Friday, September 7, 2012

More Than Just Features vs. Benefits

Skill Six: Product Knowledge

Congratulations!  You memorized all of these manuals. 
How can these products help your client?
Let’s face it, most distributor “sales” training is actually “product” training.  Many of my clients employ salespeople who are technicians, graduate engineers or carry some other high level credential who can often spew the technical ins and outs of their products.   A mentor once coined the phrase “doubledipthonghydristor syndrome” to describe the phenomenon.  They have all this information, but they don’t understand true product knowledge.   

To go back to my own youth at Allen-Bradley, Engineers in training were forced to memorize the six step coating process for solenoids.  Most of my contemporaries could never really connected on the why this may or may not be important to the customer.  Product-centric minutia by itself doesn’t equate to product knowledge.  Instead, we believe product knowledge revolves around understanding how your product can help customers make more money. 

As you go through the metrics of grading yourself, think about the interweaving between product knowledge and other basic skills.

1 – Recognize the descriptions of major product lines.

3 – Have a limited functional understanding of where the product can be used by the customer.

5 – Understand function and application of your entire product line. You understand the relationship between products and sometimes use this knowledge in your sales process.

7 – You can translate the different features of products into function and application and then into measured benefit to your customer.

10- You carefully study the relationship between product types to help look for opportunities to help your customers and increase your own status at the account.

This is the last in our series of articles on the essential skills for distributor salespeople.  We developed this information several years ago and as we updated it for this series of articles, I was shocked by the changes in essential skills.  This drives home one very central point:  it doesn’t matter how many years of experience under your belt, we all must constantly hone our skills to remain at the top of our game.

I would love to hear about the changes you have found valuable.  Send me your thoughts and I will send you a “Post Card from Iowa”.  My address is

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