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Does Product Knowledge Training Have to be Painful?

sales-einstein2Why is product knowledge training painful on so many levels?


 Customers don’t want it unless it is in context to their situation.  Sales professionals don’t want to spend their time learning volumes of information they are never going to use.  Vendor representatives and Sales Managers don’t want to build the training materials or dedicate time to conducting the training, and no one wants to pay for it, citing cost or the money wasted when a trained sales professional leaves the company.

 So how could we make the transfer of product knowledge better for everyone involved?


What if we changed the way we train new sales professionals?  Teaching them about the industries and customers our products serve.  Teaching them the most common issues our products and services fix and teaching them the specific questions to ask to uncover prospect problems and questions to ask that point to a feature or competitive advantage for our product.

 We could teach some product basics, but no hard core product knowledge.


 What if we built product knowledge into an application accessibly via laptop, the web, or mobile phone that had all the data aligned by questions we train on and sorted/searchable by keyword, question, problem, solution, specific question, industry or application?

Pay once for building the application and maybe for loading updates, instead of paying to load every new sales professional and subsequently reload every sales persons head with knowledge with every model transition and new product rollout.

 The sales professional still learns the product information but learns it dynamically, as he is asked for it.  Learning this way also lets him/her associate the question, the context and the answer together in a meaningful way that completes the leap from raw product to actionable customer benefiting knowledge aiding in sales efforts.

 This would certainly put an end to the problem of having a sales professional full of product information with either no training or ability to ask good questions and make the product knowledge useful. 

 This could shorten the onboarding/ramp up time for a new sales professional.


Would it work?

 The smoke test would be if the sale tool was able to find, gather and serve up information quickly enough, and in a meaningful way while the sales professional sat across from the prospect.

 Give me your thoughts?  Does this exist somewhere? How does your company load product information into your head?  Is it effective? 

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  • david

    Oracle is working on a product(Sales campaigns) along theses lines, but I’ve

    i’ve always thought that selling takes place at the intersection of product knowledge and industry knowledge. I like calling this situational fluency, at the least being a peer.. at the best being considered an authority.

    the book “Hope is not a strategy’ has a great diagram of a the evolution of a sales rep… eventually ending in a ‘industry networked consultant’

    which puts the ball back in the salespersons court.. what industry should you be in?

  • Val

    Hello David,

    “Selling takes place at the intersection of product knowledge and industry knowledge” is something I am going to have to think about.

    By “industry knowledge” are you talking about being an expert in whatever industry you are in as a sales professional or having strong knowledge of the customers industry to help marry your technology up with their unique problems?

    I watched the demo for Is this a tool that you use? It looks like a CRM package that has tighter integration with back office functions and some social networking infrastructure built in. The demo just gives you a glimpse of the product knowledge/presentation tools.

    I will go locate a copy of “Hope is not a Strategy,” sounds interesting and I am fresh out of new sales reading material. Thank you for the comments.

  • Sales Training

    You raise some good points. Like you explain, many companies do not want to invest the time, money, and effort in training employees with no guarantee that they are going to stay with the company for long enough to make the training worthwhile. In the past, I have participated in training workshops as well as used training programs/applications on the computer. While I did learn about the product from the computer applications, I found that I did not retain as much information as I would have from a training group or workshop. In this case, the computer training was less effective and more time consuming for me and the company, as it took me longer to learn about the product, which prevented me from being as efficient in the workplace.