I’m often asked this question by Tech CEOs…how much should my salespeople know about my product? I feel the reality and the need for product knowledge has increased as we have seen greater levels of access to information. I’m certainly not going to write a whole blog about the amount of information has increased over the last decade. Many people write about this topic everyday with little correlation to the topic or issue at hand.
There are many great phrases and metaphors that sales leaders come out with including my favourite, “you need to know enough to be dangerous.” The real challenge is that a salesperson learns a lot about the product in their first month or two and then reduces their dedication to learning. This is a real problem for Tech CEOs in today’s agile world where a product that you were selling 4-6 months ago could be completely different today. Secondly, the salesperson or sales leader is very keen on becoming operational and to delivering results as soon as possible. Often when you feel you know enough to start talking to prospects and positioning the value of the product, you rest on your laurels. This thirst to get going and to deepen sufficient technical knowledge is a fine balance.
Above all the drawback with this approach is that the rate of development of the product doesn’t match your own learning. Additionally, if you are new to the industry then you’ll need to get to know the product and the industry language.
How can I measure the level of product knowledge?
There are a couple of behaviours that as a CEO you can spot and predict that a sales leader or salesperson is not learning at the desired rate:
- Ask the salesperson to explain the new product features and how they are different to the previous configuration.
- Quiz them on why you have chosen your configuration of the platform, what’s the advantages?
- Understand when was the last time they setup a product demo, even if you have technical sales support.
- Request if they can build an A-Z of industry lingo and company jargon to help onboard staff.
- Hold a 5-10 minute pitch review and understand their product knowledge depth.
What are the effects of low product knowledge?
In today’s modern world salespeople are having to improve their digital skills and knowledge constantly. This is due to the rate of innovation exponentially increasing each day.
- Your sales leader won’t be the right candidate to take you forward to the next stage. Put simply, you’ll have to hire again.
- The quality of the onboarding of new salespeople won’t match up to your standards and knowledge transfer won’t happen efficiently.
- New product development will be undervalued by your sales team and not leveraged to gain incremental value in the marketplace.
What should my salespeople know about my product?
- The market landscape and the reasons why we built our product
- Why did we select the technology and platforms we did when building our product?
- The security configuration of the platform
- Integration options with the customer’s environment
- Programming languages used
- Where is customer data stored?
- Types of access rights? What configurations or adjustments can be made?
- What technical knowledge does a customer sponsor need to run your platform?
- How can updates be made? Do customers need support to perform these updates?
- What differs between old configuration and new updates? What does this mean to the customer?
- The different tiers of support and how do they relate to technical issues
- Common industry language and jargon used, including various acronyms.
This is not the exhaustive list but it’s an overall recommendation on what the person should know. In contrast, it’s not to say that we should select salespeople on prior industry knowledge on each occasion. Besides, a salesperson can be technically brilliant at sales and can then fill in the gaps by boosting their technical know-how.
My main recommendation is that a true understanding of your customer’s environment is the most natural way to garner this knowledge. Otherwise if it’s not market-focused for the salesperson they will switch off and ultimately you are not leveraging their skills in the proper way. Often this knowledge is in the heads of the CEO, Customer Success Managers, Head of Product and other long-standing salespeople.
What have you found to be good ways in evaluating salespeople’s product knowledge?