Product Training is NOT Sales Training (Why You Need Both)

Is your closing rate anemic in spite of the strong product knowledge your salespeople possess? If so, it could be that you’ve created a sales team of “walking brochures” instead of competent and effective sales professionals. The good news is that your team can answer virtually any question about what you offer prospects. The bad news is that their sales techniques are lacking and you don’t have enough prospects with which to share all this wisdom. The other good news is that you can restore necessary balance to your sales efforts. Here’s how:

Salespeople Know How to Sell, Right?

Owners of many small- to medium-sized businesses started from the ground up, and have grown their businesses by filling niche marketplace needs based on product or service development. Because these owners are so linked to – and passionate about – what they offer, they have likely been the top salespeople in their companies, even without formal sales training. As their businesses grow, the natural approach is to look for experienced salespeople and school them on product and service lines, assuming they already know how to sell. And when still more salespeople enter the business, this focus on product knowledge continues to take priority, often becoming the sole focus of onboarding. Since it worked for you, why wouldn’t it work for them?  The answer often has a great deal to do with the facts that surround you owning the business – you have the cachet, authority and experience of a business owner; your salespeople don’t.

Over time, however, this emphasis on product or service knowledge sends the signal that the sales process is secondary, and that individual sales methods are more important than a well-defined, clearly understood, and consistently applied company-wide sales methodology. With little or no actual sales training in the mix, it’s easy to see how this perception can become reality.

The truth is, customers today can likely get most of their product or service questions answered by spending a few minutes with a printed brochure or on the company’s website. What they crave – and will respond positively to – are solution providers who are trusted advisors. They look for (and buy from) sales professionals who demonstrate concern for their needs and who offer a real cure for their “pain”. Bottom line: people buy from people.

Because that’s what customers demand, your business is setting itself up for failure if you continue to focus on product or service knowledge and don’t also include sales training for your sales team. Why should your salespeople need sales training, you ask… After all, salespeople know how to sell, right? No. They probably have some valuable sales knowledge, but if your industry, your marketplace, your customers demand specific sales skills their background didn’t provide, their closing rates (your sales) will suffer.

Nurturing Superior Sales Skills

Superior salespeople know how to qualify prospects. They know how to establish rapport, and build trust, and probe to determine if the solutions they offer are a good fit for the prospect. In fact, making the sale should not be the goal; rather, the goal should be to make sure the solution matches the need. If not, the client relationship will almost certainly fail even if the sale is made.

So your in-house sales training should emphasize how to utilize the sales process to make that “good fit” determination. Of course, this requires that you have a well-crafted sales process in place to train from. If so, you can use your sales training time, in part, to role play and let your sales personnel simulate sales situations wherein they are not merely regurgitating product or service knowledge, but nurturing the client relationship. Simply put, salesmanship is a craft that needs to be trained, reinforced, and valued as highly as knowledge about the product or service.

Bottom Line:

Sales training is not the same as product training. What’s more, not all salespeople come into an organization fully equipped to sell your products and services the way they deserve to be represented. Effective sales training is about skills development. It is about reinforcing sales process methodology. It is about sending the message that sales is about relationships; and it’s about holding that truth in equal esteem with comprehensive product knowledge.

At Sales Xceleration, we know that many smaller organizations do not have a dedicated Sales Manager. Because of this, product training might take place, but true sales training doesn’t. The result, of course, is customer frustration, lost opportunities and a lower closing rate. But with the help of a licensed Sales Xceleration Advisor, your sales training can be more effective and lead to more sales. If you need help bringing balance to your training efforts, contact us today at 844.874.7253.