Product Knowledge Training 101: The Whys, Whats, and How-tos
When your customers are happy, there’s a greater chance they’ll continue to do business with you over the long term. But what exactly can you do to make them happy? In our world of overwhelming competition, with multiple companies running neck-and-neck with almost identical products, it is the perception of your company and its services that becomes crucial. That’s why it’s important that everyone in your company has enough knowledge and skills to make communication comfortable and wholesome for your clients.
That becomes possible only when your employees are well trained and are truly experts on your product. And that’s when product knowledge training comes in.
What Does Product Knowledge Training Mean?
Product knowledge training is a learning program that includes all the information about your goods or services that learners need to know in order to perform their work effectively. Depending on the learners’ roles and responsibilities, product training can focus on different aspects, have different learning goals, and bring different benefits to your business.
Let’s look closer at product knowledge and ways it can contribute to your company’s success.
Why Is Product Knowledge Important?
When it comes to product training, we usually conjure up the training geared for the sales reps. There’s no doubt that knowing the product well is important for the sales department, but aside from sales staff, there are a lot of people inside and outside your company you need to train on your product to make your business thrive.
Let’s list some benefits of product knowledge training.
Building a team of productive enthusiasts
An employee who knows the product inside and out, and believes that it can bring great values to lots of customers and the world on the whole, is not just a “desk jockey” from a sales, support, or marketing department, but a dedicated and inspired enthusiast. This type of staff member can form dedicated teams with great motivation and amazing results.
Gaining credibility and building long-lasting relations with customers
By the time prospects enter your territory (an office or online marketplace), they have probably looked through your website, read a number of reviews on your product, and consider themselves to be experts in your field. And they are not going to forgive your sales rep for being insecure about your product’s options, characteristics, and benefits.
Product training will help your sales team present your product convincingly, combat prospects’ objections, and gain their trust more easily.
Making your customers experts on your product
Giving your customers detailed information about your products will help you create a comfortable customer journey from the point where prospects choose your solution to the final destination where they utilize and get the most out of it.
For example, you can provide your prospects with product overviews, specifications, and customer reviews to help them make their choice more easily. And your clients will appreciate online videos or screencasts, e.g., how to install your washing machine or adjust a new CRM for the customer’s needs.
To get a better understanding of how it works, read the iPerformance ApS case study. This Danish software company used to spend a great deal of money and employees’ time visiting new customers’ offices to train them how to use their applications. Now that iPerformance ApS moved the training online, they’re able to work with many more customers simultaneously and overcome any geographical restrictions.
This will have two beneficial effects: the number of requests to your support department will decrease and some of your customers will turn into your product’s experts and promoters. That’s how word-of-mouth works.
Growing business with partner networks
If you want to increase partner sales, you have to provide your partners with product knowledge training as well. This will evidence that you are the right person to start doing business with, as you’re ready to invest in their expertise, development, and success. And you will help them to get better results and generate more revenues.
Product Knowledge Training Objectives
Product knowledge training demonstrates your product’s features and benefits, so that the trainees achieve greater results when they promote, sell, and use it.
To help each group get the most out of the product training, you will have to create different learning programs.
Product training for sales reps
Objective: to train the sales team to present your product, overcome prospects’ objections, and close deals faster.
The more your salespersons know about the benefits and advantages of your product, the more professional and convincing their communication with prospects will be.
Provide your sales reps with the following information:
- The product: functionalities, advantages, and values for customers – in other words, how and why a prospect’s life or work will become easier, more effective, or joyful if he buys it.
- How to use the product. Give a sales rep an opportunity to get their personal product experience: from initial installation to final results (e.g., getting clothes washed or launching an air conditioning system.) It will help them understand their clients better and answer their objections more easily.
- Price and ROI: how to calculate the final price, compare it with the competitors’ offers, and convince the client that their benefits will go far beyond the price they pay. For the B2B market, your sales reps need to be able to calculate the ROI (return of investment) period of your product.
- Customization. Your sales team has to know how the product can be adjusted according to the prospect’s specific needs. For software solutions, for example, they need to understand the nuances of its implementation in small and medium-sized businesses, as well as large corporations.
- Upcoming updates. If your salesmen know about new features coming soon, they can use this in negotiations to handle a prospect’s objections and close deals with those who are not completely satisfied with your current solution, but are ready to wait for a while to get an updated version.
- The list of your existing clients and their success stories. The more recognizable names you have in that list, the easier it is for your prospect to trust you.
Product knowledge training for customer service
Objective: teach the support team to provide customers with high-level assistance.
Imagine that you bought a new washing machine and it now needs a warranty repair. If customer service staff present themselves as supportive professionals trying their best to make this process less of a headache for the client, they will likely return to this company when they need another household appliance.
This scenario is applicable to any business and product: your reputation is a solid base for long-lasting relations with your customers and repeat sales.
Here’s what your customer service team should know:
- Technical aspects about the product: how it works, what parts it consists of, and how to fix it.
- Compatibility with other products and services: What glue is better for your wallpapers? What devices is your software compatible with? What fuel is better to use in your space shuttles?
- Answers to frequently asked questions. Provide your support service with a list of requests that are sent often, along with their answers, so the supporters can easily handle them with no need to reinvent the wheel.
Product training for a marketing department
Objective: provide updated information regularly, and help create an effective positioning and promotion strategy.
Most often, marketers don’t need to dive deep into technical aspects; it’s much more important for them to understand what customer pains can be solved with your product.
Let’s have a look at the information to cover for the marketing division:
- Product: options, distinctive features, and benefits.
- Who already uses the product? An analysis of your customer base will show what audience is most likely to buy your product and why.
- The list of upcoming updates. The marketing team needs to know about changes and new product launches beforehand so they have time to develop their promotion plan.
Product knowledge training for customers
Objective: teach customers how to use the product and achieve great results with it.
Product training for customers can take the form of an online knowledge base with instructions, how-to videos, and webinars.
If your product is complex, requires special skills to use it, or has lots of features and options, your customers will need more information when they start using it.
What information to include in product training for customers:
- Product features overview. When making a purchase, the customer zeros in on the product’s options needed to solve their current tasks; later, they might want to explore the whole range of features your product has to offer.
- Step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish one specific task, e.g., how to generate a revenue report in your CRM, clean a filter in your air-conditioner, or set up your alarm system.
- Answers to frequently asked questions. These can help customers to take a closer look at the product and start using it quickly and hassle free.
Product knowledge for partners
Objective: increase sales, minimize reputation risks, and grow the number of partners.
With partners, the same rule as the one pertaining to your internal sales reps applies: a well-informed partner will bring you a lot of new customers, but if the partner lacks product knowledge, they will most probably become a source of reputation risks and an endless flow of angry customers. That’s why you need to provide your partner’s sales team with the same information as your own sales department.
Still, those two teams have one crucial difference – you are able to track and improve your company’s sales department performance anytime, even in real-time, (by listening to their phone conversations with customers, for example), while your partners’ sales activities are not accessible. Thus, you might want to make their results more predictable by assessing their sales readiness before they start presenting your product to prospects. For this, you can add a knowledge assessment at the end of the product training and set a minimal passing score for it. You can make an agreement with your partners that only sales reps who passed your “product exam” and received a certificate will be allowed to present your company and product to prospective clients.
Product knowledge for all new hires
Objective: provide a basic understanding of the product, its value, and why it’s appreciated by users.
It’s a good idea to include basic product knowledge training in your onboarding program for new hires of all departments, as this will help them understand the company they have joined and form their loyalty starting from their first days at work.
Types of Product Knowledge Training
We’ve found out why product knowledge training is a must have for the companies that are striving for growth and success. Let’s now explore how it can be conducted in different companies, and the pros and cons of each approach.
Offline and online product knowledge training
For years, classroom instructor-led training (ILT) was the most popular way to inform employees about the product and its updates. The direct contact between the instructor and the audience helps participants digest information more easily and allows the trainer to monitor learners’ reactions, adjust the session program to their needs, and keep them engaged.
On the other hand, offline product training has disadvantages:
- Conducting regular offline meetings requires considerable costs: trainers’ salaries, travel expenses, training room rental, printed materials, and much more.
- You need to gather learners together at one place, drawing them away from the working process (and the current pandemic reality makes this close to impossible).
- The staff in distant offices always receive delayed information (unless your trainers have advanced teleportation skills).
Thanks to modern technologies, we have a solution that helps us to overcome all those restrictions – and that is online training. Online product training makes information accessible anytime, anywhere. Besides, as soon as you upload learning materials to the Web, they become available for everyone simultaneously, without any time gaps for remote offices.
To provide your employees with regular online training, you can use a learning management system (LMS), which is an online platform for storing and distributing learning materials via the Internet. In an LMS, employees have personal accounts where they can see courses assigned to them, a schedule of upcoming training activities, and track the results they’ve achieved. The right LMS can save learning and development managers hours spent on a daily basis organizing and supporting the training process. For example, iSpring Learn LMS puts most of the training routine processes on autopilot: it can automatically assign courses, send notifications and reminders about deadlines, and track trainees’ results in a number of insightful reports.
Synchronous and asynchronous product training
Synchronous training assumes that all learners take the program at the same time. For this purpose, you can gather them in a brick-and-mortar classroom or connect online via a video conferencing platform.
Or, you can give your employees learning materials (printed or published online) and set the deadline for their studies, so they’ll be able to choose the time for studying and progress at their own pace. That is how asynchronous learning works.
Blended learning for product knowledge training is usually a mix of ILT sessions and self-paced learning activities. Nowadays, many companies prefer using a combination of both modalities, as they see that it works much better compared to only using traditional face-to-face sessions or eLearning.
There are endless ways you can blend it. For example, you can start in your showrooms to demonstrate the product (an offline synchronous part of the training), and can then ask participants to take online courses to deepen their knowledge and complete the final tests to check their knowledge (an online asynchronous product training.)
If you use this approach in your company, when choosing an LMS, you’ll need to make sure that the solution you pick allows combining different types of activities in one training program, e.g., online courses and assessments for self-study and online webinars, as is the case with iSpring Learn LMS.
How to Develop Online Product Knowledge Training
Now, it’s time to take a close look at different formats you can wrap your online product training in and show how you can develop them fast, with minimal effort.
An online, or eLearning, course is a basic format of online learning materials. Courses can be enhanced with interactive elements, videos, and quizzes that keep learners engaged and help them retain information better.
Nowadays, there is an overwhelming number of eLearning authoring tools available and it seems to be a real challenge to find the one that meets your needs (check out our free guide on how to choose the authoring tool that is right for you.)
If you haven’t used authoring tools before (or if your experience wasn’t as easy and delightful as you expected it to be), you might be concerned that mastering some new software is a challenge that will consume a significant amount of your time. But that’s not necessarily true.
With the iSpring Suite authoring tool, with a few clicks, you can turn existing PPT slides into a real online course with all PowerPoint effects, transitions, and animations kept intact. Or you can create professional-looking interactive courses from scratch. iSpring Suite has everything you need for that: a content library with 68,000+ images (characters, locations, and slide templates), easy-to-use quiz and role-play makers, and a handy video and audio studio (yes, all of that is right inside your PowerPoint).
As children, we all learned new through games and play. It was highly effective, as it involved our imagination and engaged us. For the same reasons, a game-based approach remains effective when learners grow up; it still helps retain information better when it comes to learning quite “unchildlike” topics (see this report from the University of Regensburg).
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 company’s strategic objectives and grow its revenue. While evaluating customers’ performance and analyzing the market, players get comprehensive knowledge about Coca-Cola products.
Obviously, such a game is quite expensive and time-consuming to develop, and if your budget is not as impressive as Coca-Cola’s, you can opt for another game-based learning format – quizzes.
Online quizzes help you estimate the effectiveness of your product knowledge training in a funny and engaging way.
With iSpring Suite, you can create graded or ungraded quizzes and surveys. You can make them more captivating by adding video, audio, customized feedback for each question, and even branching where the scenario changes, depending on the user’s answers.
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.
With iSpring, you can also create more formal assessments when you need to evaluate employee enablement or conduct a certification of your partners.
In this case, you will appreciate the options iSpring provides to prevent cheating, like shuffling slides, customized scoring rules, and time limits.
If you want runaway success for your sales team, you need to not only provide them with the necessary information, but also give them an opportunity to polish their communication skills in a safe-to-fail environment. This can be done in role-plays with virtual customers, where your sales reps have an opportunity to try different sales techniques and sharpen their persuasion skills.
Try the iSpring Suite authoring tool to create dialogue simulations with branching scenarios, where characters change their mood and behavior depending on the sales rep’s actions and choices.
Have a look at this car sale dialogue to see how it works.
Videos are an effective way to deliver new information, as they are engaging and can easily hold viewers’ attention.
Here is an example of a product video about a new Hard Rock energy drink for the brand ambassador street team, recorded by the Enterprise Beverage Group LLC. From the 8-minute video, street ambassadors cannot just get all the info about the new drink, but also learn about the dress code, the sampling setup, and the company’s customer approach.
The video was produced by experts equipped with professional tools and armed with a considerable budget. But even if you don’t have such resources, don’t write videos off, as you can record them on your own with just your computer, PowerPoint, and the iSpring Suite authoring tool.
iSpring Suite allows you to record videos with your webcam, shoot screencasts, and even combine them on the same slide. You can create and edit engaging videos right in familiar PowerPoint, without additional equipment, special technical skills, or the need to master any new sophisticated software.
You may prefer not to leave your audience to face the new information on their own and prefer to involve an instructor to help them master it (the attentive reader will readily perceive that, in this case, you will be switching to a synchronous training format).
To host a virtual classroom or webinar, you will need a special web conferencing or webinar platform that allows remote participants to connect with each other, chat, and share files. Read our article if you want to dive deeper into the differences between these online activities and learn the details on how to create a virtual classroom.
One of the most widely used tools for both these types of online meetings is Zoom, the leading video communications solution, used in 58% of Fortune 500 companies. The platform has a lot of handy features, like recording your online meeting as a full-length video, support for up to 1,000 video participants, sharing screens and files, and online chats, as well as reactions, polls, and a hand raising option.
It’s much easier to include virtual training sessions in your product knowledge training program with a solution that helps combine them with other learning activities, like online courses or assessments. That’s why iSpring Learn LMS is integrated with Zoom, allowing you to create a unified training schedule, track how many employees attended the online event, and how long they attended it.
5 Tips to Make Product Knowledge Training Effective
It might seem quite easy to tell employees or partners about the product if you’re familiar with that process. However, if you want the training to bring real positive results, we advise you not to ignore these tipsю
- Identify your audience and make sure that every chunk of information in your training will be helpful for them.Answer these questions before you start working on the training program: What are my trainees’ roles? What knowledge about the product will help them to perform better? Which materials are mandatory for them and which ones can be offered as optional?
- Promote the training to your audience. This program, in fact, is your own product and you have to “sell” it to your learners. So you need to emphasize its value. For example, instead of saying: “You have to take this 3-hour training, learn the information, and pass the final quiz,” use messages like: “Invest 3 hours in this training and increase your performance by 40%.”
- Break content down into bite-sized chunks. For a great product training experience, divide information into small pieces covering one topic at a time. This way, you make information easier to digest and put into practice.
- Organize information so it is easy to find. Your employees’ performance will significantly improve if they have an online database with information on the product carefully organized in one place. This allows them to locate it easily right when talking with customers.
- Never stop improving your product knowledge program. If the Queen and Alice had a chance to discuss product training in Wonderland, the Queen would definitely say: “It takes all the effort you can muster to improve your product training, to ensure you get the same result next time. And if you want it to be improved even more, you must try at least twice as hard as that.” Even if you’ve achieved great results, don’t stop looking for new ways to improve the program: collect learners’ feedback, record new objections that sales reps receive from prospects, and ask the product development team about their plans on a regular basis.
To Sum Up
Knowledge training is king. If planned and organized correctly, it can bring your business to a new level, make your employees more confident and effective in their tasks, and your customers happier and more satisfied. Why not take your first step towards this now?