On-the-job actions for developing product knowledge, sales knowledge, and sales expertise for increased credibility and standing.
Get up to speed fast. Use the actions below to accelerate learning of product knowledge, market awareness, and customer understanding.
Aligned with the Sales Skills Assessment and the Sales Knowledge Challenge.
- Knowledge of an employer or organisations products, services, and solutions - Product Knowledge.
- Knowledge of an employer's differentiation from other suppliers of similar products, services, or solutions - Sales Knowledge.
- Knowledge of customers who make use of the products, services, and solutions sold - Sales Expertise.
Gain or improve product knowledge with the following actions:
Learn the Company story. How and why it was started, and what has happened between then and now.
Seek out the stories from the founders, leaders, and architects of the business and from the designers and engineers behind products, software, or technology. If you can't reach the original people, seek those who are closest or most likely to know their stories. Find opportunities to listen to them and read what they have written about their journey and the products, services, or solutions that they have created.
Having an intimate knowledge of an organisation's history provides a scaffolding for product knowledge, service understanding, and solution awareness. It helps too with alignment, planning, and customer communication.
Learn the customer success stories off by heart.
Be ready to share how others have used your organisation's products, services, or solutions to succeed in their business.
Be able to name names and give details. For each story, learn who the customer is, what they bought, why they bought it, what they have done with it, and what results they have achieved.
Avoid claiming the accolades. Never brag. It is the customers who chose to buy, who use what you have sold, and who have achieved the results. Give the credit to the customers.
Aim to learn at least three success stories for each distinct market that you operate in.
Seek opportunities to repeat the stories you have collected about your organisations foundation, journey, and customer success.
Teach what you have learned to others, individually and in groups. Teaching what you know is the fastest way to develop fluency speaking about the things that your organisation does for its customers.
Set up subscriptions and alerts so that you receive all the important news about technology, software, or method developments in the products, services, or solutions that are in your organisation's areas of specialisation.
This is easy to do online. Subscribe to a short list of e-zines and set some very specific Google alerts. See this article for more on Google alerts.
These articles offer further ideas:
- Twelve Perspectives for a B2B Sales and Marketing Health Check.
- Now is the Time to Prepare for Success.
Gain or Improve knowledge of differentiation with the following actions:
Learn at least three definite compelling fact based differentiations that separate your organisations products, services, or solutions from those of competitors in each distinct market addressed.
Look for differences in your organisations specialisation. Competitors are never identical in their approach to a market.
Look for differences in expertise. The thought leaders and technical specialists in your organisation are unique to your organisation. What they know, know how to do, and have done in the past offers potential for differentiation.
Look for differences in the types of customers served. Customers choose suppliers for very particular reasons.
Look for differences in customer service. All organisations claim great customer services yet there are always differences in the manner of customer service delivery and effectiveness.
Look for differences in the results that customers achieve using your organisations products, solutions, and services.
Express the differentiation as facts without making any claims for them.
State factual differences and leave the listener to recognise the inherent advantages and benefits. Otherwise claims sound like sales hype and are likely to be discounted.
These articles offer further ideas:
Gain or improve knowledge of customer and prospective customer businesses:
Learn the purpose, aims, markets, and relative market position of important customers or groups of customers.
It is at least as important to know about a customers business as it is to know that of your own organisation. Just as you should know the short, medium, and long term aims of your organisation, you should know those of the businesses you want to buy your organisations products, services, or solutions. How else can you align your purpose with theirs, have them recognise the value you represent, and win their trust.
Learn why customers buy your Company's products or services.
It may seem obvious however, try not to be seduced by your organisations marketing or overt value statements. Asking customers after they have bought is the only certain way to gain the kind of insights that will give you a rich and deep appreciation of the value that your organisation creates.
If you can't easily ask customers, identify your organisation's top salespeople and ask them to share their knowledge about customer motives.
Establish your organisations and your personal standing with the businesses that you sell to.
The ideal organisational standing is 'Strategic Partner'. The ideal personal standing is 'Trusted Adviser'. On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the ideal, assess your organisations and your personal standing with the people who matter.
You might assign some labels to each perspective:
For your organisation's standing:
- = One of Many Suppliers.
- = Reliable Supplier.
- = Preferred Supplier.
- = Important Partner.
- = Strategic Partner.
For your own standing:
- = Sales Person or Rep.
- = Supplier Account Manager.
- = Reliable Supplier Representative.
- = Important Contributor.
- = Trusted Adviser.
Having assessed the strength of the relationship, you can more easily measure your efforts to improve it.
These pages offer further resources and ideas:
- Sales Skills Superset for B2B
- A Good Hard Kick in the Ass by Rob Adams
- Neglected Customers Soon Shift Allegiance and Switch Suppliers
Get the entire collection of over 100 hyperlinked on-the-job sales skills development actions together with our sales skills assessment in a neat indexed PDF document.
If you need to increase product knowledge, expand sales knowledge, or increase sales expertise, we can help. Telephone +44 (0)1392 851500. We will be pleased to discuss your needs or talk through some options. Alternatively send email to firstname.lastname@example.org for a prompt reply or use the contact form here.