Product knowledge is a crucial tool for closing sales. It instills customer trust, builds rapport, creates a positive customer experience, and helps increase sales. Product knowledge is particularly important at the point of sale. This is where the rubber meets the road, and if a certain product or brand isn’t top of mind, then one product may be passed over in favor of another, more “familiar” brand.
Industrial distributors are expected to offer the right product solution for a specific need, and to be a one-stop supplier for a variety of products across many different categories. For this reason, distributors need to have access to a variety of suppliers and build a broad and complex inventory, writes Gray Tools Canada’s Gary Nuttall in How Distributors & Manufacturers Can Partner To Grow Sales, Value-Added Service in an article for Industrial Distribution.
“Distributors’ sales forces face a mammoth task — to learn the features and benefits of every product and the need it is supposed to solve,” Nuttall states. “This is hard to accomplish without guidance from the manufacturer. Otherwise, some important features that distinguish a product from competition might be overlooked. Reputable manufacturers are willing to schedule in depth training sessions for the distributors’ sales force.”
A story of another buying group provides a good example of the successful intersection of product training and the Internet. With more than 7,500 users enrolled in over 100,000 courses within three years of establishing its online training program, a buying group developed a program where members earn merchandise, gift certificates, and travel prizes when they conduct marketing, sales, and training activities with manufacturer sales personnel.
Through the program — which includes over 100 courses — the organization helps drive sales and rewards members for their commitments to ongoing training. Since its launch a little over three years ago, the online training portal has delivered high value to members, surpassing expectations and growing into a proven, effective marketing initiative in its own right, according to the organization.
Three Ways to Build Sales and Rapport
By obtaining expert product knowledge, distributors can create opportunities, build stronger relationships with their suppliers, and increase sales. And the good news is that this effort doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. It can, in fact, all be handled online, where the distributor that leverages web-based product training is already reaping substantial return on investment (ROI) for those efforts.
Here are three ways your company can benefit from online distributor product training:
- Get the tools you need to answer questions. Today’s end users are tech-savvy and well informed. They’ve researched products online long before speaking to a distributor salesperson. The distributor sales team that can answer questions, turn negatives into positives, and address end user pain points gains the edge in today’s competitive market.
- Instills trust at the customer level. Before they make a purchase, customers need to trust the product, the company, and the person they’re interacting with. To establish this trust, distributors must be viewed as “reliable” information sources. For example, the distributor sales team and customer service team should be able to answer all questions about your product with the same level of competence. This isn’t a “one and done” deal. In order to continue instilling trust at the end user level, product knowledge must be shared with your sales and customer service teams on an ongoing basis.
- Helps you close the sale. Once distributors have established trust with customers, those buyers will feel confident in purchasing your products. In most cases, a salesperson’s ability to close the sale comes down to his or her level of competence in guiding, recommending, or selecting the best option for the buyer.
IBC offers distributor members free online product training from preferred suppliers through its IBC University online training portal. IBC University helps drive growth and profitability for your organization. Using real, live data from the IBC University, for example, one distributor increased sales with a preferred supplier by a whopping 476 percent over a six-month period of time. There was a direct correlation between training and sales (according to the preferred supplier and the associated data), with the sales bump being directly attributed to a product that was featured in the IBC University course.
Online product training is a proven and established way to instill product knowledge in a distributor’s sales force. There is a strong correlation between course enrollment and the increase in sales of the product(s) that distributors are trained on. With a minimal investment in the training itself, distributors can gain tremendous value, strengthen their relationships, and close more sales.