The Pros of product knowledge
1. It strengthens communication skills. More product knowledge enables the salesperson to explain things in different ways and with fewer words, which might lead to better and more efficient communication.
For example, someone offering eye surgery will be able to more effectively sell it if they fully understand all the ins and outs of the eye surgery process.
A service like this can seem complicated for the layperson to understand, so product knowledge can help the salesperson explain the features and benefits of the service in a way that is simple to understand.
2. It boosts enthusiasm and confidence. Sometimes, knowing a lot of information about something may lead to enthusiasm or even evangelism about a certain service.
While belief doesn’t always follow knowledge, it can be a useful route to increase the amount of belief people have in a service.
Strangely, I’ve also seen the opposite effect. Sometimes those who are new to a product will be enthusiastic about it because they do not yet know its weaknesses.
Apple’s products are a good example of this – Apple has an almost obsessive community of fans who will buy Apple products over anything else, despite price or considerations of practicality.
Because their affinity with the product is so strong, salespeople who work for Apple will enthuse about the products and as their enthusiasm is so genuine, it can be very persuasive. Apple stores have a great customer service reputation as their staff really believe in the products they are selling.
3. It assists in overcoming objections. To me, this is the most important and useful application of product knowledge. One of our core beliefs is that people want to know about what they’re interested in, as opposed to what you’re interested in.
One way of understanding what they’re interested in is eliciting and listening to questions.
Questions and ambiguous statements (also known as objections) are the clues to what interests people most about what they are buying. Questions are buying signals.
The absence of questions, as a salesperson or a trainer, makes me anxious because it means they are either not listening, not interested or not mentally buying the product or service I’d discuss.
4. It overcomplicates simple decisions. When I take a plane from London to New York, I don’t have any need to know how it works. I just need to know that it will work. Most of the operational intricacies behind the products and services we buy are well out of the grasp of us.
How do mobile phones work? How do computers work? How do actuarial tables work? Does any of this matter if you’re not making or fixing phones and computers and calculating actuarial tables? Perhaps intellectually, but practically, no.
5. It can obscure the need to detect and analyse needs and slow down presentations. There is some research that suggests that “The human body is hard-wired to pulse. To operate at our best, we need to renew our energy at 90-minute intervals — not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.” Source.
This is one reason we advocate 90-minute consultations from start to finish. Using that time to disseminate product information erodes one’s ability to discover needs. This is the wrong focus and is a recipe for low conversions.
The Cons of too much product knowledge
1. It leaves less room for questions. The more you talk, the more gaps you fill, the fewer questions people ask. Talking too much can also fatigue prospects, rendering all your good information rather useless.
Questions stimulate conversation, and conversations (not just presentations) tend to lead to more decisions and actions. In our interpersonal skills training, we teach how to leave appropriate gaps in conversation to allow the prospect to ask questions.
2. It can give your prospect too much to think about. One of the most common objections to taking action is “I want to think about it”. Often, we are our own worst enemies. We firehose the prospect with so much information that we quite literally give them too much to think about.
It’s been proven that providing the customer with too many options provokes a kind of paralysis that can prevent them from buying anything at all. Amazon limited their product suggestions for cross-selling to 6 items to prevent this sales paralysis from occurring.
Know all you tell, but don’t tell all you know
As someone who is keenly interested in the service I provide, I have to deliberately resist how much I talk or risk boring people to death about how I do what I do.
Similarly, I implore you, don’t make the same mistakes. Focus on listening more than you talk, and you’ll notice your prospects buy more and more.