Today, Joe Ryder talks to us about the most controversial question that is raised when hiring, training, and/or firing a salesperson. Can you guess what that question might be?
“Where does ‘product knowledge’ rank in the pantheon of skills needed to be a successful salesperson? Low. As a matter of fact, it isn’t even something I would consider a priority. In some cases, I might attest to product knowledge adding almost no value to a salesperson’s long term success.
In the past 15 years that I’ve been managing sales, 90% of successful salespeople that I have worked with haven’t had great product knowledge. Now, when I say salespeople, I’m talking about the ones who have to leave their desk, hit the streets of Manhattan, and dance for their dinner; this does not include inside salespeople— customer service people, telemarketers, and retail salespeople.
I began my career in the digital printing industry as a production manager. When I was offered a sales position, I thought that I had a great advantage and would be immediately successful considering my background and the amount of production knowledge I was able to bring to the table. As it turned out, it wasn’t an advantage in the slightest bit. Now that I was a salesperson I had to realize, quickly, that I had no control over production, quality control, or general inside customer service. Once I understood this, I was able to focus on my actual job, which was producing new revenue.
While I do include product knowledge in all of my training sessions for my sales team, it is only an additional factor. Why? I don’t want to steer my team in the wrong direction. If you’re not prepared to outwork your competition than you will not be a successful salesperson, regardless of how knowledgeable you are about the product you are selling. A commissionable salesperson’s job is tough, especially in Manhattan. You need conviction, fortitude, and the willingness to do what nobody wants to do in order to be successful.”