I cannot tell you how many times I have encountered sales people that don’t know anything about the product or service they are promoting and said to myself, “what is this person doing here?” or “why did I even bother to ask this person a question” or worse yet, ,just turn heel and walk directly out of the door after a polite, but insincere, ”never mind”. What I can tell you is that this is, unfortunately, becoming more of the rule than the exception for many face-to-face consumer encounters. Part (and there is a specific reason why I say only part) of the responsibility, one would think, lies upon the company to make sure that the person(s) they hire to represent them would take the time to educate their sales person to know the products and/or services he or she probably and more than likely will be asked about at some point during the encounter. Who is the other responsible party? The sales person themselves. Although the “I don’t know, but I’ll get that answered for you” is a respectable response in most situations, it should not be the first, second or third response parting the lips of a sales person, especially one who considers him/herself a professional.

Point in case:

At least a few times a month, I will venture into some type of health food or nutritional supplement store that happens to be on way to wherever I may be going. I jump out of the car, get my item, pay for it and am on my way. Though sales personnel are usually were present, I didn’t need to engage them in the typical and superficial verbal exchange of “can I help you?”
“No thanks, I’m just looking…”

However, when I want to know a little something more (or subconsciously, I need a little bit more convincing to purchase something that I want but need a little bit more prodding), I will drive all of the way out my way (even with the gas prices being as high as they are) to this one health food store. Their prices are higher than some of the other stores. Why? Because the guy in the store knows his products, almost every last one of them and believes in every product he personally stocks in his store. He can tell you about the manufacturing process, about the competitors, why he recommends this one over that one and why he believes it will be good for xyz reason Du jour I may or another customer may describe. He relates testimonies of other customers that have told him about the successes and/or failures of the product and gives caveats that perhaps where it failed for others, it might work for you. He is humble yet impressive in his delivery and everything about his body posturing is in alignment with every word that comes out of his mouth. He could be selling snake oil for all anyone knows, but we’ will buy it from him because of his knowledge, his genuine presentation of the information and his sincere belief in what he’s saying. Whether I purchase anything from him or not that day ,he has earned my respect for him through his knowledge and presentation of his product, so much so that he’s guaranteed to get another chance to sell me something at me another day.

Like MasterCard, that type of endorsement on credibility is priceless.

There is no science to knowing your product; you are expected to know it and know it cold, especially in face-to-face encounters. If you are not comfortable with presenting the product, do not do it until you do. In most cases, you only have one time to make a first impression. Do not blow it for your sake as well as the sake of the company you are representing.

Knowing your product makes you valuable to your customer as opposed to a commodity. You , yourself, always want to maintain a” value ad prop” status with your customers, be they first time customers or repeat (this is especially important with your repeat customers where you have very , formidable competition) customers. Again, since knowing your product has become the exception to the rule during today’s face-to-face encounters, you will continually be able to positively differentiate yourself and your product against your competitor. Understand that this does not mean that you get to do this once and then it’s done, particularly where the sales process is a process and/or with repeat customers. Get ready to make many encore performances, with the same level of energy and enthusiasm and as you conjured up during your debut.

Know the information about two to three of your competitors as well. This builds credibility with you and your prospector customer. Present the information about your competitors at the appropriate time during the encounter, in an informative and objective manner. Give the facts, just the facts and do not attempt to defend anything about them. Use objective contrast and comparison techniques to illustrate why the customer should consider your product the more superior one, the one that is going to provide them with the solution they have been looking for .

If you are in alignment with the product and are comfortable with the information you’re presenting about the product, generally believability about you and of your product will be communicated in a transparent way to your customer. This is usually the case when you can see yourself using the product or can relate to the product in some personal way. The professional will also know how to present a product in a convincing manner even when it is a product they will personally, probably never use. For example, I used to represent a product that was going to be used exclusively during cataract removal surgery. I was in my mid twenties during this time. Having cataracts removed from my eyes was the farthest thing from my mind, as it was for my prospective customer, surgical ophthalmologists. However, I was able to represent the company in an admirable manner and present the information about my product consistently with conviction and believability to my customer. How am I so sure of this? In addition to the feedback I would get from my customers and my manager, I spent the necessary time learning about it and researching follow up anecdotal stories about the patient’s it had been used on with great success.

What happens when you have a product, that has outstanding information but you either don’t personally believe in the product or have some personal bias about the product that would cause your delivery of the product to be disingenuous. If this something that you cannot resolve in your head, seriously, do everyone a favor and consider moving on to another company that has products where you won’t have this conflict. The same advice would be given if you were given product with little to no information on it or the information you were given about it was “suspect” at best. At the end of the day, it’s important that you are able to look at yourself in the mirror with a clear conscious of what you did that day, what you said that day and the impact (hopefully it was a positive one) your words had on a customer that day. Again, if this is not the case and you are having to compromise your work ethics and moral integrity to make a sale, stay employed and get paid, you are committing a disservice to the company, the product, certainly to the customer and more importantly, yourself.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Sybil Ingram-Campbell is a respected and experienced professional in the areas of healthcare information systems and regulatory compliance issues with significant knowledge on INFOSEC, bioterrorism/pandemic issues as well as the impact of HIPAA and Family Respite Act regulations. With twenty-seven years of healthcare experience, she has been one of the nation's foremost speakers and active consultants for the HIPAA regulations and implementation challenges, addressing all major aspects of the Administrative Simplification Subtitle and affected entities/stakeholders. Dr. Ingram-Campbell has served as a clinician, clinical researcher and instructor, emergency preparedness and readiness specialist, I.S. and software product director as well as a I.V&V. evaluator, project manager for multiple national providers of healthcare services. She has held key positions for healthcare industry leaders such as HBOC/McKesson, Johnson & Johnson, Abbott Labs, the Georgia Technology Authority and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC). In addition, Dr. Ingram-Campbell is nationally board certified by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, a former associate with the American College of Healthcare Executives, founder of Enlghtened, Inc., a certified member of the Information Security & Audit Control Association, senior advisor to executive management for TeleMedDox, Inc. and Secorix, Inc., and is the GA Representative for the National Family Caregivers Association.

Dr. Ingram-Campbell and speaks nationally and internationally on topics concerning leadership, privacy and security of health information as well as family care giving issues.