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.”

Do you agree that product knowledge is invaluable to a salesperson’s success? As usually, we want to hear your thoughts! Share your thoughts with us on LinkedIn and twitter!