Knowledge is power — especially in the world of sales. Salespeople need to be armed with the information they need to make a sale. The most important information? Product knowledge.
According to a study from Tulip Retail, 83% of shoppers believe they’re more knowledgeable than retail store associates, and 79% of survey respondents say knowledgeable associates are important or very important.
Product knowledge is important in any industry. With consumers knowing more than ever, sales reps need to know their product inside and out.
However, basic product knowledge training isn’t enough. The human brain forgets information it recently learned if it isn’t immediately placed into practice, according to German Psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus.
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.
Product knowledge is when sales reps have a complete understanding of the product they’re selling. Why is product knowledge necessary for salespeople? Sales reps should understand a product's features and benefits from the customer’s point of view, so they can have more engaging conversations that lead to sales.
For example, if a rep is giving a product demo and the customer has a question about a certain functionality, that rep should be able to quickly and easily provide a response.
When sales reps have a thorough 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.
Alex Girard, a product marketing manager for HubSpot, says, "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."
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.
Product Knowledge Training Ideas
Solve for the customer
Save time for practice
Provide hands-on training
Utilize a knowledge base or academy
Supply consistent training
Use fun methods
Give case studies
Evaluate film reviews
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 a 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/tool. If applicable, your sales reps should use your product for their job, so they have an intimate knowledge 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 which provides a guided tutorial 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 trainings.
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. In addition, many companies 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 the customer’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 fun methods
Product training should also be fun and utilize several methods of learning. You can use methods such as quizzes, games, video demos, infographics, and even group projects.
During new hire training at HubSpot, we played games and had group presentations each day. These methods broke up the day of lectures with fun activities. At the end of our training, to study for the assessment, we played Jeopardy. Let’s just say things got competitive.
Our instructors implemented different methods of learning over the course of each day, which was helpful in retaining the material.
8. Give case studies
People love examples, because it puts things in context. 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.
9. 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 your 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.