Imagine yourself walking among the rows of computers in your local hardware store. You’ve spotted a new laptop and want to know more about its options. How will you feel if the salesperson you address fails to answer your questions about its overall performance and battery life? Some of you are likely to leave the store and go to another one, or give up and go home to study reviews on the internet.
In fact, poor product knowledge is one of the common reasons why retailers suffer from low sales performance. According to the Mindtree Shopper Survey, 84% of respondents find sales associates very helpful in supplying information about the goods they want to purchase. So, to make sure your staff are product experts, be ready to provide them with some in-depth training. Read on to learn why it’s so important.
Product Knowledge is King
Product training focuses on the options and benefits of what you sell — what the product is, how it works, which problems it can solve, how much it costs, and everything else you may need to confidently speak about what you offer. In the view of Brenda Fernandes, a product knowledge expert, the importance of this kind of training is most evident in these cases:
- Answering difficult questions. If your sales team knows a product from top to bottom, they won’t stumble on their responses or even ignore customers’ questions. So your company won’t lose its credibility just because a salesperson can’t find an answer.
- Building trust. Many customers come to the store already armed with the information about the product they need, so if they get information from your employee that differs from what they’ve already read on your website, all their trust in your company vanishes. That’s why it’s crucial to provide your staff with the most current knowledge.
- Creating lasting impressions. Having in-depth knowledge of the products, salespeople can produce maximum value for customers. For example, if a customer wants to learn about one product but a salesperson understands that there’s a better fit for them, they can offer another product and explain why it’ll be the best match. By doing this, the salesperson demonstrates that he or she is sincerely interested in helping the customer.
There’s no arguing product knowledge is power, and the best part is, it directly translates into boosted sales. Just so you know, the American department store chain Dillard’s, which delivers online product training to its sales associates, figured out that each hour associates spend on training raises their sales rate by a remarkable 5%.
In our post, we’ll slightly touch on conventional face-to-face training and walk you through the details on how to educate sales professionals online. Have a look at our 5 product training ideas.
As products get updated, it can be too time- and work-consuming to pull employees from their daily responsibilities to update them with the changes. However, digital learning can save the situation. With eLearning tools, users are free to get new knowledge in small chunks and at their own pace, so “No time to learn” stops being a valid excuse.
“eLearning makes it possible for employees to customize the experience to their own preferred learning styles and it gives them a chance to review the material as often as necessary at any time of day or night.”
Plus, eLearning is proven to increase information retention rates by up to 60%. The thing is, in online courses, a greater focus is directed on interactivity that makes learning engaging and, therefore, more effective. Engagement is exactly what you need if you want your product knowledge training to have a lasting effect.
This approach is used by Kcell, the official distributor of iPhones and Samsung and Lenovo smartphones. Since moving learning online, they managed to successfully train 600 salespeople across the country. They develop new product courses with audio narration and videos, and distribute them to employees via an LMS. Each course includes a test for performing accurate knowledge checks.
Below, you can see a fragment from the Kcell course.
The course was built with the iSpring Suite authoring toolkit. It’s is a fully-stocked eLearning solution that allows you to create e-courses from PPT presentations and enhance them with media assets, interactions, quizzes, and conversation simulations.
For delivering courses, Kcell uses iSpring Learn LMS. All they need to do is upload a course to the system, assign it to learners, and keep track of how well they’re doing by generating reports.
Automate corporate training and improve employee performance.
Even though Kcell employees are dispersed across the country, with iSpring Learn they’re able to get relevant information in time to effectively work with customers. What’s more, they can enter the knowledge base whenever and as often as they need and easily find the right answer.
Online Games and Quizzes
Metaari’s research shows that game-based learning has undergone a huge influx of growth, particularly in the corporate world. At a five-year compound annual, its growth rate is 53.4%.
The reasons are quite clear — game-based training increases learners’ motivation, improves their engagement, and delivers better knowledge and skills transfer. And these are not empty words; a number of studies have proven this.
When employees are better motivated and engaged, and knowledge transfer is effective, you have a chance to get a pretty impressive ROI. So, another good way to deliver product knowledge training is to turn it into an engaging game.
Since learning games come in all shapes and sizes, firstly you should decide which format fits you.
For example, Coca-Cola HBC created an online business simulation game called Revenuepoly. It’s full of challenges that can help sales staff understand how to reach the strategic objectives of the company and how to grow its revenue. While evaluating customers’ performance and analyzing the market, the player gets full knowledge about Coca-Cola products.
However, such a game can be quite expensive and time consuming to develop.
“If you have a small team or budget or even a team that doesn’t have all the necessary skills to create a simulation game, then this kind of gamification may not be the right strategy at the time. You don’t want one game to take away from all the other training priorities.”
To make it faster and cheaper, you can opt for another format of game-based learning — quizzes.
With iSpring Suite, you can create quizzes on your own and easily update them whenever you need. It allows you to build interactive assessments with video, branching, and feedback, thereby giving you the power of engagement with minimal resource constraints.
You can engage your learners and help them boost their knowledge with drag-and-drop activities. For example, ask them to put the objects in the right order or place them in a certain area. To check out iSpring Suite’s capabilities, take this course for merchandisers.
After your sales associates have gone through product knowledge training, you can help them polish their knowledge with dialogue simulations. iSpring Suite allows you to build e-courses that imitate a real conversation with a customer. You can implement any kind of case scenario, where each decision has consequences.
Have a look at this Car Sale Dialogue to see how it works.
Within the last five years, the perception of video-based learning has changed from “expensive, nice-to-have” for employee training, to the “new normal.” According to the CGS Enterprise Learning Report, video came in as the #1 channel for learning delivery. The reason is quite simple — it really works and employees love it.
To educate employees on your goods, you can create product videos that explain and visually exhibit a product’s tangible benefits.
For instance, Enterprise Beverage Group LLC produced a clip for the Energy Drink brand ambassador street team. In their video, they presented their brand-new Hard Rock drink. From the 8-minute video, street ambassadors can not only get all the info about the new drink, but also learn about the appropriate attire, sampling setup, and the company’s customer approach.
Alloy Global creates eLearning videos to educate its newly hired sales reps. Below, you can see their video lecture, which is a combination of a talking-head video and a presentation. The presenter gives an overview of the company and provides detailed information about its services.
You can create such video lectures on your own with iSpring Suite. It has an advanced video studio that allows you to record two videos at the same time — a screencast and a webcam video — and easily switch between them or show them together.
A virtual classroom is a teaching and learning environment where participants can interact in the same way as they would in real life. Unlike the other kinds of eLearning we’ve already covered, here people learn synchronously.
There are different kinds of virtual classroom software, which have all the necessary tools for delivering online training. To see a review of the most popular virtual classrooms, read our blog post about computer-based training tools.
With this kind of software, you can conduct video conferences to demonstrate new products to your employees and partners, and tell about their features and benefits.
“Unlike the other types of eLearning covered, virtual classrooms let a dispersed audience be able to ask questions in real time and get answers right away.”
During online classes, you can also use a whiteboard for writing the most important items learners should know and share the content including PDFs, audio files, and videos that will provide sales reps with more information about the products. Some services even allow you to create online polling and quizzes to find out how well your employees retain the information.
Blended learning for product knowledge training is usually a mix of live training and online learning activities. According to the latest market study released by Technavio, as of 2016, blended training in this field has the largest market share (41.15%). The thing is that various companies offering different products to consumers have realized that traditional face-to-face sessions or online training alone doesn’t help achieve high results when compared with effective training using a combination of the two.
There may be different ways of “blending” here. For example, MW-LIGHT, a company that produces decorative lighting, provides offline training for sales professionals in its showroom, where they can see each lamp live. After that, they complete online courses on different lighting items and take tests to consolidate the new knowledge.
You can also arrange short meetings for your colleagues during the working day to present them a new product and ask them to watch a more detailed video about the product later. Or you can send a PDF file with a description of your product to your employees to fill them in, then discuss it at a sales meeting, and finally check how much they know about the product with an online test. Anyway, it’s up to you how to mix online and offline training.
6 Useful Tips for Delivering Product Training
Here are some tips on how to create and nurture effective training in product knowledge from Kim Heintz, the product trainer at SilkRoad.
- Consider your audience and the best way to deliver training to them based on their learning preferences and the work they do.
- Break content down into bite-sized, manageable chunks. That way they can fit learning in when they have time, and they can easily find content later on based on how you have it organized.
- Make the learning easy to find. Organize it so they are able to pull it up quickly.
- Create certification exams on your products. This will show you that your employees are ready to interface with customers on products. Create certificates of achievement to share with them when they pass at a predefined level, which will be satisfying for them.
- As products are updated, provide short update training for employees who are already trained so they are ready to flex with the changes.
- Be sure to keep the product training up to date so that new employees going through the training are staying relevant and not sharing outdated information.
Now, you know at least 5 ways to raise the level of product knowledge in your company. Depending on the time and financial resources at your disposal, you are free to choose the perfect fit for yourself, or maybe tailor one of the ways listed above to your unique needs.
We would like to express our gratitude to Kim Heintz for sharing her expertise and helping with this article:
Kim Heintz is a Product Trainer with SilkRoad Technology, based out of Chicago. She holds a Masters of Arts in Training and Development from Roosevelt University with graduate certificates in eLearning and instructional design. Kim is also a DDI-certified trainer and holds ATD certificates in Designing Synchronous Learning and Project Management for Trainers. Additionally, she teaches as an adjunct professor in the Graduate Program in Training and Development at Roosevelt University, also based out of Chicago.