Jolles? Pacino? Who can tell the difference?

I liked last week’s blog.  I liked it so much; I’m just not finished yet.  When I last left you I was busy verbally smacking a supposed exert witness around because he had the gall to swear under oath that a salesman who has only sold one thing, could never dream of selling anything else.  I took exception to that.  Well, in the words of Al Pacino from the movie Scent of a Woman, “I’m just getting warmed up!”  Wait until you hear what our paid “expert” had to say about product knowledge.

“The most important thing in selling is product knowledge.  The defendant will not be able to sell anything else because he lacks the product knowledge to sell anything else.”

Now some of you who have heard me speak or have read my books know why I just can’t get this out of my blogging brain.  Besides being insulting, and based on not one shrewd of evidence, it is incredibly wrong.  Let me try to prove it to you.

Product knowledge is the most important thing huh?  Xerox had a pretty good reputation for training its sales force, and they would certainly disagree.  They would disagree so strongly that they would tell you when a salesperson was training to sell for Xerox they would go through a two-week class and never once talk about a copier.  Students would sell answering machines and airplanes with the thinking being that anyone could learn the product.  Learning to sell it; now that’s where the training begins, and in their words of my mentor Larry Domonkos who taught me to sell, “we don’t want the product to get in the way of their learning.”

Two weeks of small group exercises, case studies, simulations, video taped role-plays, and never once would we talk about a copier.  We would talk about trust, urgency, opening a conversation, closing, objection handling, and believe me when I tell you I’m just getting warmed up. Fly people to Leesburg, Virginia, home of the second largest corporate training center in the world to sit and learn about product?  That was viewed as a complete waste of time.  The theory was, a salesperson could do that on their own time without wasting the time of a sales trainer.

No, once we trained a salesperson how to sell, merging in product knowledge was not a challenge.  That’s because, to borrow a football phrase, we had already taught our salespeople how to block and tackle, or the fundamentals.  Learning the plays, or the product knowledge was the easy part.

One more thing.  Guess what a recent survey found was the most annoying characteristic associated with bad salespeople?

  1. They won’t shut up.
  2. They don’t appear interested in hearing what I have to say.

Guess why so many salespeople fall into this trap?  Now your learning… because they are obsessed with product knowledge, have never really learned how to ask questions and listen, and want to impress their clients with their big brains.

So now I ask you this final question.  Who would you rather hire?  A salesperson with little experience but a lot of product knowledge or a salesperson with a lot of experience but a little product knowledge?  I’m hoping now you see my point, and you see why when I take the stand I don’t do it to take the money.  I do it because I believe in what I’m called on to say.  I will always believe that product knowledge is the most overrated aspect of selling.  Notice I didn’t say it was unnecessary, I said it was, “overrated.”

I’ll end my blog testimony with one of my favorite quotes from a man who knows a thing or two about knowledge.  This man once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  That man’s name was Albert Einstein.

Stick a fork in that other expert witness, and the team that hired him.  He’s done.

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