91 percent of Baby Boomers and 79 percent of Gen Z agree that knowledgeable store employees make shopping in-store more desirable.
Knowledge is power in any industry, from retail to real estate to SaaS. 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.
But 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. 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, we’ll cover fifteen product knowledge training ideas for training 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 feature. Best case scenario, the sales rep will be able to provide a quick but comprehensive response about the product’s functionality
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. Read customer testimonials.
Sales reps should excel in two things: explaining your products and solving for the customer. To practice both these skills, have reps read through customer testimonials. This will allow them to learn from customers who use these products every day.
By doing so, your sales team will be able to empathize with their prospects, identify their pain points, and find a solution that your product can solve.
For a closer look at how customer testimonials can help sales reps attract and convert leads, check out 8 Tips for Using Customer Testimonials to Generate More Leads.
2. Have sales reps create product training videos.
Ideally, sales reps will practice using the product or tool — or use it for their job — so they have an intimate understanding of how it’s used by customers. The more they use a product, the better equipped they are to sell it.
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.
You can take this idea one step further and ask sales reps to create tutorial videos that walk through how to use your product. It’s a great way for them to practice what they’re learning and how to talk to customers about a product in-depth.
Take this example, from Moz, in which Rand Fishkin walks the viewer through using Keywords Explorer. A sales rep that demonstrated this kind of robust product knowledge would be well-equipped to earn a prospect’s trust and convert them into a customer.
3. Try an online training simulation.
Another way to provide hands-on training is to provide online training simulations to supplement lectures and videos in your product training program.
Online training simulations will mimic how sales reps must interact with customers and identify their needs through simulated dialogue and quizzes. For example, the rep might be presented with a hypothetical customer, have to answer a series of questions, and then select the appropriate product for that customer.
4. Create personalized sales training plans.
Reps and their managers should be totally aligned from Day 1 when it comes to goals, resources, and expectations. Ideally, these should be laid out in a sales training plan made for each rep. This plan should include a meeting with a product marketer, or a product roadmap, so that sales reps can understand what the product does now, and how it will evolve in the future.
While much of the information in each sales rep’s training plan will be universal, each plan should be adjusted slightly to speak to the individual rep. You can use this free sales training template to build a plan if you haven’t already done so.
5. 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.
6. Supply refresher courses.
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.
7. Document and share product knowledge internally.
Ultimately, sales reps should have a certain level of product expertise, but since they’re so engrained in the act of selling, some of those little details might get lost along the way.
Tools like product-related emails to sales teams and a product-specific selling plan (both of which are included in this Ultimate Go-to-Market Kit for Product) can keep sales reps informed of what to say and how to sell better.
8. 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
9. 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.
10. 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.
For more inspiration, check out 27 Sales Training Games, Activities, & Ideas to Ramp Up Your Team.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
Film reviews might feature a new rep and new prospect with their own unique needs and challenges every time, but the same question can be asked: Why did this prospect take the call?
If a sales rep can’t answer this question, they’ve likely failed to identify their buyer’s most pressing need. Without knowing that, the salesperson can’t effectively explain their product’s value — and might end up losing the deal as a result.
15. Incorporate mobile learning.
Some salespeople prefer to learn on the go — when they’re commuting into the office, meal prepping, or taking their daily walk. To accommodate these type of learners, it’s important to offer at least some product knowledge training in a mobile-friendly way. That might mean incorporating podcasts, mobile apps, or SMS messaging into your sales training program.
Take a look at nine m-learning (short for “mobile learning”) formats that CommLab India recommends in the infographic below.
Turning Sales People Into Product Experts
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.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.