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The information age: do you have the right answers?

01 Aug 2008

It can be difficult to keep your sales team updated so they can identify and develop sales opportunities for new technologies. Sure, you can log on to a vendor’s website and view product information or have your internal solutions experts keep you up to speed (when they have time). The question is, can you get enough from a brief overview or introduction, and who has the time to study a specification sheet?

Sales organisations face the daunting task of not only selecting which technologies to promote but staying on top of the latest developments that relate to each technology. For many products they might know just the SKU, basic specifications and the price. Is this enough information to accurately respond to a customer’s requirements or decide how to compete against another vendor’s technology? In order to encourage repeat purchases, it’s vital that the sales rep correctly determines the need and provides the best possible offering, not necessarily the cheapest.

Employee turnover has also increased considerably in the last decade. Many organisations struggle with finding and keeping knowledgeable staff and, as a result, product knowledge suffers. Employers are now thinking twice before putting sales staff on expensive, in-depth courses when there is a risk of losing the knowledge to a competitor. Not to mention the time spent out of the office, not on closing business.

It is no longer enough to sit down once a year to train up on the upcoming product ranges. In an effort to keep up with customers needs as they grow and change faster than ever before, product turnaround time has decreased considerably. In some cases products roll within three months of the launch date in order to remain competitive. This constantly changing product landscape puts additional pressure on the sales team to ‘keep up with the play’, and understand what features and specifications make each product perfect for the customer’s specific needs.

Bursting at the seams?

Take advantage of training seminars, and workshops, most of which are offered free of charge. While a day away from the office can result in an inbox that is bursting at the seams, it’s often time well spent, and will put you in a position to design solutions faster and more efficiently. While it may seem like you can’t spare a day or even an hour, time spent on training is likely to save you time in the long run.

It helps to allocate an area of expertise to different persons within your organisation, giving the organisation as a whole a more complete understanding of a product range. Schedule internal meetings each week or month where the latest developments and product introductions are discussed, to ensure the entire team is informed of any changes in the product landscape. It is not necessary to know every little detail about every product within a product range; most vendors provide product guides that you can use to supplement your product knowledge.

Pre-sales teams become an invaluable resource as they can plug the gap between a limited understanding of a product, and a fully informed decision. They can also help your customers to make informed decisions in complex and hotly contested areas.

In today’s business environment, the more complete your product knowledge, the more valuable you are to both your company and your customers. Take advantage of every opportunity to enhance your knowledge on the product ranges your company is focused on selling. It’s imperative that an organisation has a fully informed team to operate effectively and make the best purchasing decisions. The more complete a sales rep’s knowledge of a product range, the more efficiently and quickly he or she can design an offering and close the sale. After all, people are more comfortable placing an order with a company that not only understands their needs, but also understands the products they are recommending.   

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