Product knowledge is essential for any salesperson. Whatever you’re selling, know it completely. Because the more you know about what you’re selling, the more confident you’ll be. And because the more confident you are when presenting to the customer, the more the product will appeal to the buyer.
Yet—and this is a big yet—what’s equally (if not more) essential than knowing the ins and outs of your product is knowing how it can meet the particular needs of the customer.
As Sherlock Holmes would say, it’s elementary: Fully comprehend the customer’s challenge and you’ll know how to sell to them. The best way to do this is to actively listen to what they have to say when they’re describing their dilemma. Whatever way you package your solution, never do so without first having gained a clear and exhaustive understanding of the customer’s needs. If you fail to take that step, you’re just asking for miscommunication, confusion, and a lack of confidence from the buyer.
Listen or lose. Customers are human. If they sense they’re not being listened to, they can become frustrated pretty quickly – even resentful. The mere fact of not being listened to may make them decide to pull up stakes and find someone who does. These days, clients have high expectations of salespeople, and they know that there’s always another sales rep ready to jump in if you fail them.
Know the client. Take the time to research the prospect—how do they currently do business, who are their competitors, who’s their target audience? It bears repeating: To know the customer is to understand them; to understand them is to know what they need to make their business grow and thrive. Your deep product knowledge is information you can use when presenting a solution, illustrate how the offering dovetails with your client’s needs, and help them take their business to the next level.
Be the client. Great sales reps are not only active listeners, they know how to put themselves in the client’s shoes in order to understand the prospect’s experience. How does the client feel about the fact their lack, that hole your solution might fill? Does it scare them? Does it motivate them? Are they detached and just eager to get the thing solved?
Talk like the client. Whatever your client’s business, they likely have their own verbiage they’ve developed over time. Learn to speak the language of your client’s vertical—including industry terms, acronyms, etc.—and use that language when showcasing your knowledge of your product and how it will work as a great solution.
Correctly using the lingo inspires clients’ confidence that you understand their field and know how to effectively troubleshoot their problems. This strategy also creates a bond – allowing buyers to relax in the knowledge they don’t have to expend energy or take time to spell things out for you.
Use your best detective skills. When talking with a client, there’s often subtext. Listen carefully to hone in on not just on what’s being said, but the way it’s being said. For example, what’s being repeated? If the same complaint comes out of the customer’s mouth several times, that’s obviously something that’s important to them. Pay attention to that. Also keep an eye out for negative non-verbal communication, such as sighing, eye-rolling, table slapping, head shaking. Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat again and determine what frustrations these signs are indicating. One of the reasons you went into sales is because you’re good with people, and one thing that makes you good with people is the fact that you have sharp instincts. Use them to listen between the lines. Once you’ve gathered your “evidence,” use your intricate product knowledge to successfully resolve the client’s complaints and turn the tide.
You’re a positive person, but not a cheerleader. Skip the rah-rah show of how great your product is and forego the cartwheels over its super-awesome features. Put the cheerleader pompoms aside and, in a straightforward manner, demonstrate to the customer the ways in which your product will make a real difference in solving their particular need.
Once you know the customer’s dilemma, communication style, business, pain points and frustrations, you can develop a concrete, client-centric plan for approaching and solving the client’s problem. You’ll be positioned to go forth and present the products and services you know so well, in a way that puts the customer at ease—because you understand who they are and what they need.