blog. She says, “[Film reviews] feature a new rep and new prospect every time, but the same question comes up again and again: ‘Why did this prospect take the call?’

“If the rep can’t answer this question, it’s usually because they’ve failed to identify their buyer’s most pressing need. And that indicates they may lose the deal. Without knowing what’s driving their prospect, the salesperson can’t effectively explain their product’s value.”

Knowing a product inside and out is a key indicator of a top-performing sales rep. With product knowledge training, your sales reps are empowered to answer questions and objections during their sales process.

Want to learn more about new hire training for salespeople? Check out our ultimate guide.

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