In days gone by, whenever anyone mentioned "knowledge," there would be an immediate assumption that they were going to discuss "product knowledge" That is understandable; even today, 80 percent of all training budgets are spent (invested?) on teaching sales teams all there is to know about the "product range."
The reality is that product knowledge is no longer a differentiator. It is a very basic requirement of all successful frontline sales professionals. In other words, it's part of the entrance exam - not a higher qualification.
Today, knowledge really is power, and that means .....
• Industry knowledge
• Sector knowledge
• Competitive knowledge
• Company knowledge
• Business knowledge (acumen)
As the discussions and debates continue regarding the future of professional selling, one fact is very clear. The relevance of a salesperson in the "buying process" - yes, we have moved away from the "sales process" - is becoming increasingly diminished. This is quite simply because buyers, who are more self-educated than ever, are entering the cycle so much later.
Do You Speak the Customer's Language?
The realization that buyers are already "super-busy and frazzled" - as illustrated by Jill Konrath in her last book SNAP Selling - is obvious. But it is not the main reason why buyers will not entertain us as readily as they once did.
The fact is they simply don't need to deal with us. That's why Konrath argues that our interactions with buyers need to be wholly relevant.
"Wholly relevant" means using our knowledge - our complete knowledge - to justify our right to be part of a customer's purchasing process.
As we move up the food chain, our ability to use different "languages" becomes increasingly important. We have to become "commercially multi-lingual" because C-level executives, for example, rarely use the same language as members of an information technology team. And both groups naturally have different sets of buying criteria.
In the very near future, having the right attitude, a broad range of sales skills, and familiarity with internal consultative sales processes will not guarantee our survival. The key will be the extent of our "commercial bandwidth" - and that means our knowledge.
News: I think we can say this week is the last trading week of the year? Can't imagine too much happening between Christmas and New Year, well certainly not in the US or Europe. I am going to use the time wisely and "renew the saw" so I'll be offline from Saturday 24th until Monday January 9th - but still a few posts left in me this week!
Today's tip over at Top Sales World comes from Kendra Lee, who suggests we integrate follow up calls with social media.